Three Michelin stars over three hours in Kyoto

Last week in Kyoto, living a Travelife, we had a very nice meal at one of the city’s top restaurants with three Michelin stars to its name.

I was just invited, so I didn’t do the choosing or the booking; but apparently when my friend made the reservation, the lady had not asked about a menu or informed him of a price or our options.


And when we sat down in our private tatami room finally, we were not handed a menu or any details either. The restaurant mistress, whose grandfather started this very famous restaurant, simply came in to greet us and to make some small talk about their private label sake and the fine weather outside.

Then she basically handed us over to a smiling young lady in kimono who took care of us for the next three hours or so.


Then the meal commenced — and what an amazing meal it was in terms of ingredients used, cooking creativity and artistic presentation. If I could give four stars for creativity and presentation, in particular, I most certainly would. Several courses were especially designed to shock and awe — and so I just couldn’t stop taking photos.

Very cold private label sake in a sterling silver ice bucket

Our kimono-ed attendant was quite amused at my never-ending photo activities and my friend was on the verge of embarassment,  I’m guessing, because it is so touristy to take so many photos after all — especially in this particular restaurant patronized by food connosieurs from all over Japan and the world.

Of course no one knew that I was going to be posting photos in the Travelife blog or using these for an upcoming Kyoto special in Travelife Magazine. The restaurant staff probably just assumed I was going to be posting these on Facebook.

But that’s how beautiful everything was — that I simply couldn’t stop clicking away. Watch out for the  truly beautiful photos in the upcoming issues of TRAVELIFE Magazine. I’ve saved the best photos for our special Kyoto supplement, of course.

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This restaurant cooks two kinds of rice for every room,
in case guests want a certain kind of rice on the spur of the moment.

The top restaurants in Kyoto are divided into the very traditional ones and the more adventruous ones that like to put some innovation and novelty into the menu. Although this restaurant is over 70 years old — that’s still young by Kyoto standards — and so I would describe the dishes as on the playful side.

They served juicy pieces of toro sashimi, for instance, with a special soy sauce and slices of fried garlic — treating it almost like a Kobe beef steak.

I really appreciated that, by the way, as it made the meal so much more enjoyable for me.

Unfortunately I can’t divulge the name of the restaurant or more details, as this restaurant experience is going into the Kyoto special of Travelife Magazine — but I can tell you that between the places I and one of my contributing editors stayed in and ate at, we pretty much have been able to cover the best of Kyoto in a way I am so confident no other magazine ever can.

We’re certainly not Travelife for nothing.

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Still on sale until October 15


At the end of the meal, when the damages were assessed and my friend was done with the bill, we were very respectfully escorted by the mistress of the house and her team all the way to the pretty imposing gate of the restaurant.

We had decided not to call for a car yet as I wanted to take photos of the river and the trees all lit up so beautifully even at night. Wrong move. It took us a good ten minutes to walk from the restaurant gate to a point where we were sufficiently out of sight — and for this few minutes that seemed like eternity, the restaurant team stood at the gate bowing formally.

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In the December 2012 – January 2013 issue onwards 

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I’ve never had this experience as there’s usually a car already waiting at the restaurant entrance by the time I finish dinner, and so we’re able to turn a corner in a minute; or else the walk out is just a hop and a skip out of sight.

But this time, for a good ten minutes, I felt seriously responsible for the sore backs of three very nice people.


My companion said: “The next time we’re eating here, I’m going to make sure we have a car or a taxi already waiting.”

I replied with a smile: “Oh. So there’s going to be a next time.” It was a truly lovely and delicious restaurant after all, so I was very happy to go again. And again. And again. But I’d spied the credit card bill at the end, and with those prices, one of us could have flown on a KLM promo ticket to Europe  instead of having a meal there.

KLM, by the way, has among the best promo fares for business class and economy class from Manila to Europe via Amsterdam.

But as that very catchy credit card advertisement goes, some things are just priceless. And a meal at Kyoto’s top restaurant probably ranks right up there with them.