Mar. 21, 2023 UPDATE
Kyoto Oden Guide – From Classics to the Unconventional
Part 2

Start with the Basics – Kyoto’s Essential Oden Restaurants

Whether you're new to oden or not, when trying it in Kyoto, the first place you should start is with the basics. In Part 2 of our oden feature, we'll introduce you to three of Kyoto's most essential oden restaurants. All three are oden purists and keep their hotpots in front of customers, so even if you don't know the name of something, you can just point to it in the hotpot and order it like that. This aspect of these restaurants also makes them particularly great for tourists as there's no need to be able to read Japanese.
The first restaurant on our list is the Gion district's Takocho. With over 150 years of experience and the resounding agreement from both locals and reviewers on Google that they are delicious, Takocho is the embodiment of "Kyoto oden." In fact, Takocho is so popular that in winter, when they open at 5:30 p.m., their 12 counter seats fill nearly instantly.

The menu is entirely written on the wall in Chinese kanji characters, and Japanese people can't even read some of it. So, to order, take a look inside the hotpot and just point to what you want. At Takocho, you'll see classic Kyoto oden ingredients, like yuba tofu skin and hirosu deep-fried tofu mixed with thinly sliced vegetables, neatly lining the inside of the hotpot.
Below are our recommended dishes!
First is Takcho's signature dish, tako, or octopus. This piece of octopus is absolutely massive, and when you bite into it, the dashi stock of the oden and umami of the octopus burst into your mouth. Add a sprinkle of the accompanying Kyoto scallions and you'll quickly be reaching for a glass of sake just like a local.
Octopus is a popular menu item, so depending on the time you go, it might be sold out. If you're adamant about trying it, we recommend ordering it as soon as you're done ordering your drink. *note that it's not in the hotpot, so you won't know if it's available until you ask. Also, the things behind the octopus are called takara bukuro, meaning bag of treasure. Inside the fried tofu pouches is mochi, of which Takocho has mixed various seasonal vegetables in to. So bite in and see if you can't figure out what kind of "treasure" lies inside.
Our second recommendation is ebi imo, literally, shrimp potato. This uniquely shaped taro root is one of Kyoto's most beloved local vegetables. And can you guess why it's called shrimp potato?

— Because it tastes like shrimp? Because shrimp eat it? —
The answer is because the end arches up like the tail of a shrimp. This is also why it's more commonly translated as shrimp shaped taro. Bite into it and you'll be met with the coupled smooth, potato-like texture of the taro with the flavors of the oden's dashi stock. This combination is further backed by the naturally robust flavors of the taro root.

Unfortunately, the prices at Takocho vary depending on the time and aren’t displayed anywhere. Still, you should be alright if you assume one dish will be around ¥1,000.
(When we went, three dishes and a small beer came to just under ¥5,000)
Fuyacho Uneno
Fuyacho Uneno
The second on our list is Fuyacho Uneno, a specialty oden restaurant owned and operated by the veteran 1903 Kyoto dashi shop, Odashi Uneno.
Sitting inside a multi-tenant building and supporting only 20 at a time, this hideout like restaurant flips the image of oden as food for the masses on its head with its fine-dining approach to the Japanese classic. Uneno offers a huge selection of oden dishes, including Kyoto classics like homemade hirosu fried-tofu balls with sliced vegetables in addition to western-style ingredients like zucchini, shaved ham and rolled cabbage.
After ordering, you will be served a bowl of dashi, however, you can't drink it just yet.

Why? Because this dashi is a special kind that's meant to accompany the oden dishes to come. This generous offering of two separate dashi stocks, one for the hotpot and one for eating, can be attributed to their origins as a dashi shop. Below are our recommended dishes!
The first is the dashimaki tamago rolled omelet. This dish is a definite must-try for any self-respecting egg lover. While this dish is served at almost all izakaya, Uneno’s version is a little different. As the rolled omelet comes served in a bowl of dashi stock, the flavor and umami of the dashi fill the far corners of your tongue the moment you spoon it into your mouth.
Our next recommendation is the perfect meal finisher, the dashi filled noodles. The shaved ham and scallions that sit atop the Chinese-style noodles add a unique kind of dashi to the noodles and might just be exactly what you'd been looking for.
Additionally, the added peppery punch gives this dish the ultimate Italy meets Japan feel. This dish is perfect for finishing your meal, or if you're really hungry and want something to fill the gaps between orders.

The prices of the oden at Uneno also aren’t displayed anywhere and vary with the time. However, around ¥5,000 per person should more than suffice to fill you up (dishes are between ¥300 to ¥900).
Tsukitokage Shinmachi
Tsukitokage Shinmachi
The final restaurant on our list is Tsukitokage, a casual Japanese restaurant centering on delicious oden and tempura. Sitting inside a traditional townhouse in Kyoto's business district of Karasuma Oike, you're almost guaranteed to see Tsukitokage full of businessmen and women blowing off steam. As Tsukitokage has two stories, 49 seats, including tables, counter-side and floor seating, it's great for both couples and families.
Placed in front of the chef’s prep counter are 11 special counter-side seats. These seats give you a front-row view of all the action and allow the chef to serve you right where you are. At Tsukitogake, the one thing that that absolutely mustn’t be passed by is the bonito flake and kelp-based dashi stock filled, hot pot stewing, and simply irresistible oden.
While you can order the oden one by one, if you’re unsure what to choose, we recommend the moriawase platter (available in 3 piece & 5 piece platters). This spread of oden contains the staff’s daily recommendations from their numerous offerings of oden. The photo is of the 5 piece platter and contains daikon radish, egg, konjac, chikuwa fish cake tubes and fried tofu. The popular daikon contains the refined flavors of dashi, which burst forth when you bite into it, and is simply delicious.
Tsukitokage also has several other ingredients, including yuba tofu skin and Japanese mugwort cakes, which go well with the flavors of the Kyoto style bonito flake and kelp dashi, so definitely give them a try too!
What’d you think? Will you be trying any of these essential oden restaurants? The oden in Kyoto is known for having a simple dashi and various unique ingredients that mix well with it. The restaurants we’ve showcased here offer great-tasting oden and are more than worth your while. In the next part, we’ll introduce you to the best restaurants to enjoy a glass of sake and some oden.

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