Good Eats: Ten (Kyoto)

I’ve just come back from three packed days of sightseeing and eating in Kyoto and, while I’d love to keep this amazing matcha cheesecake a secret, I can’t help but share with you all my new favorite café in the old capital.

If you’ve been fighting the crowds on the Kiyomizu-zaka (one of the main streets leading up to Kiyomizu Temple) then there’s a good chance you’ll welcome the sight of Ten Café, a small atmospherically lit eatery tucked away on the left side of a pottery shop. It’s easy to walk right by without seeing the café’s sign – this IS, after all, just steps from the famous Sannenzaka and the tip of a triangle where the Kiyomizu and Gojo routes converge. But the thing to hope for is that everyone else misses the sign also. With only eight tables in the front non-smoking section (and bout four more in the rear), you might have to prepare to wait for a bit.

My photo does not do justice to the chic interior of Ten
My photo does not do justice to the chic interior of Ten

It’s worth it though, if only for the artistically swirled matcha cheesecake. That’s what originally drew me in after reading a review online; the picture of the dessert looked too divine to be true. And yet, despite being soy based, it packed quite a punch. From the zing of the green tea powder to the slight tartness of the “cheese” to the fluffiness with which it settled in my mouth, this was perfection on a plate. And for Japan, it’s a decent-sized dessert as well.

Best green tea cheesecake ever
Best green tea cheesecake ever

Should you be a bit hungrier however, don’t pass up the chance to try one of Ten’s daily lunch plates. They only offer two but both are done well. I opted for the ginger and yuba (tofu skin) rice with an amazingly creamy pea soup (again, I tasted a base of soy in lieu of straight up cream), a selection of delicately flavored vegetables and a hearty salad (with walnuts for crunch). My dining companion went with the pasta, served in a stunning bowl made by a local potter. Her main dish was accompanied by the same walnut salad and vegetables but she enjoyed a portion of toasted bread with herb butter. Both lunches are 1500 yen, quite a reasonable value for the amount served as well as the tourist-laden location.

A soy-based lunch
A soy-based lunch

While you’re waiting for your food, consider having a look around the shop’s wares. Ten’s own pottery, produced in a studio a few streets away, is for sale on shelves right near the register. The walkway leading from the register to the door offers a selection of beautifully decorated washi paper boxes filled with traditional sweets, while the right side of the building houses an entirely separate pottery enterprise.

Update: This post is getting lots of traffic and I just realized now that I never included a website for the cafe. (Subconsciously, maybe I DO want to keep this fantastic place all to myself!) Anyway, you can check out more about Ten here.

6 thoughts on “Good Eats: Ten (Kyoto)

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  1. The soy based lunch looks delicious. I would just love to have the beautiful and, I am sure, delicious cheesecake.

    1. Sorry Gwen, must have missed this comment earlier! I had a second tofu matcha cheesecake that trip to Kyoto but it didn’t even come close to the one at Ten.

    1. Mike, it’s usually a total deal breaker for me as well, as smoke aggravates my asthma quite a bit. But we sat out front near the window, and I didn’t notice any hint of smoke until I had to go back to the toilet, which was in the rear smoking section. Sadly, Japan has not yet gone smoke-free. I eagerly await the day!!

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