The ancient capital of Nara was known as the end of the ancient Silk Road and has a history older than Kyoto, and what's more, it has a rich array of local delicacies to discover.

    For example, take sake, which is popular the world over these days. Nara is where you'll find the birthplace of refined sake, and where there's delicious sake, there's inevitably delicious food too... At the best restaurants in the area you can enjoy the unique tastes of Nara alongside the flavours of various parts of western Japan.

    1

    Maguro Goya

    A dream restaurant for tuna-lovers

    Maguro Goya (the name literally means “Tuna Hut”) is a restaurant specialising in tuna dishes located in the Higashimuki-Kita shopping arcade on the north side of Kintetsu Nara Station. This is a great place to enjoy all kinds of tuna, even though Nara is a completely landlocked city.

    Besides standard dishes such as sashimi and donburi (rice bowls), you’ll also find dishes such as tataki (seared tuna), kara-age (deep-fried tuna), miso-yaki (grilled tuna with miso paste), and kabuto-yaki (grilled head of tuna) on the menu. The set menu at lunchtime is also popular. The owner speaks English and there’s even an English menu, so in recent years the restaurant has also become a hit with international customers.

    Location: 6 Hanashibacho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8266, Japan

    Open: From 11 am to 9 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +81 (0)742-23-3766

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    2

    Edogawa Naramachiten

    Enjoy eel cuisine in a 140-year-old traditional townhouse

    Even though Nara is in the Kansai region, the Edogawa Naramachiten restaurant offers strictly Tokyo-style eel cuisine.

    This means eel that is steamed and drained of its fat before being grilled, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture. The restaurant’s secret sauce, which has been preserved for over 60 years, really enhances the flavour of the eel. Here you can enjoy local Japanese sake and eel dishes in a chic restaurant with jazz playing in a 140-year-old renovated machiya (traditional townhouse).

    Location: 43 Shimomikadocho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8365, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 3pm and 5 pm to 9 pm (closed on 3rd Thursday of the month)

    Phone: +81 (0)742-20-4400

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    3

    GANKO Tonkatsu, Nara Branch

    A pork cutlet restaurant that uses delicious pork from its own ranch

    GANKO Tonkatsu, Nara Branch is a specialty tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant located just a few minutes away from Kintetsu Nara Station. The chain has branches in Osaka, Hyogo, and Nara prefectures, but this is the only one in Nara.

    Not only is the delicious pork from its own contracted farm, but the sauce is also a GANKO original that brings out the best of a variety of ingredients. The shredded cabbage, a standard accompaniment, is also prepared using a sweet variety of cabbage grown on a contract farm. The breadcrumbs are blended so that they can be fried up nice and crispy. Refills of rice, cabbage, and miso soup for the set menus are free of charge, so you can eat until you’re full.

    Location: 19 Higashimuki Minamimachi, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8215, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-25-4129

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    4

    Kamaiki

    One of Nara's authentic udon specialists

    Udon noodle restaurant Kamaiki is located near Kintetsu Nara Station and features the famous Sanuki udon. Nara is the place to be if you want to enjoy the taste of udon made in Sanuki, the home of udon.

    Freshly cut noodles are made with Hokkaido wheat every morning. Boiled just in time for customers' arrival, the noodles stay firm and almost crispy. Tempura dishes are also served hot and deep-fried to order. Even the udon soup stock is made from iriko (dried sardines) and kombu (kelp) that have been drained the day before and are used only for that day's dish. Be careful when visiting late, as the restaurant closes as soon as the noodles prepared for that day are sold out!

    Location: 13-2 Higashimuki Minamimachi, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8216, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-0051

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    5

    Yoshino Honkudzu Tengyokudo Nara Main Store

    Explore kudzu cuisine at this long-established restaurant founded in 1870

    Yoshino Honkudzu Tengyokudo Nara Main Store is a direct retailer of Inoue Tengyokudo, a producer of Yoshino honkudzu (kudzu is an edible vine native to Japan) in Gose City, Nara Prefecture. It’s located at the site of Todaiji Temple's Saidaimon Gate.

    Here, visitors can enjoy a variety of kudzu cuisine and kudzu sweets. Kudzu, or kudzu flour, is a premium starch extracted from the thick roots of the kudzu vine plant. Since ancient times, it has been used to enrich the thickness of food and as an ingredient in Japanese confectionery, and Nara is well-known as a centre for production of this starch. At the main store in Nara, guests can savor the "Kudzu Zukushi Course" (reservation required), a creative menu serving a variety of kudzu dishes, and freshly made kudzukiri (kudzu noodles) while admiring the scenery of each of the four seasons.

    Location: 1-6 Oshiagecho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8273, Japan

    Open: From 10 am to 7.30 pm (closed on Tuesdays, or the next day if Tuesday is a national holiday)

    Phone: +81 (0)742-27-5011

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    6

    KURA

    An all-seater izakaya where you can savour Nara's ingredients and local sake

    KURA features creative Japanese cuisine using Nara’s local ingredients as well as locally brewed sake. The proprietress is a certified sake connoisseur.

    A careful selection of 15 kinds of local Nara sake brands are kept in stock, and there are a wide variety of sake sets that allow you to taste small amounts of different sakes. One of the standout dishes here is the Special Wagyu Beef Motsunabe (beef intestine hot pot). You can choose between miso and soy sauce flavours. All of the restaurant’s 50 seats are private rooms with sunken kotatsu-style arrangements for a cosy and relaxing atmosphere. The restaurant's unique feature is a private room equipped with a footbath (reservation required). The footbath costs 300 yen per person, but the fee is reduced to 200 yen if you bring your own towel.

    Location: 482-1 Sanjocho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8244, Japan

    Open: Sunday and Tuesday—Thursday: From 5 pm to 11 pm, Friday, Saturday and day before public holiday: From 5 pm to midnight (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)742-27-0009

    Map
    7

    Harishin

    Enjoy traditional boxed lunches with the taste of Nara in a historic building

    Harishin is a Japanese restaurant located in Naramachi, Nara City’s old downtown area. Its signature dish is a shokado bento (traditional boxed lunch)

    named after the old Kamitsumichi road that has existed since the Nara period (710—794). A variety of seasonal ingredients are colourfully arranged, including sesame tofu made with Yoshino Kudzu starch, a delicacy of Nara Prefecture, and so, an ancient Japanese cheese. The restaurant is housed in a 250-year-old former bureau de change, providing a nostalgic setting for your dining experience.

    Location: 15 Nakanoshinyacho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8333, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11.30 am to 3.30 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-22-2669

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    8

    AIDA Sanjodori-Ten

    A lunch-only set meal restaurant in an old-fashioned Western-style building

    AIDA Sanjodori-Ten is a stylish set meal restaurant. Located in the middle of Nara City, this new café-restaurant is part of the AIDA chain that had become a hit in the Narayama suburbs.

    Sanjo Kaikan, the building that houses the restaurant, was built in the mid-1920s. Offering a choice of main dish, the menu features a daily set meal with a fancy twist on typical items such as Hamburg steaks, fries, and tempura. With salad, side dishes, and miso soup included, the portions are very generous. Why not take a pleasant stroll down Sanjo Street after your lunch?

    Location: 1F Sanjo Kaikan, 11-1 Tsunofuricho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8224, Japan

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    9

    Surugamachi-no-Okonomiyakiya

    Sample Tokushima-style okonomiyaki in Nara

    Surugamachi-no-Okonomiyakiya is an okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake) restaurant located near JR Nara Station. The owner, who is from Tokushima, serves Tokushima-style okonomiyaki right here in Nara.

    The Tokushima-style Surugumachiyaki features a thin dough topped with crispy tempura made by Maruten Seitenjo in Tokushima City as well as a generous filling of cabbage. Even the sauce is made in Tokushima. Other items on the menu include general okonomiyaki, modern yaki (okonomiyaki with noodles inside), negiyaki (okonomiyaki featuring green onions), yakisoba (fried noodles), and fish cutlets, a Tokushima delicacy.

    Location: 1F Tanaka Building, 606-8 Sanjocho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8244, Japan

    Open: Monday–Saturday from noon to 10 pm, Sunday and holidays from noon to 9 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-27-8238

    Map
    10

    Kamameshi Shizuka Koen-ten

    Savour cooked-to-order rice dishes

    Kamameshi Shizuka Koen-ten is a restaurant renowned for kamameshi (a Japanese rice dish cooked in a small iron pot) that has been in business since 1959. The restaurant is located at the entrance of Nara Park, directly opposite Nara National Museum.

    The signature dish, kamameshi, is made to order and carefully cooked in a pot. The pot is directly brought to your table piping hot, and if you keep the lid on the pot while you eat it, the rice that’s in contact with the inside surface forms a savoury okoge (scorched rice), which you can enjoy at the end of the meal. The menu features seasonal specials such as shirasu (baby sardines) in springtime, kuri (chestnuts) and matsutake mushrooms in autumn, and kaki (oysters) in winter.

    Location: 59-11 Noboriojicho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 630-8213, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)742-27-8030

    Map

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