Kaiseki, the Japanese multi-course meal, is not a cheap option. The most elaborate menu could probably even get you a ticket for a return flight from your country to Japan on a promotional fare. The good news is, there are always more affordable options. Kaiseki （懐石）, a (much) more simpler and (much) more casual version than THE kaiseki （会席）, would be equally legit when you have it in Kyoto.
I had my kaiseki (the 懐石 one, for sure) at a restaurant called Nichigetsuan near the Kiyomizu Temple. The “Nichigetsu Kaiseki” course, at ¥3,240 (tax included), consisted of 11 types of Kyoto-produced delicacies, including a pair of tofu dengaku (tofu with miso glaze) on skewers. Some of the foods were autumn specialties (It was November) such as gingko nuts, sweet potatoes and chestnuts in the yokan jelly I had for dessert. Even the washi paper placemat showed a picture of a branch of maple leaves changing colours.
The restaurant accepts phone reservation, that could come in handy if you are visiting during busy–if not hectic–days at Kiyomizu, most notably in autumn. They also have English menu, though it would not explain much about each and every item in the course. Their kaiseki range from ¥2,000 to ¥8,000 per person. Bear in my mind, though, that the restaurant only accepts cash payment.
Another Japanese food that is often associated with Kyoto is tofu. After kaiseki, you really cannot miss having a “proper” tofu meal in the city. I went to this restaurant called Kyotofu Fujino（京豆冨不二乃） on the 11th floor of Isetan Department Store in JR Kyoto Station. Here are what I had for dinner there:
I just realised I had got boiled, fried, raw and frozen tofu (or its main ingredient), all in one go. 😀
A popular souvenir snack from Kyoto, yatsuhashi is made from rice flour, sugar and cinnamon. There are two versions of yatsuhashi, baked and raw; the former is hard (Watch your teeth!), the latter soft with mochi-like texture. I personally prefer the raw one. Yatsuhashi is ubiquitous in Kyoto you will not have to look for it; it will come to you, believe me.
I bought my raw yatsuhashi from Honke Nishio, reputed to be the first yatsuhashi maker in Japan. Raw yatsuhashi has red bean paste in it, but it can come in many flavours. Mine included the original nikki (a type of cinnamon; so it’s double cinnamon in one bite), matcha, and the so-autumnly chestnut and grilled sweet potato.
No visit to Kyoto would be complete without having anything with matcha (powdered green tea) in it. Even better, go take part in a traditional tea ceremony in Uji, a town south of Kyoto, from which Japan’s most renowned tea originates.
To wrap my trip to Kyoto, I had this delicious double-flavoured soft serve when in Arashiyama. The lower half was–as you should have guessed it–matcha, while the upper one was hojicha, or roasted green tea. The taste? So Kyoto!