Friendly, Homey and Tasty Teishoku Restaurant 京都 明日香 定食屋
Asuka is a restaurant that I have been going to since even before I lived in Kyoto. It has never disappointed me. Asuka serves ‘teishoku‘ set menu meals and offers ‘ippin‘ a la carte dishes. The atmosphere is friendly, the prices are reasonable, the home cooking style food is delicious and it is located near the museums and Heian Shrine in Okazaki Park. Asuka is very popular with locals and foreign visitors.
Downhome and Tasty in Stuffy Old Kyoto
Asuka, run by several yakety-yak older ladies, is down home and low key in a way that very few restaurants are in Kyoto. Asuka reminds me more of an Osaka restaurant than one in Kyoto.
As the restaurant is just a 30 second walk from the Higashiyama Subway Station on the Tozai Line, which is the jump-off point for the museums in Okazaki Park and Heian Shrine, Asuka always seems to have several foreign customers. Asuka is about the most foreigner friendly place I know in the city. A wholesome and tasty teishoku meal can be had for under 1,000 yen, which makes Asuka a good deal.
I stopped in the other day on an early winter day for a late afternoon lunch. I ordered a set meal that included simmered fish head chunks, however most dishes at Asuka a lot more conventional and ‘foreigner friendly’.
Buri-ara Nitsuke Teishoku
Buri-ara Nitsuke: Yellowtail Head Chunks Simmered in Shoyu
Buri-ara Nitsuke: Yellowtail Head Chunks Simmered in Shoyu – detail
Teishoku, literally ‘set meal’ in Japanese, is very common and economical, especially for lunch. Teishoku usually includes fish, a rice or noodle dish with 3 or 4 other small side dishes and miso soup. Asuka offers several Kyoto-style noodle dishes and always several seasonal teishoku meals, usually featuring fish.
I had the seasonal buri-ara nitsuke teishoku, that is chunks of yellowtail head simmered in sweetened soy sauce and ginger. The other dishes included rice, miso soup, tofu, simmered vegetables and pickles. Plucking out the bits of meat from a fish head is not for everyone and Asuka offers plenty of other dishes that are far easier to eat.
Ippin, literally ‘one dish’ is popular fare at drinking establishments such as izakaya. Asuka offers a huge menu of seasonal, ippin dishes that go well with beer or sake or add some bulk to a teishoku. (If you are a sake aficionado, Asuka’s sake selection is nothing to write home about. You might want to stick with beer.)
If you are going to Asuka for a leisurely dinner, you can order a number of ippin dishes and split them among your party. This a very popular way to eat out with friends in Japan.
Asuka offers a small counter with chairs and four tables on tatami mat. If the restaurant is smoky you can ask to be seated upstairs.
English and Access
English menu: yes (understandable English)
English website: none
Service/Staff: Very friendly
Hours: 11am-11pm, closed Mondays
Location and Access: Asuka is just a few steps from the North exit of Higashiyama Station on the Subway Tozai Line.
Address : Kyoto, Higashiyama-ku, Sanjo-dori, Jingumichi Nishi-iru Nishimachi 144 (京都市東山区三条通神宮道西入西町144)
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Near sightseeing Spot: Asuka is about a 5 minute walk from the museums in Okazaki Park and Heian Shrine. The start of the Philosopher’s Path at Nanzenji Temple at the foot of the Higashiyama Mountains is about 25 minutes away.