Review: Mizuki at The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

I’ve always been fascinated by Japan’s culture and its meticulous attention to detail, so visiting Japan had been a long-standing dream of mine.

After stumbling upon some last-minute award availability on Alaska Mileage Plan, I seized the opportunity to secure a coveted Japan Airlines First Class ticket from New York (JFK) to Tokyo (HND). To my delight, not only did I successfully avoid the recent devaluation, but the timing of the flight also worked out perfectly for me to return to my current home base in Bali.

While Osaka is often considered the ultimate foodie destination in Japan, as it has an amazing selection of street food, Kyoto has its own remarkable culinary offerings as well. In Kyoto, you’ll find a perfect blend of traditional cuisine and Michelin-starred restaurants.

This is what brought me to The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, where Mizuki offers four restaurants in one. Instead of reviewing it for just one meal, I took on the epically delicious challenge of sampling Mizuki for three meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Location

Tucked away inside the elegant Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto, the hotel offers a prime location near some of the attractions on your Kyoto to-do list, such as the Nishiki Market and Gion. A little further afar, the fabled Bamboo Forest awaits, along with many other interesting things to see.

Mizuki is actually four restaurants combined into one, with unique culinary styles at each to sample during your visit. I went for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to showcase the detailing of the food this immaculate restaurant could provide with different meal services.

Mizuki Kyoto – Entrance

This was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, as usually, I’ll visit several different dining establishments to compare and contrast amongst them. 

However, at Mizuki, I found the surroundings instantly comforting, and I knew it was going to be a difficult place to leave. It’s a cozy setup, with polished dark granite and touches of wood amid attractive yet dim lighting.

Mizuki Kyoto – Sake cooler
Mizuki Kyoto – Tempura entrance

The elegant feel continues as you make your way to the seating area, where the central focus is watching the chef, a master in this ritualistic cuisine, prepare every gourmet delight just for you, right before your eyes. 


Kaiseki is one of the four restaurants within Mizuki that focuses on things in fives. In particular, these are five flavours, five colours, and five cooking methods.

Mizuki Kyoto – Kaiseki seating

This area has a 60-seat capacity, as well as private dining experiences. 


The lengthy counter upon which sushi is prepared is a show in itself.

Mizuki Kyoto – Sushi seating
Mizuki Kyoto – Sushi seating

Edo-style sushi is served here in the most refined splendour. This counter area provides just 10 seats, and makes for an exclusive experience. 


The Michelin-starred Tempura is even more exclusive, with only eight counter seats.

Mizuki Kyoto – Tempura seating

Kappo-style tempura is prepared here as you look on, watching the fresh, local, and seasonal items transform into your meal. 


If you’re a little wary of seafood, Teppan may be a more inviting experience. This intimate setting offers an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs use a traditional iron griddle to cook the best cuts of steaks. Seafood is also available, and since it’s cooked, it may be a more appealing option to more timid diners.

Teppan can also be reserved for private gatherings consisting of up to eight people.

For all four restaurants within Mizuki, you should absolutely book reservations. The small seating areas can be tough to get, and if you’re a gourmand, you won’t want to miss the chance to taste what is so thoughtfully prepared and coordinated for your tasting pleasure here. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast

Even though The Ritz-Carlton brand does not participate in many of the Marriott Bonvoy member benefits, as a Titanium Elite member, I was still offered complimentary breakfast. This is indeed a thoughtful practice that the property partakes in. 

Before I dive right into the first meal of the day, and my first dining experience out of the three at Mizuki, I’d like to preface that Japanese breakfast is much different than the Western variation.

Being in Japan, I naturally wanted to taste my way through it like the Japanese do. I feel this is the best way to get to know a place in every sense.

That said, Western breakfast options are still offered at the hotel.

As for me, I went with the bento box for breakfast. A bento box is the perfect cure for the rumbling belly – it comes with an assortment of food that is, as per Japanese culture, thoughtfully balanced.

Incidentally, it’s a brilliant concept when you simply can’t decide what to eat – you get a little bit of everything to satisfy your palate. 

For those paying cash, breakfast runs at ¥6,958 ($70 CAD).

The Breakfast Appetizer

First up was an appetizer came out before the bento box.

Presented in a lovely little earthenware pot with a lid, I was given an appetizer of boiled tofu. After the lid was removed, I could see a perfectly symmetrical square of tofu topped with grated ginger and scallions, floating like an island in dashi broth. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast appetizer
Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast appetizer
Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast appetizer

The fun began as I prepared for my first taste.

In texture, the tofu was pleasantly light and fluffy. As tofu is a neutral-tasting ingredient, it had the potential here to soak up the dashi broth flavours.

If you’ve never had dashi broth before, it really brings an umami element to the foods you eat. But in this instance, the broth had a bit more viscosity to it, which boded extremely well for the tofu. It was, in essence, the perfect balance of flavour and texture, and was a very nice start to my day. 

The Bento Box

Now take a look at this – what a beautiful presentation! I have to admit, a bento box really gives you a lot of different flavours, and showcased like this, it’s really hard to decide which part to tuck your chopsticks into first.

Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast bento box

Everything in Japanese cuisine is done with a nod to nature, and the garnish of leaves along with the leaf-shaped spoon holder were all such a nice touch. 

At the bottom left of the box, I found grilled salmon, which had been first marinated with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. Served in a dish that resembled a clam shell, it was topped with a piece of pickled ginger.

The flavours were quite good, though nothing quite sent me over the moon.

Moving on from there to the right, I found a dish of simmered beef with fried tofu and vegetables. The tender beef in the light broth was a nice contrast with the crispiness of the fried tofu. 

There was also a serving of sashimi with sea bream and young tuna. You can see the marbling in the fish, a distinctive quality that brought a richness in flavour, as well as depth in texture. The thickness of the sashimi slices made it a hearty delight for this meal. 

Above the sashimi, it may appear as soup in the photo, though this is a Japanese custard. It was a bit unusual, at least to my palate, but not unwelcome.

Mizuki Kyoto – Breakfast bento box

The large prawn in the centre assisted in giving this dish more complexity of flavour between savoury and sweet.

Nestled between the garnish of leaves and the custard, I found obanzai. Simply put, this is a traditional style of cuisine only found in Kyoto. To be awarded this moniker, at least half of the ingredients used to make it must be created in Kyoto, as well as be in season.

Here, the obanzai featured eggplant, jellyfish topped with chicken, dried fish, and cucumber. I will always marvel at jellyfish, something you never want to encounter in nature, though believe me, encounter it on your plate for a wild texture and unique flavour that’s hard to pinpoint. 

Lastly, there was miso soup, which you can have at any Japanese restaurant. This was soothing as is any bowl of miso soup, though nothing that I could detect that stood out above any other bowl of this kind of soup I’ve had before. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Lunch

Believe it or not, I was hungry for lunch after all of that food from my breakfast bento box experience. Perhaps it was because I was just so eager to try the part of Mizuki with the Michelin star.

Spoiler alert – it did not disappoint. Everything that came out of Tempura was sheerly amazing, a sure 10 out of 10 the entire way through.

I’d like to preface this by saying that if you’ve had tempura before in a Japanese restaurant before, you may have found it to be oily, have too much batter, and sometimes even a little too crispy. There’s a huge difference in how it is made here in Kyoto, and particularly in Mizuki, where it’s treated as an art form. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Tempura seating

Additionally, in other places, you’re often given a broth-like sauce to dip your tempura in, but Mizuki gives you salts and different sauces instead. The chefs instruct you on what will be the best flavour combination for each piece. That Michelin star is so very well deserved here.

Now, let’s jump into this lunch, which was ¥15,180 ($150 CAD).

At the counter, with seating for only eight people, two chefs coordinated an epic feast of tempura items while one server flawlessly served us all. The table features three salts from the deep ocean, along with seaweed chili pepper, tempura sauce (which, it should be noted, is not the same as the stuff you’re usually given with tempura in other places around the world), radish, and lemon.

This was the Michelin star part of the restaurant, and everything that came out of Tempura was amazing. It was a truly delightful experience. The food was not oily at all. There were different salts and sauces to season the food, the chefs instructed us on what the best combination was. The items came one at a time, and at the end all of the little bits and pieces were served on a rice bed so there was no waste.

Mizuki Kyoto – Tempura salt selection

While all this primes you for the meal, the first thing that will truly impress you are the intricate photos of the fish, all drawn by the chef. That kind of patience and attention to detail gave us all a hint of the experience that would soon follow.

Mizuki Kyoto – Chef’s drawing at Tempura

Appetizers at Tempura 

Similar to an amuse bouche, the appetizers soon rolled out just to give us something to tease the palate.

We were treated to tofu with peanut sauce, which sounds simple, but it was extraordinary due to the texture of the tofu. It was the smoothest and lightest texture I’d ever experienced.

As for the peanut flavour, it wasn’t overbearing, yet was throughout the tofu from the inside out.

Mizuki Kyoto – Tofu appetizer at Tempura

It was a truly unique and different experience, especially since my breakfast had also begun with a tofu dish. 

Additionally, there was clam with a sturdy yet enjoyable texture, and fresh edamame that burst with an almost buttery quality in my mouth. 

The Main Courses 

Each of the following main courses came out one-at-a-time, and the artistry and showmanship in the cooking process was as enjoyable as the food itself.

This was simply a fascinating experience, since while I’ve enjoyed tempura dishes before, it usually all comes at once. The idea here is to discover each piece with its own aromas and flavours before moving on to the next item.

First up, it was prawn tempura, starting with the head. It appeared almost like a fried tumbleweed, coated in just the right amount of batter.

Mizuki Kyoto – Prawn presentation at Tempura
Mizuki Kyoto – Prawn head at Tempura

The crunch was akin to potato chips, almost dissolving away completely in my mouth with a burst of spectacular ocean flavour from the prawn.

As soon as that was finished, the body of the prawn was served simply with lemon and salt. We tasted it as instructed by the chef, and what a treat!

Mizuki Kyoto – Prawn body at Tempura

The texture was dense and firm, yet far from chewy. I can only describe it as sublime.

We opted to add on the sesame tofu with uni, or sea urchin, along with fresh wasabi. Uni is something that has what I can only describe as a unique taste.

Mizuki Kyoto – Uni at Tempura

If you’ve tasted it in other places and weren’t a fan, it may not have been fresh, as older sea urchin can lead to bitter flavours. However, when in its prime, uni should be creamy in texture and radiate with notes of seaweed and brininess, without being too salty.

Still, the mineral flavours of uni may not sit well with some eaters, but I encourage you to try it all the same. 

Our next dish at Tempura for lunch was the lotus root. This vegetable is one you don’t see much of in the west – it’s an odd root vegetable, and when sliced into circles, has little holes throughout it.

Mizuki Kyoto – Lotus root at Tempura

As tempura here, it was sliced lengthwise down the holes. And believe me, it’s delightful, and something you’ll instantly wish you had more of, for that earthy taste along with the crunch is divine. The chef instructed us to try it with the chili salt or the tempura sauce at our setting.

Maitake mushroom translates to the dancing mushroom in Japanese, named for the joy it brought Japanese people when they found it. At Mizuki, it’s done tempura-style with sauce or chili salt to enjoy, which was an interesting contrast in texture to the crispy exterior.

Mizuki Kyoto – Maitake mushroom at Tempura

It wasn’t very oily, but wound up being a bit more viscous than the other dishes thus far. 

Following the mushroom dish, we were served tempura ginkgo nuts. The closest thing I can compare these nuts to would be roasted chestnuts, with a mildly sweet quality, yet also slightly bitter.

Mizuki Kyoto – Gingko nuts at Tempura

The texture was soft and a little on the chalky side, much like you find in winter while grabbing a bag of roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. The biggest difference here was that the ginkgo nuts were not at all gritty and wonderfully pleasing. 

The Japanese tofu followed, which had a lovely taste, though I didn’t find it to be as scrumptious as the amuse bouche of tofu that kicked this whole lunch off.

Mizuki Kyoto – Japanese tofu at Tempura

Then came the scallop matched with the accompanying sauce, according to the chef.

Mizuki Kyoto – Scallop at Tempura

While simple, the taste is something extraordinary that is both sweet yet hints of salty, all with a texture that is beyond comprehension. Perhaps the reason it tasted so good was the freshness of this ingredient and the chef’s introduction of it in its purest form. 

Saltwater eel, anago, was next. It was served with chili salt or sauce, sliced in half to reveal perfectly cooked meat. Juicy yet not oily, the texture of this item and its savoury flavour made me wish for more.

Mizuki Kyoto – Anago at Tempura

One of the most surprising foods we were served was the sweet potato. Surely, it’s one of the best in a tempura vegetable spread anywhere.

The contrast of the crunchy exterior to the soft tuber within, along with the salty to savoury ratio, is always a win. But here’s where Tempura shows off that Michelin star, for the sweet potato used in this course is first steamed for eight hours, rendering it an immaculate form of sweet that makes it taste like it came from the heavens.

Mizuki Kyoto – Sweet potato at Tempura

With lunch drawing to a close, and my stomach running out of room, we were then served a tempura rice bowl with miso soup and pickled vegetables. Pickled vegetables are always ideal for healthy digestion, while the mixed veggie tempura and prawn in the rice were leftovers from the meal.

Mizuki Kyoto – Rice bowl at Tempura

I loved the zero waste of it all, while converting it into another epic dish.

Be sure to save room for the dessert at Tempura, which is kinako ice cream. Kinako is a roasted soy bean flour that is much like the texture of ground up graham crackers in a cakey rather than powdery way. As for taste, it’s earthy and deep, and provided a tea-like flavour.

Mizuki Kyoto – Kinako ice cream at Tempura

To complement this, it was served with a brown sugar meringue cookie with Japanese caramel that had a honey-like flavour. It was absolutely extraordinary, and the only fitting way to finish a lunch like this. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Dinner

The omakase sushi dinner costs ¥30,360 ($300 CAD), and I’d long been excited to try it since I’d never had an omakase experience before. But if you’re going to try it, do so in Japan.

You won’t be sorry, though as omakase is translated to “I’ll leave it up to you”, this means that your meal is entirely up to the chef.

This is an excellent opportunity for adventurous eaters; however, even if you love seafood dearly, be ready to experience a ton of it, one piece after the other. For those that adore sushi, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven, if heaven was modelled after Japan.

Mizuki Kyoto – Omakase presentation at Sushi

It is the highest level of eating seafood, an experience you’ll never forget, though if you aren’t a fan of seafood, you may want to opt for another meal. 

It all began with the sushi appetiser of Japanese snow crab, matched with cucumber and eggplant in a gel made of apple cider vinegar.

Mizuki Kyoto – Japanese snow crab appetizer at Sushi

While the sweetness of the crab meat was pleasurable and it had that gentle texture any crab lover is fond of, the gel was just a tad overpowering, taking away from the balance it should have created.

Next up, we were served a gorgeous piece of young tuna with a deep, red hue. It was topped with a garlic chip, fresh vegetables, sweet soy sauce, and seaweed.

Mizuki Kyoto – Young tuna at Sushi

The texture of the fish was soft and buttery, creating a lovely mouthfeel. I also enjoyed the garlic chip, though it was a bit strong alongside this fish. 

Fried Spanish mackerel followed the tuna, which is a fish that certainly has a saltier and far fishier taste, though not an overbearing one.

Mizuki Kyoto – Mackerel at Sushi

It was an interesting contrast right behind the young tuna in both taste as well as texture, as it’s not quite as delicate as the tuna. Served with gingko nuts, shiitake mushroom, and potato, it was an interesting presentation by the chef.

A black dish with eel on top was placed before us after the mackerel. It had caviar rice powder and salt wasabi sauce for our tasting pleasure.

Mizuki Kyoto – Eel at Sushi

I usually am fond of eel, even the eel I’d had earlier in the day. The texture of this serving was strange, not at all what I expected for eel, though not bad either. 

Now is when I began to feel like that one scene in the National Lampoon’s European Vacation movie, where Audrey dreams she’s eating a massive feast, growing larger all the while. She keeps trying to finish each dish, but out comes another and another.

Okay, they weren’t rushing me in the slightest. In fact, the service (which I’ll get to briefly) was utterly stellar. Still, I felt like every taste bud of mine was being stimulated with every offering that followed.

Squid was up next, scored on top and touched with a hint of sauce from the chef. Every time I have had squid, the texture is firm, though on this piece, I found it a bit on the mushy side.

Mizuki Kyoto – Torched squid at Sushi

It was followed by grouper, something I must admit I’d never had as sushi. But now that I’ve tasted it, I can liken it to yellowtail. It is both silky and delicate in texture, with a tender, smooth quality that was surprising in a delightful way.

Mizuki Kyoto – Grouper at Sushi

The chef served us more Spanish mackerel, this time with a ginger sauce that aptly contrasted the natural oiliness of the fish. It was such a refreshing balance.

We then had uni with salmon roe served in a cocktail glass.

Mizuki Kyoto – Uni and salmon roe at Sushi

I enjoyed the bursting texture of the salmon roe on top of the creamy sea urchin beneath. The contrasting sweet and salty tastes were a really nice match too. 

Next, we were treated to fatty tuna, which is different from young tuna. This is softer, a bit more sinewy, and utterly amazing in another way from other tuna styles. Many people are often surprised to find that there are other types of tuna sushi and tasting them all really is part of the fun. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Fatty tuna at Sushi

The chef seemed to favour mackerel, for another serving was trotted out. It had green onion and kelp which was just a bit fishy. This texture was firmer though, something I enjoyed a bit more than the other mackerel offerings. 

Torched eel followed next, topped with caviar. It was a bit salty with the eel and caviar, but the texture was fascinating on my palate.

Mizuki Kyoto – Torched eel at Sushi

At this point, I was indeed full, having eaten my way through three courses at Mizuki. The last item was prawn, which I tasted to be polite to the chef. I regret I didn’t grab a photo of this dish, though as I do enjoy prawns, I was happy my last bite of omakase was a favourable one. 

Mizuki Kyoto – Service

Throughout each of my three meals at Mizuki, the service was nothing short of sublime. Everything was well thought out and executed to the pinnacle of perfection. It’s little surprise, though, since the Japanese take such intense pride in service and presentation, but even still, it will absolutely wow you.

Additionally, while the service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Mizuki was spectacular, the service at Tempura was a step beyond that. With two chefs and one server to dote on guests, there were only four seats occupied for our experience, so everything went off without a hitch.

The chef told us stories and details about the food, making it more than dining. It was experiential, like going on a journey and having the chance to taste food along the way.

This was a contrast to the omakase meal which was more of a fine dining experience in the old school sense of food first. The language barrier may have also contributed to that, though overall, everything at Mizuki was worth it.

If you can only splurge on one meal at this restaurant though, make it the Tempura and you will never regret it. 


One of the things I noticed about Mizuki is that for fine dining, all the fancy theatrics are removed, allowing the high quality and simplicity of these fresh foods to shine in this cuisine. It’s such a different dining experience than what you may be used to with ornate combinations of ingredients. In Japan, they let the freshness and quality speak from the heart of the chef.

While white-glove service will always be at the centre of fine dining, it’s interesting to see this perspective on fine dining done with Japanese flair. Food aside, I think I prefer restaurants that engage with those advanced techniques where chefs push the boundary of what can be done in culinary applications. I want to see unique and abstract ideas placed before me on a plate.

I did love Tempura, and I enjoyed Mizuki greatly despite it being different from my current vision of  fine dining. I can see what others appreciate in it, and while the omakase did begin to overwhelm me toward the end when I was feeling full, I’m thrilled to say I had this opportunity of a lifetime to tick off my culinary bucket list, especially in Japan of all places. 

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