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.
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.
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.
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.