The city of Nara, with all its historic landmarks and charming deer, is a magnet for tourists all year round, so it is not short on dining options.
From Sanjo Dori up to Nara Park, and past Naramachi, there are plenty of restaurants and types of cuisine to choose from.
Mellow Café (Pizza)
Mellow Cafe is located a couple of blocks from Sanjo Dori in the Konishi-cho district of Nara. On warmer days, you will find it to be like an oasis, just hiding in the back of a small shopping building shaded from the sun.
The menu includes a long list of international dishes including Indian and Italian cuisine. The highlight at Mellow however is its stone-oven baked pizza, where you can watch the pizza making process through a window. Once you've gotten your pizza and side beverage, continue on to Nara Park. Mellow Cafe is open everyday from 11am to 11:30pm
Shika no Fune (Japanese rice cooked in traditional oven)
Shika no Fune
Shika no Fune serves light yet filling daytime meals served with vegetables grown nearby. The light-filled space is the perfect place to start a relaxing morning.
The meals are Japanese-inspired with a macrobiotic twist, all featuring local produce. Each item is handmade, and the rice is grown nearby and cooked inside a fire oven. There are four choices for lunch, including seasonal options, that offer both vegetarian and meat meals. The cafe is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily but stops serving meals once the rice runs out.
Awa Naramachi (Japanese multi-course meal)
Appetizer: Yamato traditional vegetables
A farm located nearby is undergoing “Project Millet” where the main focus is on traditional Yamato vegetables. This farm produces 120 different kinds of vegetables and herbs, even producing Yamato beef and local sake. A famous shop that utilizes those ingredients and produces wonderful dishes is "Awa Naramachi”.
Naramachi's 140 year-old townhouse has renovated its interior to make the restaurant feel like a tradional Japanese house. A sense of calm and well being will be easily attained when one is relaxing and dining at Awa Naramachi.
5,000 yen course's main dish - Yamato beef rib roast
Tanaka - Irori Dining (Japanese Charcoal Grill)
Tanaka - Irori Dining
Located just across from the world heritage site, Genkoji Temple, a Japanese style barbecue restaurant called "Tanaka" awaits your arrival.
For dinner, we recommend a course where you get to eat the finest Yamato Japanese beef, fresh fish from the fishing port in Ishikawa Prefecture, and seasonal vegetables from farms in Nara. Similar to yakiniku, it's dealer's choice when it comes to how you want your meat grilled.
Assortment of appetizers
7,000 yen main course - Specially selected Japanese black beef
Harishin - Kaiseki (Japanese multi-course haute cuisine)
"Harishin" is a long-established restaurant that has been in business for over 140 years. The current store is a former money-exchange house that's 230 years old! The room facing the courtyard is said to have been used for negotiations that took place with the samurai.
Harishin offers multi-course meals at dinner time. If you make a reservation, you can eat a kaiseki cuisine which is unfortunately limited to one set per day. This is highly recommended by the owner.
Kameya - Okonomiyaki (Japanese pan fried dish)
Kameya - Okonomiyaki
Kameya is located on Sanjo Dori around the corner from Sarusawa-ike Pond. If you appreciate teppanyaki-style food, English menus, and affordable prices, this is the place you're looking for.
The best dish on the menu is the okonomiyaki, the Japanese version of a pancake popular in the Kansai region. Why not take a seat at the bar and watch the chefs do their thing? The food is delicious and the service is delightful. Kameya is open from 11am to 10pm.
Kotaro Taiyaki (fish shaped cake)
Taiyaki is a popular sweet dessert in the shape of tai, or Japanese seabream. The inside is filled with azuki, or red bean paste, and served hot and fresh. For a quick pick-me-up, get some taiyaki from the local vendor.
The small, ramshackle cafe serves fresh taiyaki and coffee and is run by the eccentric owner himself. He originally lived in a van at the foot of Mt. Fuji and now shares his stories with the patrons of the cafe.
Ajitei Yamazakiya - Chagayu (tea rice porridge)
“Amitei Yamazakiya” is just a 5 minute walk from Kintetsu Nara Station; located in the Touhou shopping street, in the back of Yamazakiya Honten. It's a restaurant that focuses on Japanese cuisine, a Nara-zuke store founded early on in the Meiji era.
A popular menu item is the “Chazen Gyoen”. Have a taste of what the Nara people would consider to be a breafast experience one must try when traveling through. This dish, with its highly fragant hojicha will make it feel like your raggedy bones have been revitalized. One plus is that all the dishes come with Yamazakiya's signature Nara pickles.
Shorai Matsunooto (variety of Japanese dishes)
2F special seat
A chef who studied architecture at university took it upon himself to renovate an 80-year-old townhouse and turn it into a restaurant. It is called "Shorai Matsunooto".
There's special seats on the 2nd floor that overlook a magnificent pine tree in the courtyard that's more than 300 years old. The restuarant's specialty dish is the "Asuka Nabe", a local dish of the Asuka region.
They have a long list of menu items, that includes a great selection of Japanese sake and wine. You can also grab a counter seat at the 1F bar if you'd prefer a quick drop-by.
Kanakana (folk house café)
About 15 minutes on foot from Kintetsu Nara Station you will find the restaurant “Kanakana” quietly located in an alley far from the main street. Fun fact, it is a popular folk house cafe that is referenced quite a lot.
The queues can get long in the daytime, but you can still enjoy the lunch menu in the evening, so try visiting after sunset if you have the time.
The most popular "Kanakana rice" dish is something you can enjoy every time you visit. This menu item brings together Nara's best ingredients.
Nakatanidou - Rice Cakes
Nakatanidou - Rice Cakes
Rice cakes or mochi, as they are called in Japanese, are a great snack for when taking a stroll and exploring a place such as Nara. One place that has made a name for itself is Nakatanidou.
You will find this popular sweets shop along Sanjo Dori where not only can you get these delicious treat to go, but you can also watch them make it from scratch. The window display might be crowded so some patience may be required. Nakatanidou opens everyday from 10am to 7pm.
Kitamachi is a tofu shop selling soybeans in various forms; using only soybeans grown in Nara when making the tofu. The shop however is most famous for its okara, or tofu donuts.
The tofu gets blended into the donut mix, creating a unique and healthy flavor. Instead of getting that heaviness when buttermilk is used, you get a much lighter and friendlier eating experience.
After the long walk through Nara Park and having fed the deer along way, you’ll probably be needing a rest and some good food. Mizuya Teahouse is your reward waiting for you at the top of the park.
This teahouse has been serving udon noodles and mouthwatering Japanese sweets for over six decades. Choose one of the twelve noodle dishes, or perhaps try Mizuya’s signature warabimochi dessert (during summer, try the kakigori). Enjoy the view of the river and luscious green as you chow-down. Mizuya Teahouse is open from 10am to 4pm daily, but closed on Wednesdays.
Edogawa Grilled Eel
Edogawa Grilled Eel
If you happen to be exploring the streets of Naramachi and want to try grilled eel, Edogawa is where you should be heading. It is located near the entrance of Mochiido-no Center shopping street.
It should come to no surprise that the eel they serve here is excellent. It can be a bit pricey but you're getting your money's worth. You can also pair the set with a glass of limited locally-produced sake starting at 580 yen per glass.
- 江戸川 ならまち店
Tsukihi-Tei (set meals using traditional Nara food)
Located near Kintetsu Nara station, Tsukihi-Tei specializes in teishoku (set meals) for lunch and dinner. There are a variety of basic sets with the star entree being different in each one.
Tsukihi-Tei offers traditional Nara food, such as kakinohazushi, served with sides such as miso soup and pickles. Many of the ingredients are locally grown or raised in Nara, and the menu changes depending on the season and what is being grown in nearby farms.
The teishoku and lunch-box sets are quite large and filling. Tsukihi-Tei also offers local sake; every month featuring a different drink. If you're looking for some traditional Nara cuisine, look no further.
- 月日亭 近鉄奈良駅前店
- 奈良県奈良市東向中町6 奈良県経済倶楽部ビル2F
Kakinohazushi is wrapped in the bitter leaves of persimmon fruit, leaving no waste. Kakinohazushi was created in the Edo era to preserve the sushi rice and fish for long journeys. Sushi has become a dish everyone can enjoy, however Kakinohazushi has taken a different appearance than that of its nigiri cousins.
Cured fish, normally salmon or mackerel, is placed on top of vinegared rice and shaped into a brick. This is then wrapped in the persimmon leaf. The block is left in a wooden box where the curing process is completed.
Despite its name, the persimmon leaf is not actually eaten with the sushi. It is only for the packaging. However, the subtle taste of the leaf is reflected upon the fish and rice. This delicacy is found in restaurants throughout Nara and is a popular ekiben (train lunch).