Though it's located just steps from the main thoroughfare of Shijo-dori, the tiny premises of Bistro Petit Lapin look as if they have just been transplanted from Paris's Left Bank. If it's authentic French cooking you've come in search of, you won't be disappointed.
The parking lot is larger than the actual restaurant itself but the cozy interior can actually fit up to 16 diners. Any more than that and the chef would have a problem, as Bistro Petit Lapin is a one-man show. But despite his solo act, the menu he turns out is quite impressive. You could always choose an a la carte option from the multilingual menu (offered in Japanese, English and French) but an excellent option would be to go with the ¥3500 menu, which offers diners a choice of appetizer, main course and dessert.
The choices for each course are numerous, and reflect both traditional French ingredients and techniques while also featuring food from the Kyoto region. The selection of appetizers included such plates as camembert salad, a meat-based pate, and several fish-based options. The main course has some typical French classics - think roasted duck with potatoes and lamb chops in a red wine sauce - while also incorporating some local food, such as the hamburg steak I indulged in, made not from beef but with deer sourced locally from just outside the city. The main dishes come accompanied by a selection of local vegetables - like Japanese pumpkin - but also highlight traditional French cooking, with roasted potatoes (layered with a lovely cheese sauce), asparagus and small green peppers stuffed with Spanish rice.
Make sure you save room for dessert. You have at least half a dozen choices, ranging from the light (an apricot sorbet) to the decadent (a rich dark chocolate cake topped with powdered sugar) to the utterly French (a tarte tatin, or upside apple cake, topped with a generous scoop of whipped cream). The desserts are pretty sizable, so hopefully your appetite is up to the task!
While there are numerous French restaurants dotted around Kyoto, Bistro Petit Lapin is centrally-located, incredibly cozy and feels like a true labor of love. Bon appetit!