Alright, I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for good food photography.
If you can style your food and photograph it in such a manner that it makes me start drooling all over the page/screen, you’ve done your job VERY well.
It does also help to have a “gimmick”. Not in the way that you’re hiding bad food under the guise of being tasty, but rather the fact that you have something unique about what you offer.
I thought Kashiwai fit both those criteria. Easily.
Kashiwai’s not easy to track down. It doesn’t really seem to invite people to eat there, despite it being a cafe. Most of Kashiwai’s products are sold as premade bento offerings in Kyoto Station or in the take-away part of their shop, right next to the cafe. That cafe is tucked away on a side street in northern Kyoto, a short walk from the north exit of the Botanical Garden. Even when the cafe is open, there is no indication outside. I called them on the phone while standing in front of their door, just to make sure it was safe to go in (it looks quite residential – I didn’t just want to barge into someone’s home!).
Luckily, the effort to get to Kashiwai was worth it and so was the food. The main option is temari sushi, or bite-sized balls of rice topped with a variety of fish or veggies. I’ve misplaced my menu but imagine, if you will, the toppings ranging from eggplant to shrimp to mushroom to mackerel, with tiny dollops of things like uni (sea urchin) or edamame or yuzu slices.
You can order a box of ten sushi balls or fifteen. I was a glutton and went for the 15 but I don’t regret it in the least. I was also served a tiny dessert and lots of tea throughout, so I happily walked all the way back to Demachiyanagi along the river to make room in my stomach for dinner (priorities, people).
Don’t go here if you are in a rush. They’ll tell you straight off that the temari sushi bento takes time. But do go here, alone or with a small group, and enjoy one of Kyoto’s more creative cafes.