Rigoletto Smoke Grill & Bar
Food/Drink | Avg price: ¥0 | English Available: None (Unknown)
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English-speaking restaurant and bar for foreigners in Gion, Kyoto
Gion is an amazing place to take a stroll of an evening. The streets are pleasantly free of the daytime tour groups and the way that the area's bars and restaurants are gently lit up with there solitary lamps is as haunting as it is romantic. The problem is, these places don't have windows and English-language signage is rare. For the novice (or even the long-term expat in Japan) entering these places could be a bit of a hurdle. It came as bit of a surprise then to find Rigoletto Smoke Grill & Bar with its signage that would look more at home in Omotesando, Tokyo. Still, signage aside the bar / restaurant's facade is still very much 'Gion'. Opening the doors to peek in revealed a large space half filled with foreigners and an interior very much in the Western taste - emphatically not 'Gion'.
We were only looking for a drink but got whisked up to the 2F which had more the feel of a romantic dinner spot. After a bit of explanation we were taken back down to the first floor bar, at the time of visiting staffed by a friendly young Brit. It seems to be OK to have just a drink or two here but looking around everyone else seemed to be eating which made us feel a bit self conscious.
Lunch menus and dinner menus are separated at Rigoletto. 4-course and drink lunch sets are 2,000 yen with pizzas / pastas as the mains or some smoked meats which form the core of the food concept here. Cheaper lunches are 1,000 yen.
As well as the above mentioned pizzas, pastas, and grilled meats Rigoletto also offers a pretty extensive menu of tapas dishes. Expect to pay around 2,000 yen for meat based mains at dinner. Desserts in the 600 - 800 yen range look tempting.
As for drinks at Rigoletto - cocktails are in the 500 - 800 yen range. Imported beers include Corona, Hoegaarden, Mahou and Menbrea (500 - 900 yen for bottles). They also serve the Japanese standard Premium Malt's. Whisky and brandy enthusiasts will have much to sample and bar staff will also mix and match drinks to your taste. Coffees and soft drinks are around 400 - 600 yen.
Overall, Rigoletto Smoke Grill & Bar looks like a good dining and drinking option in Gion (and Kyoto) for foreigners nervous about language and cultural barriers - you still get to hang out in a traditional area in a traditional building but with a level of comfort and service that you might be more familiar with, although you will need to bring along a little bit of yen to make a decent evening of it.
Rigoletto Smoke Grill & Bar is up a side street off of Hanamikoji Dori one of the main Gion thoroughfares. Despite the gill covering the windows if you take it face on, you can actually have a peek inside to assess the situation within.
Hours: Mon - Sat 11:30 - 01:00 (L.O. 24:30) / Sun, Hols 11:30 - 23:00 (L.O. 22:30) / Lunch 11:30 - L.O. 15:00
Nearest Station: Gion-Shijo Station