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Pontako Sakura

Dinner (Yen):
Phone: 075-211-0110
Address: 141-13 Wakamatsucho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Business Hours: 15:00 - 02:00 (Mon - Fri), Noon - 02:00 (Sat), Noon - 24:00 (Sun)
Closed on: Open Daily
Credit Card: No Credit Cards Accepted
Parking: Not available
Smoking Policy: Smoking Anywhere
Wheelchair Accessible ?: No
(Large Map)

A Secret Retreat in Bustling “Pontocho” Alley

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Storefront of Pontako Sakura. Nobody can imagine there is a stylish Izakaya in the back.

Pontocho is a narrow alley running parallel to Kamo River between Shijo and Sanjo Streets. It is one of the most popular places among those who are visiting Kyoto. The alley is usually packed with tourists strolling from north to south, and south to north, especially after the sun goes down. There are lots of restaurants, cafes, bars on both sides of the alley, attracting people who are looking for where to dine. You can pick any kind of restaurant you can imagine – from really a high-end traditional Japanese restaurant to a very casual Izakaya.

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Sleek counter bar.

When I was there recently with one of my friends who visited Kyoto on his way back to Florida, we felt a bit hungry and decided to have a quick bite at a Takoyaki (Octopus Dumplings) stand which we found in middle of Pontocho alley. We did not expect there would be a fancy dining space attached to the store front, but they did have a BEAUTIFUL counter bar at the back of the house. Moreover, they had an additional dining space on the second floor, where there are 3 partitioned tables with a dim light. Nobody could imagine a wine bar like sleek Izakaya is behind a Takoyaki stand. What a contrast !

Foods are Superb

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Traditional Takoyaki – served with thick sauce, Mayonnaise, green seaweed laver and dancing Bonito flakes.

Traditional Takoyaki is usually served with Worcestershire based thick sauce, Mayonnaise, green seaweed laver and dried Bonito flakes. But at Pontako Sakura, more than a dozen variations are offered – from traditional style to eclectic versions such as the ones served with melted cheese, Habanero infused spicy sauce, curry sauce, etc. Two sizes are available – 4 pieces (Yen 400 – Yen 500) and 6 pieces (Yen 500 – Yen 700).

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Takoyaki with melted cheese. Delicious !

Besides Takoyaki, Pontako Sakura offers many other Izakaya foods – Potato salad, Pickled local root vegetables, Braised beef tendon, Sauteed mushrooms with garlic, Sauteed Chicken, etc. They even serve Wagyu steak with onion soy sauce (Wagyu steak is a bit pricey – Yen 2,500).

All foods are carefully prepared by experienced chefs, and the quality of each of them is superb.

Gorgeous Wine List

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Delicious Takoyaki with a nice bottle of wine.

Their beverage menu is gorgeous. Draft beer, bottled beer, wines by the glass, wines by the bottle, local Sake’s, etc. What surprised me is their bottle wine selection. They offer affordable wines like “Casillero del Diablo” Chardonnay from Concha y Toro (Chile) for Yen 3,800. There are many choices available – from France, from Italy, and from other wine regions in the world. For higher-end wines, they have Opus One from Napa Valley for Yen 50,000, Ch. Calon Segur from Saint Estephe (France) for Yen 25,000, etc. I think Pontako Sakura is the only Takoyaki stand in Japan carrying such high-end wines. FYI, their price for Opus One (I recall it is 2011 vintage) is a bargain price. I guess Yen 50,000 is almost the price that they paid when they purchased the bottle. They store their high-end wines in a wine cooler, so the conditions can be trusted.

Getting There:
From: JR Kyoto Station
[Bus] Take Kyoto City bus #4, #5, #17, #104 (Express), #106, #205 and get off at Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop. About 10 min. walk from the bus stop. After getting off the bus, find Shijo Street and walk to the east. Turn to the left onto Pontocho Alley. Walk to the north and you will find Pontako Sakura on your right.
[Subway] Take Karasuma Line bound for Kokusaikaikan and get off at Shijo Station. About 17 - 20 min. walk from the station. After getting out of Shijo Station, walk to the east on Shijo Street, and turn to the left onto Pontocho Alley. Walk to the north and you will find Pontako Sakura on your right.
[Taxi] About 10 - 15 min. Taxi fare is about Yen 1,500. Tell the taxi driver to take you to the south entrance (or north entrance) of Pontocho Alley. No taxi cab can drive into the alley, so you have to walk to Pontako Sakura from either of the two entrances.
From: Hankyu Kawaramachi Station
[Walk] Walk to the east on Shijo Street and turn to the left onto Pontocho Alley. Walk to the north and you will find Pontako Sakura on your right. About 7 min. walk.
From: Keihan Gion Shijo Station
[Walk] Walk to the west on Shijo Street and after crossing Shijo-Oh-Hashi bridge, turn to the right onto Pontocho Alley. Walk to the north and you will find Pontako Sakura on your right. About 7 min. walk.
From: Keihan Sanjo Station
[Walk] Walk to the west on Sanjo Street and after crossing Sanjo-Oh-Hashi bridge, turn to the left and make the right turn along the road. Then, immediately turn to the left onto Pontocho Alley and walk down to the south. You will find Pontako Sakura on you left. About 10 min. walk.

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