On our last day in Kyoto, we decided to try our luck with the restaurants in the immediate neighborhood of our Airbnb apartment. So we didn’t look up any restaurants, as with the Isshin, but instead just wandered around the neighborhood and sneaking a peek into the menus displayed outside the restaurants. As with that other time at the Pontocho area, luck was with us again in the form of the Donguri Tonchin restaurant!
It’s a tiny restaurant with seats for just about 14 people, an English menu, and little stoves that you put on the table or bar in front of you. They also had extractor hoods right above the tables and the bar to remove the smoke right away. And I have to admit, this was the first BBQ restaurant that I came out without the smoke smell in my clothes or hair. Awesome!
Before I continue, I have to issue a warning: I don’t like to give bad reviews of restaurants unless my experience there was really really bad, so bad, in fact, that I get upset. And that’s not easy, I have worked in gastronomy as well, and I know how hard this job can be, so I try to be extra patient.
So, if you’re walking around Kyoto and you find a BBQ restaurant called Aje (it’s Korean BBQ I think), do not go there! According to foursquare, it’s quite popular, but although I’m a huge fan of foursquare usually, this time, I have to say it’s popular with people who just don’t know any better. It’s expensive and the service is crap (sorry for my language). The food was ok but not outstanding, I expected better for the price, we paid ¥ 12,200 for four people.
So now I’ve issued my warning and I hope you decide against the Aje if you’re in Kyoto and drop by more authentic places instead. Like my happy place, the Donguri Tonchin.
We took up four seats at the bar, so we could watch the cooks prepare our meats and vegetables and it turned out to be another stroke of luck. One of the cooks was very funny, although he didn’t speak much English he explained what he was preparing by either pointing on his belly and making funny or disgusted faces when he pulled out intestines to prepare them for the table behind us. Such a funny guy!
My boyfriend loves mushrooms. I love gristles (I’m Asian, I’m allowed to like them!). And we both love pork belly. We ordered one plate of each and then another with vegetables, a bowl of rice, and then one with pork belly again, just because we could. It was really great, especially since we were grilling our food over charcoal in our little BBQ stove (and not a gas stove as at the Aje restaurant).
We were served a Yakiniku sauce (a typical sauce for Japanese BBQ) and some roasted garlic with (yum!), so one the meat or the veggies were done we would dip it into the sauce first, then into the garlic (I ate so much of it, Dracula would never have stood a chance with me) and eat it – bliss!
We had a really good time at the Donguri Tonchin, except for us four foreigners the other guests were Japanese only, which for me is always a good sign because locals know where to find good food, right?
And to my surprise, we only paid ¥ 8.750 for four people! That’s about 70 € for the group or 17,50 € for a full dinner (including drinks). That was a very pleasant surprise since we found this place by luck and weren’t even looking at the prices.
By the way, foursquare didn’t even have this place listed, so if you’re around Kyoto anytime soon, check this place out before it gets too popular.
Too bad it was our last day in Kyoto, I would have loved to stay longer and explore more of the great cuisine here and I’m sure my friends thought the same!
Have you been in Kyoto and found some good restaurants here? Let me know, I would love to put it on my list for my next visit! Or planning a trip to Kyoto soon? Check my Kyoto Foodie Tour posts to find some inspiration for restaurants!
Getting around in Kyoto
My favorite method of getting to know a foreign city is usually by walking as much as I can. However, if you want to see most of Kyoto in a short time, renting a bike is probably the cheapest and most fun option for you. You can find some tips on renting a bike in Kyoto here.
Day trips from Kyoto
If you’re based in Kyoto for a longer while, you might be interested to do a few day trips outside of Kyoto? Why not go Himeji and visit its beautiful white castle. It’s one of the many world heritage sites in Japan, very well worth a one-day visit. If you’re there already, why not also check out the Omotenashi Dining Fukutei and get an affordable Kaiseki lunch here? A trip to Himeji takes just about 45 minutes!
Or you could go and visit the many deers residing in Nara and check out the world’s biggest wooden building, housing a huge bronze Buddha statue inside. The trip is just about an hour from Kyoto Central Station.
Planning your trip
There are a lot of good hotels or hostels around in Kyoto. The first time I came to Kyoto I stayed in a hostel, which was quite central as well. This time, however, we decided to rent an airbnb apartment. In my experience, it has often proven to be much more affordable and comfortable as well.
If you haven’t signed up for airbnb yet, you can use this link and get 18 € (or 20 $) off of your first booking!
If you are planning a longer trip through Japan, consider getting the Japan Rail Pass! Read here to find out more about the pass!
To help me plan all my trips and itineraries in Japan, I mostly used the Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide)*. I’ve used it a lot when I was living in Japan and found it a great help this time as well!
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