Gion Karyo

Restaurants Type / Japanese
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Location

Kyoto, Japan

Address

570-23 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan (東山区祇園町南側570-23)

Getting there

Train: Keihan line to Gion-Shijō. Nearest Transport: 7min walk from Gion Shijo Station, Keihan line

Telephone

+81 75 532 0025

Fax

+81-75-532-0030

More information

http://www.karyo-kyoto.jp/, https://facebook.com/gionkaryo

Prices

lunch & dinner courses from ¥3800

Opening hours

11:30am-3:30pm & 5:30pm-11pm
Closed Wednsday

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Gion Karyo is one of the more accessible kaiseki restaurants in the heart of Gion. It’s a great place to eat while out exploring Gion. Almost all the restaurants in Gion look fantastic, located in atmospheric traditional buildings that practically scream “Old Kyoto.” The problem is: it’s takes a lot of guts to just slide the door open and enter one of these places without a Japanese friend to accompany you. That’s where Gion Karyo comes in: It’s located in a beautifully renovated old Japanese building, but they’ve got an English menu, comfortable counter seating, and a staff that doesn’t make for the rear exit when foreigners make an appearance.

Gion Karyo offers a gentle introduction to kaiseki, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Set in an old Kyoto house, the setting is authentic and traditional without feeling overly formal. Seating is available along the counter, where diners can watch the chefs preparing their meal; or at traditional sunken floor tables for larger groups. The restaurant welcomes tourists, and there’s even an English menu available. The menu changes depending on the season, with typical offerings including cod roe and sea urchin tofu; and Spanish mackerel marinated in saikyo miso. True to the kaiseki-style of dining, each dish is beautifully-presented and full of rich, subtle flavors.

Take an old Kyoto house, renovate it to make it comfortable for modern diners, serve reasonably priced and excellent kaiseki and you have Karyō’s recipe for success. The chef and servers are welcoming and an English menu makes ordering a snap. There are counter seats where you can watch the chef working and rooms with hori-kotatsu (sunken floors) for groups.

Gion Karyo Kyoto Review

Yes, it might exceed your budget for dinner. However, it is definitely worth every JPY (Japanese yen)!! If you count dessert, this was a ten course meal that took approximately 2 1/2 hours. The food was so beautiful to the eye, we took a picture of every single course.While I am quite sure every seat in the restaurant is excellent, I would highly recommend you ask to be seated at the "bar" in the kitchen area. There, you are provided the opportunity to watch each chef (6 separate food chefs) prepare your food. The precision, respect, and cleanliness was remarkable.One note - if you don't eat meat or chicken, simple ask for these items to be substituted. We were treated to some fabulous fish (raw and cooked) instead.~Rick R

We wanted to try Kaiseki in Kyoto and Gion Karyo came highly recommended by guide books and blogs. Kaiseki is the apex of Japanese fine dining. Courses are served in the same order based on seasonal ingredients. There are 8 courses served in the same order. It's a little hard to describe, but it's like an extremely refined pre-fix meal. It reminds me a little of Hoja Santa in Barcelona or Benu in San Francisco. If fine dining is attending a symphony, then this is more like an intimate quintet performance. Five chefs move silently around a giant range in the center of the kitchen. Diners speak in hushed tones. Everyone is very focused on the meal. This is serious eating. The flavors are subtle and presented like little works of art on the charger canvass. It was the most beautiful meal I have ever eaten. People speak some english, so I would call and try to make a reservation for lunch so that you don't miss out! That said, we walked in on Thursday early for luncheon and they were able to accommodate us. Lunch is a bargain for what it is, two of us and two glasses of sake was about $120. In San Francisco, this would be like a $300 experience and the waiting list would be 2 months long. I regret not wearing socks with my flats. If you go, try to wear socks and try to at least find a blazer or a polo shirt. I felt a little underdressed in a button down, blazer and dark jeans.~JaneinSF

Kyoto is the more traditional Japanese city and Kaiseki style dining is very well advertised as you walk around the downtown and Gion area. Lots of restaurants would have Kaiseki menu which is the traditional multi-course Japanese meals. If you stay in a Ryokan (Japanese guest house) you would usually have the opportunity to experience Kaiseki style dining, but since we weren't going to stay in a Ryokan, I searched for a good "reasonably priced" Kaiseki restaurants and found Gion Karyo!!!!!

Most people seemed to recommend making a reservation, however, I did not want to commit to a certain time slot as when you're travelling by yourself, you don't really know what time you'll be in a particular area. I was nervous that I was not going to get to dine here since it was Friday night but decided to pop in to the restaurant anyway and to our surprise, they took us in!!! The hostess showed us the menu for that day (there is only ONE pre-fix menu) and asked if we had any food allergy based on what would be served for dinner (we didn't have any allergy, woohoo!!!) and that the meal would be 10,000 JPY per person (close to 100 USD with the current exchange rate). Since it was only the two of us, we got seated at the chef counter area and since we got there around 6pm (early dinner time), we were seated in what I would say the "VIP" counter section where we get the view of the entire kitchen (some seats have obstructed views of part of the kitchen). The place certainly screams "fine dining," very nicely decorated and service was very polite.

We did not order anything to drink (we asked for just ice water) since we're not much of a drinker anyway and we wanted to save our yen for something else! Afterall, we were there for the food!!! and the experience :).Each course was BEAUTIFULLY presented (ck out my photos) and I will say all of them were delicious, though the dishes that we would say spectacular that night was:

  • From the "hassun"/assorted dishes course: the Pumpkin soup: creamy, sweet, savory, rich, hubby said - he could drink a whole pot of it!), and crab-taro stem with apricot sauce.
  • From the Sashimi course: Bonito with sesame sauce that was so well prepared that even my non-fish-lover husband said...delicate and delicious! 
  • From the Oshinogi/small dish course: Conger Eel, lotus dumpling with wasabi in laver sauce. This dish is very creative, yet flavorful, delicate and everything was just a great combination (sweetness from the eel and lotus, savoriness of the sauce and that extra kick from the wasabi, WOW)
  • From Takiawase/simmerred dish: I've had herrings and usually not much of a fan of the fish since it's tiny, bony and fishy!!!! The way they prepared this dish was in a way that omg, I would eat this again and again and again!!!!!!

For the meal that we got and how they were individually crafted, I will say 10,000 yen price tag is VERY CHEAP!!!! It's a lot of labor and artistic work, and plus.... when you left, the hostess would kneel on the ground with her head touching the ground, bowing down at you until you're gone gone gone out the door!!! It's probably a part of the culture but man, that was something! The chef also came out to meet us outside to thank us (though at that point, I felt that we should be the one thanking him for such a wonderful experience!).

If you have the budget for it, I certainly recommend dining here!! They closed on Wednesday!! and there is NO english name but the restaurant is right across the street from Gion corner and has only "TWO japanese/chinese characters" on a white sign on top of the entrance. There is walkway with lights to get to the actual front door from the entrance (sorry, I forgot to take photo of the store-front but you should be able to see how it looks like from TripAdvisor).ps: we went in wearing T-shirt and jeans... some other foreigners/tourists did too..only the locals seemed to dress up, so don't get discouraged if you're still wearing your traveling clothes!~lovebudgettravel

The small entrance to this restaurant, with no English sign, can be easily overlooked. It's on a very attractive Edo era street in the Higashima district, in or near Gion. We had reservations, and no sooner did we venture onto the large-stone path that led inside a staffer appeared calling us by our family name. We had asked for the classic kaiseki dinner, which turned out to be a procession of small portions of a large variety of foods, sitting in little pretty ceramic dishes. With an English language menu of the courses at our side, we could identify what we were eating even if the appearance was unfamiliar. Also, the combination of condiments offered unfamiliar tastes. But almost everything was a pleasant surprise, mostly delicious, sometimes very good. My daughter opted for sake as the accompanying drink; I tried hot yuzu, which turned out to be a supreme complement. From the menu I counted about thirty different items. But the size of portions, our chatting while eating, and pace of attentive yet unobtrusive service resulted in not feeling full at any time. It was expensive (with the drinks refilled) but very much worth a memorable experience that a visitor should have at least once in visiting Japan, and Gion Karyo is a fine place to have it.
~murray

Well first make sure you book in advance. You will be getting the course meal of the day so it might be different from the pictures you see here in tripadvisor. It is fun to watch the chefs make your meal infront of you. They also bring the food out to you and explain about the meal. Their english is limited but the do print english menu for the dishes you are getting. Get ready to get feed well as the potion size of the each course is decent size for a 10 course meal. I was so full in the end I didn't feel like breakfast the next day. The meals are beautifully presented and very fresh! If you don't like seafood don't go here! It is about 10000 yen for the course meal plus service fee but it is not expensive compared to other kaisaki meals other restaurants charge. The staff here is attentive and very friendly. The head chef comes out to greet you when you leave and the waitress does a big bow. Best meal I had in kyoto!
~david

We wanted to try Kaiseki in Kyoto and Gion Karyo came highly recommended by guide books and blogs. Kaiseki is the apex of Japanese fine dining. Courses are served in the same order based on seasonal ingredients. There are 8 courses served in the same order. It's a little hard to describe, but it's like an extremely refined pre-fix meal. It reminds me a little of Hoja Santa in Barcelona or Benu in San Francisco. If fine dining is attending a symphony, then this is more like an intimate quintet performance. Five chefs move silently around a giant range in the center of the kitchen. Diners speak in hushed tones. Everyone is very focused on the meal. This is serious eating. The flavors are subtle and presented like little works of art on the charger canvass. It was the most beautiful meal I have ever eaten. 
People speak some english, so I would call and try to make a reservation for lunch so that you don't miss out! That said, we walked in on Thursday early for luncheon and they were able to accommodate us. Lunch is a bargain for what it is, two of us and two glasses of sake was about $120. In San Francisco, this would be like a $300 experience and the waiting list would be 2 months long. 
I regret not wearing socks with my flats. If you go, try to wear socks and try to at least find a blazer or a polo shirt. I felt a little underdressed in a button down, blazer and dark jeans.
~silvia

Located in the heart of Gion district amongst quaint Edo era buildings, Karyo serves kaiseki or traditional Japanese multi course meals. We had a 10 course set dinner for about $100 per pax. Certainly not cheap but we were treated to a visual and gastronomical delight. Each course was beautifully presented and there were many oooos and ahhhhhs from our group as we took pictures of each dish. The food was mostly delicious and even sublime in some cases. My favourite was a beef course cooked on a magnolia leaf over a hot stone. Delightful and yummy. We were quite full before the last course and everyone agreed it was well worth the price. While a Kobe beef meal is often mandatory on any visit to Japan, in my view, Kaiseki is a much better traditional Japanese dining experience. Would certainly recommend to visitors.
~harry

Wow this meal was amazing. Definitely a bit pricey, but worth it especially if you are on vacation. Each of the table areas is pretty private, and you even have your own personal A/C unit for comfort! Every dish was beautifully prepared and plated, and I can honestly say I enjoyed all of them. My favorites were the spanish mackerel soup, cutlassfish sushi, beef on hot rock, and grilled barracuda. The tea served at the end was also really great. Service was spot on, and the decor of this place was beautiful. I definitely recommend coming here if you don't mind splurging a little bit.
~cynthia

Easily, the best dining experience I had in my 2 week trip in Japan.  Gion is a relaxing and clean neighborhood.  Inside here, the staff placed considerable detail in everything from the food, the seating, lighting and interior design.
Personally, I prefer strong flavors.  Here, everything has very light flavoring, but the freshness and presentation of dishes are inspiring.
Their house cold sake was the best sake I've ever tasted.  The soups are super hot and the fixed menu was a story that described the freshness of early autumn in Kyoto.
My pictures of the food are all I have.  The experience is relaxing, fresh, and perfect from presentation to palette.
~matt

Yes, it might exceed your budget for dinner. However, it is definitely worth every JPY (Japanese yen)!! If you count dessert, this was a ten course meal that took approximately 2 1/2 hours. The food was so beautiful to the eye, we took a picture of every single course.
While I am quite sure every seat in the restaurant is excellent, I would highly recommend you ask to be seated at the "bar" in the kitchen area. There, you are provided the opportunity to watch each chef (6 separate food chefs) prepare your food. The precision, respect, and cleanliness was remarkable.
One note - if you don't eat meat or chicken, simple ask for these items to be substituted. We were treated to some fabulous fish (raw and cooked) instead.
~craig

This restaurant have limited seating available and you must make an advance reservation. This restaurant served only kaiseki cuisine and there is only 1 menu available for lunch and 1 menu for dinner. 
Staffs are very friendly, helpful and speaks pretty good English. Every dish will be explained in a very detail manner. Food quality is good and the restaurant and we really loved the food presentation. We ordered the yuzu wine and we really love it.
~amber

Located near the Giesha theatre and inside a traditional Japanese house, the resturant provide a great introduction to kaeseki (which is a mulitcourse degustation with a unique Kyoto style cooking). The traditional style of cooking has a twist of modern flourishes through seasonal flavours.
Make sure you book in advance as there is limited seating. You can book online and they will provide English menus...menus change by seasons and you need to let then know in advance if you don't eat anything. 
Try the yuzu wine and house sake...they are a great addition to the meal.
The ambiance is also great...you enter a long corridor and see an open atrium of just chefs at work.
Overall a great experience.
~martin

My husband and I wanted to try Kaiseki from Kyoto where this style of dining originated. Upon finding a recommendation by Inside Kyoto and going to the Japanese website myself to see what is served, we made lunch reservations through our hotel and secured a 1pm reservation for the restaurant. The meal was phenomenal. We were served multiple courses from appetizer to dessert. They printed out an English menu for us so that we understand what we were eating. All the dishes were like works of art with each dish differing in tastes and textures. It was a wonderful experience and one of the highlights of our travels in Kyoto. The chefs are hard at work preparing the dishes in an open kitchen in front of us. They were also prepping other ingredients (perhaps dinner) of sea food items that I'd never seen before. I asked the chef what it was and he told me the name in Japanese. What I didn't expect was that later the chef went and looked it up in English and showed it to my husband that it was a Japanese blood clam. This is going above and beyond for their customers which I very much appreciated. We had a hard time finding the restaurant at first. We were in the Gion area but it is hard to distinguish between the similar color buildings along this stretch street. Good thing I recognized the Japanese restaurant sign and the lantern lit hallway from the website. Another plus is that this restaurant is across the street from Miyako Odori theatre. If you visit in April, I recommend doing lunch and going across the street to catch the maiko/geisha dance show or catch the show and have dinner at the restaurant. They are both great attractions not to miss when traveling to Kyoto..~16elisag

Based on friend's recommendation, I called ahead to make a dinner reservation. The food was so beautifully displayed that it was a shame to eat them. There was only the 10,000 Yen set meal for dinner plus service charge. We had so much food that we couldn't finish the rice dish. There were 5 rices dishes to choose from. The chef made rice balls out of the leftovers for us to take home. Service was excellent. We sat at the counter seats and got to see the chefs at work. It is the best kaiseki meal we've ever had and well worth the cost. The restaurant is located at the end of Hanami-Koji street, across from Gion Corner and right before Kenninji Temple.~Julia J

My friend & I really wanted to try some Kaiseki whilst in Kyoto & stumbled upon this place. I am so glad we did! 

We sat at the kitchen which was great as you got to watch all the begs at work. 

The food was truly delicious & the whole evening was spectacular. Considering the amount & quality of the food you get its great value for money. The dinner set menu is 10,000 yen, we had a decanter of sake to share & some bottled water & it came to under 12,000 each. 

~Betti D

Right in front of Gion maiko theater! Great atmosphere with separate smaller rooms; the food is excellent with a great choice of Japanese Sake. ~nedu1973

Less stuffy and open kitchen concept makes this bistro like. Lunch at JPY 5000 before tax was a fair deal. 

Was not that hard to score a lunch spot on a weekday. They take seatings till 2.00pm and close at 3:30pm. 

Dishes were beautifully presented and service was impeccable. They were very accommodating about switching dishes even though I only managed to tell them about my wife's shellfish allergies at the last moment.

Would certainly recommend; and let the picture speak for themselves.

~Al-Net-Olo

The food in Japan was amazing and Gion Karyo was one of the highlights. Everything was perfect; from the food to the attentive service staff to the good English spoken by everyone. I tried the tasting menu which was pretty expensive but it was one of the best meals I've had in my life.

~Prem J

Start with some sake to go with our cod roe and sea urchin tofu or our sushi with pickles and crab and then the oyster with herring and salmon roe.

Next we enjoy the grilled Spanish mackerel with soy beans and canola greens.

Dessert is the rice dumpling in sweet red beans with a sesame wafer and kinako ice cream.

~siteandbites

We researched several different kaiseki restaurants before making our minds up. We chose this one after looking at several different alternatives and were super pleased with our choice. We had 8 courses and all of them were nicely presented on beautiful cutlery and the food combinations were outstanding!

~Fannykj

We had lunch at this restaurant. Thank heavens we used a taxi as we can't read Japanese and the sign, even then, was really small. No reference to the restaurant or food though. An 8 course meal of special delicacies prepared in an open, very quiet, kitchen. Service was of course excellent. The environment lovely. The food beautifully displayed, served, and delicious. They also serve the proper dinner as well for about 10K yen, lunch was 5200 yen and worth every penny. The temple very close is also a must see -- Kennin Ji with its racked (?) gardens.

~Karen2500

I stumbled upon the information on restaurant in kyoto that I should try then I found this restaurant with the suggestion of my lover. After a long day, I managed to find this Gion Karyo which locates right in the heart of Gion Area. When I walked into the restaurant, it made me feel like I was in another world. It was so quiet and the receptionist was so good. I told her that I did make a reservation and I would love to try their special menu. After she talked with the chief in the kitchen, she came out to inform me that there was a seat available for me. I chose the Kaiseki which was the set of today course menu. Once I started trying the food, I just lost my mind with the great taste. I really can't find the words to explain, but very good. Good food and good service. Please see my photo of the menu and details. I can say that they were very good. If you go to Kyoto, don't forget to try having dinner here. By the way, the map on the phone that I used directed me to the wrong restaurant. Please note that this Gion Karyo has traffic sign in front of the restaurant.

~AonnyDarby

Two of us went here for dinner on the recommendation of the concierge at our hotel. Atmosphere was cozy (all seats are at the counter). Service was excellent with several English speakers and a printed English menu (altho we were the only westerners there that night) and food was delicious. We booked in advance and requested no meat as one of us is vegetarian - they were very accommodating. Easy to find in a charming traditional neighbourhood and easy to get a taxi home afterwards. Highly recommend!

~mmarsh8080

I don't want to be negative on this place given the high marks, but I would have expected much more from the kitchen and the service.

We took the 10.000 Yen menu that was mandatory for the night (excluding drinks and taxes).

The menu was including 10 dishes, presentation was very good, food quality really depends on personal tastes, but we liked only half of them. The staff was kind, but the service was not perfect, they didn't have a prited menu for us, they delayed serving of one dish because shells were not available, and the restaurant wasn't even full. Sometimes the service is even too fast since they bring dishes without taking back the empty ones, very little attention to customers.

Spending 180€ for 2 people you would expect more, but anyway the price is not very high for a kaiseki dinner.

~SalvaTripTip

We had trouble finding the restaurant and walked pass it a few times as there's no english name in front of it. With the help of a local we finally found it, which is just the opposite of Gion Corner! We came quite late without any reservation at nearly 8pm and were lucky they'd still accept us as there were 2 last seats available. If I remember correctly, the restaurant can only seat around 10 people. The food was prepared meticulously and service was excellent. At JPY10,000 plus tax for 10 course kaiseki, it is really good value. Would highly recommend to try this restaurant. ~Selina K

The thing about Kyoto is that shops and buildings do not have their unit number displayed upfront so we kept getting lost and missed this gem for 2 days. Finally on our final night in Kyoto, we managed to locate the restaurant after spending an hour searching for it. We visited Gion District THREE times and only found it on our last night! I suggest downloading a picture of the shop front first, then match it one shop at a time. (I'm serious)

There's only one menu for dinner (10,000 yen) and it's worth every penny. it sounds a lot but there's no way we can get that same quality food and service in Singapore with that amount. So we decided to indulge a bit.

There were 10 courses and it took us 2.5hours to complete the course. Needless to say, we ate like a king. Service was great, servers were attentive to details. We did not make reservations but the restaurant wasn't packed anyway so all was good. 

The food was amazing. Fresh, well-executed, served timely
Here's what we had:
Appetizer: soft roe (raw), monkfish liver, muchroom in a yuzu 
Sashimi: tuna, yellowtail (can't remember the 3rd one)
Japanese soup: fish, sesame tofu, spinach
Small dish: grilled mackerel, lily bulb soup, sea bream (LOVE!!), omelet, fried lotus, sweet fish, mushroom etc etc
Steamed dish: minced chicken in taro paste, crab and yuba sauce (LOVE)
Plate dish: scallop, tiger prawn pear, salmon roe, apple vinegar (LOVE)
side dish: grilled beef on hot stone, ponzu and sesame sauce (LOVE)
Hearth-cooked rice: Oyster favour (we were presented 5 options - tough to choose) (FAVE!)
Dessert: Yuzu Sherbet (NICE)

~Angel E

Read more Kyoto travel guide at here and Japan at here.