When I visited: May 2016
Location: Kyoto (within Ritz-Carlton hotel)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Not rated in the Guide
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Bustling, posh
Course of the meal: Carrement Chocolat dessert
If I could change one thing: Better music and musician
If you want a bit of a break from purely Japanese food when staying in Kyoto, you could embrace the growing number of Italian restaurants and try out La Locanda, within the Ritz-Carlton. This restaurant has very pretty Japanese décor, great service from the (mostly Italian and French) staff, a small wine list, a cheese room within glass, a chef that chats to the diners and an open pastry chef kitchen behind the glass panel. It also has a slightly incongruous singer and guitar player performing old songs by Eric Clapton, Coldplay and Jack Johnson with not quite enough aplomb.
My partner Owl and I started with a glass of Louis Roderet champagne each, which went perfectly with our amuse bouches of prosciutto and fried gnocchi mini samosa parcels, and a potato soup with squid. We then went on to a glass of white Riesling and glass of red Italian wine for the rest of the courses.
Not wanting to eat too much(!) after sampling some of the fruits of our labours at a traditional Japanese cooking lesson earlier in the day, we shared a starter of buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil sponge, which was a truly innovative and tasty way to present a classic Caprese salad. We also nibbled some of the breads on the table – grissini, focaccia, and buns (which looked a bit like the shape of certain Kimoji), with soft olive oil, butter and rock salt.
Our mains were ravioli with various cheese and tomato (which was wonderfully soft and light) and linguine with ham and onion sauce. The desserts were taken from the Pierre Hermé range (there is a Pierre Hermé bakery within the hotel) and were amazing – a Carrement Chocolat (gold leaf on a dark cube of ganache with dark hazelnut ice cream) and lime and raspberry millefeuille with raspberry gelato. We also had green teas with petits fours: a cherry financier, vanilla macaron, and a tiny chocolate tart with a complex internal structure including cream and vanilla.
Try out La Locanda if you want some high-quality Italian comfort food and drink while feeling a bit Lost in Translation in Kyoto.