Hi,I’m Keiko from Osaka!
Unagi is a Japanese word for freshwater eel.
Unagi cuisine is very popular among Japanese, especially in summer.
Packed with protein, vitamin A, B, D, E and calcium, Japanese people believe that eating unagi boosts stamina.
In particular, on Ushino-hi (the day of the ox or mid-summer day), it has become a tradition to eat unagi in Japan.
There are a few of famous unagi dishes in Japan.
One is kabayaki, which is charcoal-grilled unagi fillet with sweet soy-based sauce.
When fillets are served on a bed of rice, then it is called Unadon (which is served in a bowl) or Unaju (which is served in a traditional box).
Here are 5 great best restaurants in Kyoto you can have unagi!
Local tells Top 5 best Unagi(eel)restaurants in Kyoto!
1.Kaneyo/京極かねよWalking to the restaurant, the first thing you notice about Kaneyo is its picturesque exterior with the wooden traditional style house with red lanterns outside, which originate in Taisho era when the store opened.
It stands out beautifully amidst the modern buildings and stores of Shinkyougoku shopping district.
The signage on the entrance proudly acclaims “the number one unagi in Japan.”
Upon entering the restaurant, you will be filled with the smell of sweet soy sauce, which had been passing down from its opening days.
The most popular dish here is Kinshi-donburi, which is unadon (grilled eel over a bowl of rice) that is covered with fluffy Japanese style egg omelette.
Sweet, salty and fragrant Kabayaki is perfectly matched with the creaminess of fluffy eggs.
You don’t want to miss this popular dish.
Nearest station to Kaneyo is Kyoto Shiyakusho Mae Station on Subway Tozai Line.
Shop around in Shinkyogoku after your stomach is filled with delicious unagi.
Here is a video of Kaneyo.
2.廣川/HirokawaHirokawa is a popular Unagi restaurant located in Arashiyama area.
Here, you would really understand how Japanese restaurants consider setting the appropriate atmosphere as a part of Japanese culinary experience.
The beautiful wooden architecture as well as the Japanese garden inside are so inviting to have an authentic Japanese meal.
Known to be one of the best in the region, the restaurant is so popular, you might have to wait for a while to be seated.
The tender eel with mouthwatering sauce is worth the wait.
Beside unajyu, unadon or kabayaki, you might want to try kimo (liver of eel either in sauce or grilled) or go for a set menu that you can experience various dishes of unagi.
Hirokawa is conveniently located near Togetsukyo-bridge in Arashiyama, so perfect to stop by while you explore the beautiful sceneries of Arashiyama.
They only accept limited number of customers per day,so it’s better make to make reservations in advance,or go early and secure a table.
You can make the reservation in advance by paying 1,000 yen as a reservation fee.
3.Gion Uoke-ya “U”/祇をん う桶や う“U” (pronounced as “oo” as in the third letter of the Japanese alphabet, instead of “you”) in Gion is the one-Michelin stared restaurant that specializes in unagi.
The restaurant is a machiya-style (renovated wooden) house of 100 year-old, located one street off the popular Hanamikoji Street in the middle of Gion, which gives the authentic Kyoto feel.
There is an old well that the restaurant developed in front of to ensure access to the natural water, which is used for all of their dishes.
This shows the restaurant’s passion and precision for their food.
The most popular dish here is uoke, which is kabayaki over rice that are filled in the cedar bucket.
The smallest uoke is for 3 people (10,000 yen).
If you have 3 people or more, this is a definite must-try.
A big wooden bucket filled with fluffy eels, perfectly cooked, with rice drizzled with sweet soy sauce is beyond any word and you will get to experience the Michelin star quality.
4.Izumoya Ponto-cho/いづもやEstablished in 1916, Izumoya is an esteemed unagi and kaiseki (seasonal set course meals) restaurant located in the prime location of Ponto-cho, which is a small alley that runs along Kamogawa-river.
Unadon which starts at ¥1,800 and unajyu which starts at ¥1,800 are some of their popular items.
During summer (from May 1 to September 30), the restaurant sets up a wooden platform overlooking Kamogawa-river, called Nouryou-yuka.
On the platform, you can enjoy a beautiful lunch set or a dinner kaiseki, which include unagi.
It cannot really get more “Japanese summer” than this!
You can experience the cool breeze from the river, and enjoy beautiful dishes.
This place is also extremely popular for foreign tourists given its location and setting.
Izumoya is located on the Ponto-cho ally just off the Shijo-ohashi bridge.
You won’t miss it.
5.Nishijin Edogawa/西陣江戸川Originated in the Taisho era, Edogawa is one of the most esteemed restaurants in Kyoto specializing in unagi.
The restaurant offers the beloved taste that is inherited from their original days. The restaurant is a beautifully preserved traditional wooden house.
You can already smell the sweet soy sauce dripping over special charcoals from outside the restaurant.
Edogawa’s eel is known to be extremely fluffy, as eel is steamed once (which is a style rather popular in Tokyo area) before being grilled three times.
Their lunch set starts at a very reasonable price of 1,300 yen.
Their unaju starts at 2,800yen and comes with a liver soup.
The restaurant is located in one of the residential areas of Kyoto not too far from Kitano-Tenmangu shrine.
Top 5 best Unagi(eel)restaurants in Kyoto
- Kaneyo・・・ The wooden traditional Unagi restaurant with red lanterns outside.
- Hirokawa・・・Unagi restaurant located in Arashiyama area.
- Gion Uoke-ya “U”・・・One-Michelin stared restaurant in Gion.
- Izumoya Ponto-cho・・・Izumoya is an esteemed unagi and kaiseki restaurant located in the prime location of Ponto-cho in Kyoto.
- Nishijin Edogawa・・・Edogawa’s eel is known to be extremely fluffy, as eel is steamed once before being grilled three times.
I hope you’ll enjoy great unagi in these restaurants!