The Japanese have turned Italian cuisine into an artform (Photo: Hiro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Pontoiru: Japanese-Italian Cuisine

A bird's eye view over Kyoto Station

The Japanese have turned Italian cuisine into an artform (Photo: Hiro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Bonson Lam   - 3 min read

You had a big day of strolling at Sannenzaka or hungry from the Japanese washi paper making class and don’t know where to eat? Or perhaps you have a late train or flight and you would like some carbohydrates before picking up your luggage from JR or Kintetsu Kyoto station? Well I was thinking the same thing before boarding a train to Osaka.

How about trying some modern Kyoto fusion cuisine? Something that captures the Japanese appetite for the freshest seasonal produce, and combines it with modern Japanese style Italian pasta that is so light and easy to eat. Take a lift straight up from JR Kyoto to the eleventh floor (restaurant floor) and you will be surrounded by a variety of modern eateries, and head south away from the Kyoto Tower side. Alternatively take the scenic route on the escalators and admire the architectural wonder of the modern glass structure above the crowds over the train station.

The Pontoiru restaurant showcases modern Kyoto fusion cuisine at a budget price. Being the start of fall there is a special seasonal menu featuring Kyoto mountain delights such as freshly picked mushrooms or gingko nuts, expertly mixed in a tomato based sauce. Being far from the sea Kyoto specializes in pickles and other expertly cooked vegetables, so here is my chance to eat Italian and Japanese food at the same time.

For 1430 yen you can have the three courses Fall set menu which includes a green konbu seaweed appetizer, your choice of pasta, drink and dessert. Taking fusion to the next level, we have an Italian style restaurant with Japanese style food displays in the window, plus the chance to try spaghetti with chopsticks (or knife and fork for those inclined). So between the English menu, the picture menu and the window display it is very easy to know what you are ordering, but actually trying to decide is a little bit harder. For example, turnip & shrimp spaghetti and meat sauce spaghetti with duck & eggplant & lotus root are both delicious alternatives to the autumn seasonal menu.

The highlight for me was the cheesecake with roasted sesame topping accompanied with the yuzu (Japanese citrus) sorbet, fragrant and fruity and a great end to the meal without the sharp sourness of a lemon sorbet.

This is a popular place so drop in before 630 pm and you may be lucky enough to grab a window seat overlooking the sunset and the evening lights over South Kyoto. Admittedly the view on the north side is more scenic with the Kyoto tower, but you are likely to pay a bit extra for a restaurant with a north view, and there are plenty of choices on the other side of the building.

Getting there

This is above Kyoto station.

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 laneways of Kyoto last century.  I am humbled to have met many distinguished people during this time, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperia...