Bonson Lam

Kyoto Pontocho Mimasuya Restaurant

Japanese Dining by the Kamogawa

Bonson Lam
Bonson Lam   - 4 min read

Mimasuya serves Modern Japanese cuisine, in a chic yet traditionally decorated eatery overlooking the Kamogama river. Its three quarter sized servings allow you to try a variety of tapas style dishes that is best shared amongst a small group.

Located in the heart of the atmospheric Pontocho lane way, about halfway between Sanjo and Shijo streets, this mid-range restaurant is a comfortable, scenic and convenient place to drop by after a day’s sightseeing. The hushed conversations and the mixed crowd, all looking like if they had an enjoyable day out, makes this a pleasant place to sit down and catch up with your friends over a meal.

I had a small plate of Wagyu beef fillets served with three different dressings, as well as raw mushroom and eggplant slices over a miso dipping sauce, served fondue style over a tea light cooker. The miso dipping sauce was rich, sweet and nutty, and made an excellent entrée or a light meal. Mimasuya takes pride in its unadorned dishes that showcase each ingredient, so there is no confusion as to what you are eating. It also means you can only eat the ingredients that you want, should you have an allergy.

Other highlights on the menu include pork dressed with a Japanese salsa, chicken in wasabi sauce, tuna with roasted sesame, and bacon with cream cheese fritters, with most dishes being under 1000 yen each. This is a light creative fusion menu that is caters for mainstream and vegetarian diners, yet plays homage to its Japanese roots. While you may not be full after two dishes, it allows you space to savor its fabulous desserts, from the apple pie to the chocolate banana mousse. If you do overeat, the Shirakawa canal and old houses in nearby Gion makes for a pleasant stroll. Just don't get too tempted by the dozens of sweet shops you will encounter on the way!

While it is less than 15 minutes’ walk from the Theaters at Gion and the Art Complex 1928 hall, home of the GEAR non-verbal performance, this place that is not designed for pre-theater dining, as the team of young wait staff appeared overwhelmed once the crowds come in after 630 pm. So if you need to finish your meal by a certain time, for example, if you are catching a show or an inter- city train afterwards, give yourself at least 90 minutes between stepping in and stepping out. Nevertheless, the service is friendly and polite, and they speak a little English, so if they are not too busy, feel free to ask them for a recommendation. There are also English menus.

Housed in a restored century old merchant’s house, the restaurant is located over two levels. On the street level you can see the cooks displaying their skills in the open kitchen. At the back there is a small outdoor terrace, a great place to watch Kyoto as it settles into the night. From cranes and egrets playing on the Kamogawa River, to couples watching the night skies on the riverbank, the riverside is a pleasant way to wind down during the summer months. For the best seats, bookings are advised, unless you want to walk in before 6 pm.

There is a narrow wooden set of stairs that take you to the top floor, with large windows overlooking the river and the terrace below. If you were like me and walk in at 7 pm without a reservation, you are likely to be seated in the corner near the walkway. You can see hints of the former machiya with its tatami and dark wooden hues, though the background rap music seems a bit incongruous in this lane way of filled with paper lanterns and the sound of the wooden geta sandals from the occasional geisha walking by. At the same time, the lack of stereotypical koto strings or Kyoto court music is another sign that this place is authentic enough to attract a local crowd of various ages and nationalities. After all, not every bistro in Paris plays Edith Piaf all night?

Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met ...