Nov 29, 2015

Kyoto - The Art of the Five Senses Wagashi Experience at Toraya Ichijo Branch 虎屋菓寮

How can one miss the opportunity to experience Japanese confectionery "wagashi" when visiting Kyoto? Once the capital of Japan, the traditional delicacies such as artworks, temples, and cuisines are well preserved while the modern world gently intertwined throughout the streets.

On a weekday morning, I walked pass the Kyoto Imperial Palace and found my block of peaceful mind at this tranquil establishment Toraya Ichijo Branch (but my Zen was interrupted with excitement as soon as colorful anmitsu arrived) -

Toraya's English website did a pretty good job explaining some major types of wagashi, common ingredients used, and the art of the five senses. As for this post, let me simply focus on showing how beautiful the Ichijo branch is. 

If you're coming from the Imperial Palace, it should be easy to spot a shiny white wall along the street with Toraya's silver logo -

The kanji logo means "tiger." That's the confectionery shop for to-go purchase only. Turn into the alley and the tearoom is just few steps away -

Menu and wagashi sample display -

There are many wagashi places throughout Kyoto, however, I was drawn to the vibe of Toraya Ichijo branch. Spacious area based on Japanese traditions and infused with modern touches. 

There are two outdoor seating sections, one faces the quite alley with calming water view and the other locates in the opposite side looking over the tidy grass yard -

The sunshine and the tranquil outdoor setting signaled a gentle greeting. 

Walking in - 

Counter area -

Arched roof -  

View from my table. Decided to sat in the way back in order to get a full view of the place -

The indoor section somehow gave me a more calming sensation, perhaps from the art works and book selections - 

You can bring the books to the table and enjoy some quite reading time along with delicate wagashi.

Welcoming hot tea -

Menu and some cute little seasonal namagashi -

Click on the image for an enlarged view -

Complimentary yokan -

Japanese citrus and red bean flavors.  Based on my past experiences, even though Japanese desserts are usually lighter and not as sweet as western version, but yokan and namagashi are actually pretty sweet. It's better to savor these treats in smaller bites with tea to my opinion. 

Seasonal namagashi hatsu shigure 初時雨 and mikan mochi 蜜柑餅 -

Namagashi descriptions in Japanese - 

Got a little bit greedy so ordered anmitsu with white syrup and one glass of iced matcha glacé -

Observe closely and you can sense the almost foamy-liked tiny matcha powder, just the right amount of tea aroma to balance off the sweet treats -

Mochi inside hatsu shigure - 

Too cute to be eaten -

Mikan one has a more elastic texture compared to the paste-like hatsu shigure -

Not easy to cut through the surface but was surprised how soft it was when biting into the namagashi. The texture also bounded seamlessly with the mochi inside. Both layers blended well in the mouth without falling apart into two independent components. 

The red bean paste was very delicate. The texture reminds me of Joël Robuchon's signature mashed potato. The anko was dense and fulfilling - 

The red bean/azuki paste was on the sweeter side but all other components only carried a gentle touch of sugar. Not necessary in need of white sugar syrup if enjoying some bites with azuki paste. 

Mochi was actually pretty good with just the right amount of chewiness to add more fun to the anmitsu. You can also taste one thin layer of powered sugar lightly settling on the surface of small mochi. 

Friendly and not overly interrupting service here at Toraya Ichijo branch. I came soon after it opens to enjoy some quite alone time before my big lunch around the area. Whether if you're a sweet treat person or not, don't miss the chance of trying some wagashi. For wagashi newbies, maybe start with finding a prestigious brand and go to its flagship location or the original store to get a full experience of such fine Japanese delicacies. 

Cindy's rating: 7

Toraya Ichijo Branch 虎屋菓
Karasuma-Nishi-iru, Ichijo-dori
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto

Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Recent update: Toraya Ichijo branch will be closed on 2015/12/8, 2016/2/9, 2016/3/8

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