Japanese restaurant in Bristol? Discounting the W chain, there are now a dozen Japanese restaurants to try across the city. After visiting most of them during my two years in Brizzle, one still remains my favourite. If you are looking for authentic Japanese food and a great dining atmosphere, you’ll definitely find it at Kansai Kitchen at the Hillgrove.
I first met the owner and head chef Liam and his wife Michi over ten years ago when I was living in Nagoya, Japan. At the time Liam was working as a Japanese food guide and running cooking classes in Kyoto. As you may know, the Kansai region includes Kyoto and is often called the kitchen of Japan. Many famous Japanese dishes come from this cultural heartland, and Liam spent many years learning the local recipes. After returning from Japan, Liam’s love for Kansai cuisine led to the creation of Kansai Kitchen. Luckily for everyone in the south-west, he chose to set up the restaurant in Bristol!
The first great thing about Kansai Kitchen is how close it is from the city centre. It’s just up the road from Cabot Circus, which makes it a good after-work takeaway treat, or a sound dinner option before going out in Stokes Croft or heading up to Clifton. The second great thing is how unique the restaurant setting is. Kansai Kitchen is located inside the Hillgrove Porter Stores pub so you get a fantastic selection of ales to go with your Japanese dishes.
What to eat at Kansai Kitchen?
The best thing about Kansai Kitchen is of course the food! The menu is full of sharing dishes and we started with some Chicken Tatsuta-age and Mackerel Tatsuta-age. Most Japanese restaurants in the UK serve Karaage but only a few serve Tatsuta-age! The main difference is that with Tatsuta-age, only potato starch is used for the coating and you always marinate it. Meanwhile, when you make Karaage you often use wheat flour as well as potato starch. Both Tatsuta-age dishes were perfectly crispy on the outside, packed full of flavour inside, and enhanced with the zesty ponzu dressing.
The KushiKatsu (deep-fried skewers of seafood, meat, or veggies) have to be one of the most popular dishes. We ordered the sweet potato, brie cheese and king prawns, and all three were excellent. The batter was light and crispy, and the right amount of sauce was added for you, so you could really taste the fresh ingredients. Also this prevents any accidental double dipping of half eaten skewers into the sauce!
Main dishes – Okonomiyaki, Somen, and TKG ricebowl!
I’m thinking this might be a good time to explain that I went with two friends who have lived in Japan for several years. I couldn’t eat this all by myself! For our mains we ordered Somen noodles, Okonomiyaki, and a TKG ricebowl, but we were happy to share these dishes. Okonomiyaki is probably the most well-known Kansai dish, and Kansai Kitchen do a lovely compact version with plenty of moreish Japanese mayonnaise. Thankfully they don’t hold back on the dancing bonito flakes on top either!
Next here is a photo of their Somen noodles. It is another dish you don’t see often in Japanese restaurants in the UK, which is a real shame. It’s perfect for hot days and getting that sweet sesame sauce hit with each slurp is a real treat. Finally, we had a TKG ricebowl. I have only seen this served in the UK at Kansai Kitchen!! TKG stands for Tamago Kake Gohan and is a ricebowl dish with whipped raw egg mixed in with soy sauce and other toppings. If you are an adventurous eater, I can’t recommend it enough. For those of you who have lived in Japan, I’m sure you will want this for the nostalgia feels! For non-adventurous souls, there are pure steamed rice and miso with spring onion rice bowl options.
What’s so special about this Japanese Restaurant in Bristol?
There are few restaurants in Bristol where you can eat authentic Japanese dishes like the ones on the menu at Kansai Kitchen. By authentic, we mean dishes that taste and look the same as they would in Kyoto or Osaka. We are talking about traditional techniques, the right ingredients, and superb presentation. Eating at Kansai Kitchen really transports you back to Japan, and what is especially pleasing is that after three years, the high standards and quality of food remain firmly in place.
Our rating for Kansai Kitchen is a full five stars out of five. If I could I would give an extra star for the exciting Sunday Menu! There are seasonal updates and currently there are Pork Katsu and Tempura Set Meals amongst other dishes. Great job Liam on creating a truly authentic Japanese experience and it’s no wonder the restaurant is always busy! Looking forward to the news on the reopening of your cooking classes and we hope to be back soon.