Good Eats: Grotto (Kyoto)

UPDATE: Grotto has since closed.

I’m fairly certain that the tiny culinary outpost of Grotto (in Kyoto’s Northern Higashiyama district) would be welcoming on any evening – seeing as how it was downpouring the night that I had my reservation, the warmth of the restaurant was especially appreciated.

Grotto is definitely not on the tour bus circuit – the downstairs counter only seats 11 and I never saw anyone taken upstairs, though there are supposedly a few more tables. The counter seats are where you want to be anyway, in order to watch Chef Takada work. It’s a carefully orchestrated dance between him and his assistant in the tiny kitchen, but I never saw a misstep. Chef Takada is too good for that – having worked in New York for several years, the pressure of a small Kyoto eatery is a cinch for this bilingual food expert. Not that he takes it easy – the daily menu (and there is only one, changing monthly) is a nine course ode to whatever is in season in the local area.

On the night I went, my meal went something like this:

Course #1: Pike conger and shitake mushrooms with green veggies and lime:

Course #3: Bonito tuna with garlic chips and fresh veggies:
Course #4: Lotus Root Dumplings with shrimp and edamame:
Course #7: Pork and Kyoto eggplant cooked in hoba miso and served on a banana leaf:
Oh, and the best part? A nine-course dinner only cost around $50. Don’t go without a reservation – at only 11 seats, Grotto can fill up quickly. And do allow at least 2-3 hours to enjoy your meal – you’ll definitely want the experience to last.
Grotto is about an 8-10 minute walk due east of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji).Call at least a day or two in advance to secure your reservation. English is spoken. (075-771-0606)

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