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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies
Multi-Course Mastery at Kyoto Jugen
The parade of seasonal dishes is enough to get me booking my return. The elegant interiors, attentive staff and enchanting location are the icing on the cake.

Kyoto Jugen, a traditional Japanese ryotei-style restaurant, opened at the end of last year is nestled in a renovated machiya complex just south of the iconic Yasaka Pagoda in Gion. The complex, also home to a charming ryokan previously frequented by many a famous high-society name, from authors to artists to actors, is in an enviable location and perfectly situated for a lunch stop to break up a day of sightseeing in the temple-trodden streets of Higashiyama.

Ryotei is a prestigious, traditional style of Japanese restaurant. In the past, much like a geiko's tea house, ryotei were an exclusive form of entertainment for the upper classes and those with connections. Fortunately now they are more open and welcoming of guests who truly want to appreciate opulent surroundings, warm hospitality and above all, excellent Japanese cuisine. Jugen delivers on all counts.

Upon my visit, I was more interested in the gourmet flair than the celebrity status of the clientele and luckily for me the food-centric attitude shone through like Kyoto's springtime sunshine. An unmissable selection of seasonal courses was brought forth. Winter culinary highlights of smoked duck tataki, roasted wild boar and Spanish mackerel sashimi were bursting with five times the flavour than expected from the refined little parcels placed on our plates. Eating such delicate dishes was as cheery as the meticulously manicured garden that our dining room overlooked. The steaming hot barley tea that accompanied our lunch filled the room with a rich and lightly smokey aroma reminiscent of an English fireplace, and almost as warming in the cold winter weather.

In spring, ingredients are carefully selected to offer the finest flavours of the season. Meat and vegetables are farmed locally making a menu fit for royalty and the tranquil atmosphere allows each course to be savoured as it should be. If the winter menu is anything to go by, I'll be revisiting at the start of each season this year and probably next year too.

Kyoto Jugen takes the stress from finding a standout kaiseki experience. With lunch priced at 6,800 yen and dinner 21,000 yen, it's not cheap but it is impressive.

Jugen: Open: 11:30-15:00 (L.O. 14:00); 17:30-23:00 (L.O. 21:00); Closed: Sat., Sun., national holidays; South of Hokan-ji Temple; Tel: 075-533-8791; www.kyotojugen.com

Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.