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: