It may be set in a garden and boast oriental styling, but don't be fooled by the name. The closest this restaurant's menu gets to Japan is the delicate chrysanthemum motif printed at the top of the page. As far as the food goes, it's pretty much Italian all the way. White tablecloths, soft lighting, skinny black lacquer chopsticks and a single fresh orchid on each table help to set a sophisticated tone, while dark wood furniture, antique sake casks and soft silk cushions form an atmospheric backdrop for the refined Kyoto crowd. Dishes range from beef carpaccio to tagliatelle with black truffles and spaghettini with crab, but if you must have a Japanese twist the menu also features risotto with shellfish and nori. The wine list is vast, but isn't exclusively Italian.
The food definitely takes second place to the surroundings. Strung with giant paper lanterns in the evening or lit by brilliant sunshine on a good day, the gardens are stunning. Kyoto is the most traditional of Japan's cities, and the restaurant is in one of its most historic districts, close to the Kiyomizu temple. As well as being overlooked by a pagoda, the garden offers maple trees, swaying bamboo screens, pale grey pebbles and babbling streams. It is at the end of a run of steep, narrow streets that are so revered for their ancient architecture that they are under a preservation order. The building itself was once the home of the painter Seiho Takeuchi.
Dinner for two, with wine, from around Y10,000 (£50).
The Garden Oriental, 366 Yasakakamimachi, Yasaka-dori, Shimogawara, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto (00 81 75 541 3331; www.thegardenorientalkyoto.com)Reuse content