Kyoto Foodie Tour: Donguri Tonchin

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!

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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!

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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.

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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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*Note: This is an affiliate link, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. I only ever use affiliate links to products that I personally use and love.


26 thoughts on “Kyoto Foodie Tour: Donguri Tonchin

  1. GlobalMary

    I love this article, it will be so helpful for us in Kyoto! We are going to Japan in 2 days. Thanks for this great tips!

    And hey, you are also in Hamburg? Would you like to meet up some time, when we both are not traveling? 🙂

    Cheers from FTB,

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      I’m happy if it helps! I have other posts in my Kyoto Foodie series, maybe they’ll help too.
      I live and work in Hamburg, would love to meet up! How long are you going to be in Japan?

        1. sonderbarmii Post author

          Thanks, I’m so glad it’s helpful! 🙂 have fun in Japan! It’s wonderful in spring, you get to enjoy the cherry blossoms, I’m so envious! 😉

  2. Jo

    Thanks for this piece. I am a foodie and the pork belly sounds amazing – something one must try in Kyoto and a typical grilled BBQ – Swell! I love some nifty places and it is awesome when you “discover” these gems by accident. Just makes your day 🙂

  3. Laura @ Grassroots Nomad

    I’m always travelling in the hunt for the best food. Before my trip to Tokyo, I spent weeks researching the best places to eat. Now I know where to go in Kyoto and what to order. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      Thanks for reading! Where did you go in Tokyo? I’ve a Tokyo Foodie Tour series in progress right now, but I’m always open for new places to discover the next time I’m there! 😉

  4. Kristina Manente

    Ahh, where in Japan did you live? I lived in Shizuoka and went to Kyoto every chance I got! It’s so wonderful, I really enjoyed reading this. Korean BBQ with anything but charcoal is sacrilege, glad you found this unknown place!

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      I used to live in Tokyo but loved traveling around Kansai and to Okinawa! I really don’t understand how you could do a Korean (or Japanese for that matter) BBQ with gas instead of charcoal! I’ve never been to Shizuoka before, but it’s on my list for my next visit to Japan 🙂

  5. Eva Casey

    Yum!! I have always been fascinated by the various foods and ways of eating in Asia! Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to experience it in Japan one day!

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      Japanese people take food extremely serious, it’s almost a religion there 😉 That’s why you can always find amazing food even in such a small restaurant off the touristy areas!

  6. Alex

    Looks delish, tons of good info, and love that you were honest about Aje. Always the kind of reviews I’m looking for 🙂

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      Thanks! Usually I don’t like to leave a bad review about anything because even if I don’t like it, it’s usually not so bad that I would write about it. However, the Aje is such a rip-off, it really deserved being mentioned here 😉

  7. bee

    Looks yummy I love the option of meat or veggie for the bbq. I now feel like I missed this when I was in Japan. All I did was visit temples …lol

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      The temples in Kyoto are so beautiful! I actually regret that I didn’t have enough time to visit more of them, haha 🙂 How long did you stay in Kyoto?

  8. Beth {Vacation Coffee}

    I love your honest review 🙂
    Your pics of the food and recommendations were great! Making me hungry over here. I’m a big lover of pork belly too. Basically, if it’s on the menu, I order it.
    Great info!

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      I LOVE pork belly! I have a very hard time to choose anything else if there’s pork belly, so I gave up trying a long time ago 🙂 if there’s pork belly, I’ll eat it.

    1. sonderbarmii Post author

      Haha, did you know it’s ok to eat your sushi with your hands in Japan? 😉 But I get that learning to use chop-sticks can be very hard! I’m glad I learned it when I was still a babe!

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