Yakiniku in Kyoto (Japanese style grilled beef)

Yakiniku (Japanese (Korean) style grilled beef) 京の焼き肉

Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef) 焼き肉

Foodies everywhere seem to be very interested in Japanese beef, the fabled wagyu (和牛) these days. Kyoto, the ancient capital is actually not much of a ‘beef’ or ‘Japanese steakhouse’ town, but Kyoto does have several ‘old’ and famous beef establishments, for example Mishima-tei (三嶋亭).

Omigyu (近江牛) from Shiga Prefecture, just over the mountain from Kyoto, is excellent and there are also a number of restaurants in Kyoto that specialize in omigyu.

In addition to wagyu, yakiniku is very, very popular in Japan. Yakiniku is Korean style barbecue. Here we review Chiran, an elegant yakiniku restaurant located in the northern part of the city.

Chiran, just off of Kitayama Street (北山通り, Kitayama-dori), seems to be nearly unknown to people in Kyoto. It is a small, Korean-Japanese family operated restaurant that serves fine Japanese beef, Korean style, as well as an assortment of Korean homestyle cooking dishes.

Japan, the land of fish, happens to produce the best beef in the world now too, not bad considering beef is a newcomer to Japan. (Meiji Restoration, circa 1871).

Mizu Kimchi 水キムチ and Namul ナムル
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
mizu kimchi (水キムチ) and namul (ナムル)
Mizu kimchi (literally, ‘water kimichi’) is daikon radish seasoned with vinegar and chili. It is intended to be eaten/drunk at the beginning of the meal. The namul here (on the left) is bean sprouts flavored with sesame oil, behind that is daikon and mizuna (a popular kyoyasai green) flavored with vinegar.

Mizu Kimchi 水キムチ – detail
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Drink and eat this one. Served cold, great on a summer day too! It gets you ready to eat meat!

Oxtail soup (テールスープ)
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Fabulous! Pronounced, te-ru su-pu in Japanese.

Yukke (ユッケ) – raw ground beef with raw egg yolkYakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Yukke is another Korean dish that is now very popular with Japanese. Yukke, while a beef dish, appeals greatly to Japanese sensibilities as it requires the freshest and high quality ingredients, simply and naturally prepared.

Yukke (ユッケ), mix it up and eat it — raw!Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
This goes well with beer! Mighty tasty! (For serious carnivores only)

Gomanoha Shoyuzuke (ごまの葉醤油付け)Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Fresh sesame leaves lightly pickled in shoyu and plenty of chili. Sesame leaves, naturally, are rather astringent and a little minty, with chili and shoyu, it creates a taste that is delicate, complex with some punch. Yum!!

Gomanoha Shoyuzuke with white rice (ごまの葉醤油付け)Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Use the leaves one at a time to scoop up the rice in perfect bite sized portions.

Makkori マッコリ – Korean unfiltered rice wineYakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Makkori is similar to Japanese doburoku or nigorizake, but quite dry and is often a bit bubbly. Makkori is quite a bit stronger than it tastes.

Nira Chijimi (ニラ チジミ) – Garlic Chive ‘Pancake’
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Chijimi is similar to Japanese okonomiyaki, and also popular in Japan, especially in Korean restaurants. Nira are garlic chives and are available in all supermarkets in Japan.

Nira Chijimi (ニラ チジミ) on the Grill
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Paku puts chijimi over the coals at a yakiniku-ya for a minute or two. Interesting! Tasty!, says Peko.

Nira Chijimi (ニラ チジミ) in the Dipping Sauce
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)

Beef Tongue
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Tongue is very popular in Japan. It is usually grilled with plenty of salt, then a squeeze of lemon before being popped in the mouth.

Yakiniku on the Grill
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Yakinuki on the grill

Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Yakiniku and dipping sauce.

Yakiniku over the Coals
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)

Yakiniku over the Coals
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)

Yakiniku in the Sauce
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Kochijan — as it is called in Japan, (red chili paste) and garlic paste can be added to the yakiniki tare (dipping sauce) as you like. By the way, it is Peko’s opinion that Japanese garlic is pretty bad. This garlic paste, though it was surely out of a jar was not too bad.

Bibin Reimen — with a Big Blue Scissors! Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Folks, you can’t go wrong with this one! Reimen literally means ‘cold noodles’ is a popular summer noodle dish in both Korea and Japan. The noodles are very firm and chewy, pleasantly rubbery. Bibin Reimen is a play on the popular Korean rice dish, bibimbap as it has the similar spice and garnish.

Chiran’s Bibin Reimen kochijan flavoring, though quite spicy is rich and mellow.

Bibin Reimen — Ready to Eat!
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
Notice that the noodles have been cut with the scissors. (While kitchen scissors are not uncommon in Japan, they are a Korean)

Bibin Reimen with Rice Vinegar
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)

Bibin Reimen with Rice Vinegar
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)

Dessert — Azuki and Mochi
Yakiniku (Japanese style grilled beef)
This complementary dessert is a combination of crushed azuki beans and mochi. It is not at all sweet. It is a unique and light flavor, quite dry that is welcome after a heavy dinner of Japanese beef.

We discovered Chiran restaurant recently and visited several times. It is an excellent, excellent restaurant. In addition to fine Japanese beef (和牛, wagyu) grilled Korean style, Chiran offers Korean homecooking dishes, some Japanese renditions of popular Korean dishes, all with more than a hint of ‘Kyoto’ elegance, refinement and ingredients.

Sorry to our friends in Korea, but we doubt that there is Korean food this good in Korea!

No English menu
No website
Service/Staff: Staff is friendly and seems to speak a little English.
Price: Moderately expensive. Dinner for 2 with drinks about 10,000 yen, more if ordering the deluxe quality beef.
Location and Access: Just south of Daitokuji Temple (a must see Zen temple). Bus or taxi. About 30 minutes by bicycle from the Shijo/Sanjo area of Kyoto.
By the way, Chiran is located just around the corner from Komame-ya, whose yuba-ryori we reviewed here. (That is where we heard about it.)
Near Sightseeing Spot: Daitokuji (大徳寺)


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*KyotoFoodie seems to be quite popular with vegetarians. Japan has an image of being a non-meat society, in truth however, it is nearly impossible to get a veg meal here, not to mention vegan.

10 Responses to “Yakiniku in Kyoto (Japanese style grilled beef)”

  1. Kat says:

    Wow! never heard of this place. May have to check it out the next time we go to visit my hubby’s parents, since they live in the area!!

  2. PekoPeko says:

    Hey Kat!
    Yes, Chiran is quite a find! We were told about the restaurant just two months or so ago, and been going nearly every week since then.
    Next time you come to Kyoto, I am interested in knowing where you go!

    (PS) Oh! Paku made an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G dinner tonight! We are going to post it on KF in the very near future. Stay tuned!

  3. Katey B says:

    Thanks for putting an idea of prices. It really helps:)

  4. Rich K. says:

    Very interesting and informative post. Thanks for taking the time and effort.

    Regarding your comment “Sorry to our friends in Korea, but we doubt that there is Korean food this good in Korea!” . . .

    As a Korean-American who has lived in Kyoto for the past four years and lived for a year in Korea, this sort of comment, while it perhaps is supposed to just be enthusiasm for what you personally endorse, strikes me as unnecessary. You can hold your favorite yakiniku place in Kyoto in the highest regard without speculating that something else is inferior, especially when it is apparent that you are not interested in engaging in more than speculation. One really should not not say things like “I cannot offer a fully informed opinion and I am really not interested in becoming fully informed, but I’m just going to assert I must be right anyway.” This is the sort of attitude that has got America’s present regime in a whole lot of trouble.

    I have eaten a great deal of yakiniku. My wife is third-generation Zainichi Korean and two of her relatives run yakiniku-ya’s, including the very well-regarded Wakamatsu mini-chain in Kobe and Yakiniku Donguri in Gifu. We have tried Korean BBQ in Busan, Seoul, Koreatown in LA . . . we agree, it’s all good. I have yet to meet a Zainichi who has tried excellent Korean barbecue in Korea say that it does not have its charms that some people might prefer to even the best “Korean” barbecue in Japan. The quality of beef notwithstanding, I have yet to go to a yakiniku-ya in Japan that can match the quality of the banchan and soups at the better Korean and Koreatown BBQ joints. For some of us, it’s the total experience that counts. And as delicious as something like Matsuzaka beef certainly is, isn’t it possible that something more flavorful than beef-flavored butter might be preferred on occasion? I tend to think so, and my arteries thank me for it.

    I love yakiniku. It is in its own right a brilliant food experience, and I am the first to admit that my Zainichi cousins have a better understanding of the cow and its myriad delicious components than some of us. But yakiniku cannot be “better” Korean barbecue, because it is not precisely Korean barbecue. Perhaps only Koreans can appreciate this difference (I doubt this, but for your sake I will offer it as a possibility), but it is a fact nonetheless. If these seem like irrelevant considerations to you, then I apologize for introducing nuances to which you are oblivious. But all we can do is try to develop a proper respect for non-native cultures, which seems to me the greater part of taking the trouble to live in a foreign land. That is a courtesy that need not be limited to those immediately in our vicinity.

  5. Edward says:


    I am Korean American also and like Rich K. I too found the post to be unfairly dismissive of Korean food and somewhat offensive. I’ve had Korean bbq and yakiniku as well and write about it extensively in my blog (liked to my name above). My conclusion was that yakiniku generally seemed more refined then Korean bbq, but that Korean bbq was more flavorful and satisfying. Both were very good on equal levels but for different reasons.

    Regarding the Korean man who doesn’t eat yukke anymore in Korea doesn’t mean he thinks one’s overall cusine is better then the other and shouldn’t be lifted out of context and used as justification for such reasoning.

    Korean bbq isn’t just mainly pork, but pork bbq in Korea may just be more widespread in Korea because it’s a cheaper meat then beef. Korean bbq in the U.S. for example, where meat prices are cheaper, beef is actually more popular.

    The reason why Koreans have a sensitivity to blanket statements that one aspect of Japanese culture is superior, etc. is due to the difficult history that the two countries have had together, particularly in the first half of the 20th century. At that time, due to colonialism, Koreans were actively taught by the Japanese that the Japanese culture is superior in every way to Korean culture. The blanket and ill thought-out statement of, “Sorry to our friends in Korea, but we doubt that there is Korean food this good in Korea!” is like telling a black person back in the U.S. that there will never be a black quarterback as good as Tom Brady or Joe Montana. Obviously, such as statement would be considered inappopriate to be said or even though of today and to blacks it would harken back to a time that they would best like to forgotten when people thought that white athletes were inherently smarter and more disciplined then black athletes.

  6. Mikko says:

    Hi, looks really nice & special, definately have to try it! For the “fast food” type of fair of Yakiniku I have to recommend Chifaja (even though it is probably not nearly as special as above, the price/value still beats almost any restaurant in Europe in my opinion). Thanks for the great blog by the way :=)

  7. JM says:

    The restaurant seems of high quality, but they’re mixing up some of the tastes. The Nira pancake should be dipped in shoyu with a splash of rice vinegar, because sesame and dried chili powder overwhelm the delicate fragrance of nira. Nira is also slightly green-onion/garlicky, so it’s better without the chili powder.
    I also want to point out that bibim-reiman (interesting translation from the Korean name, by the way. I think it’s cool how some words sound so similar) should NOT be bathed in rice vinegar! Noooo! The chili-paste is supposed to be the star, super spicy but slightly sweet with only a hint of vinegar, perfect with the chewy noodles and the fresh, crisp cucumbers. I cringe just thinking about how tart the vinegar must have made the dish taste.
    Other than that, the place looks amazing.

  8. Chelsea says:

    Thanks for the great recommendation! On our last night here in Kyoto we went to Funaoka Onsen then this Korean restaurant. Conveniently, they are just two blocks apart. We were a little burnt out on eating almost 21 plus Japanese meals in a row and were craving some good Korean food. We followed your menu almost exactly except we didn`t order the raw beef and egg dish, oxtail soup, or the beef tongue. Food was exceptional, we loved the kimchi, the green onion pancake (which we had not had since Busan, South Korean in 2001) and the cold bibim rameon. The cold noodle dish was nice and spicy. We will definitely look for that one back in California. Thank you for a great recommendation. Oh one more comment, regarding some other folks complaints that you made about this Korean food being better than food in Korea. Ok, those folks seriously overreacted, but as a white Californian who taught English in Korea I must encourage you to go to Seoul and eat the fod there… nothing like it in the whole world. So good in fact that when ever I fly to Asia I try to get a lay over in Seoul so I can get the best Korean food in the world!

  9. ryan.t.rose says:

    I have a serious weakness for Japanese style grilled beef! 🙂

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