Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nishiki Ichiha 錦一葉 : Secret Matcha Heaven in Kyoto Nishiki Market

The moment I stepped in, I stood in awe when I discovered an elegant garden hidden inside this tiny shop. It just felt too surreal. I asked if I could take the seats next to transparent window but was told that the table, designed specially by some famous Japanese artist, is only opened to groups of 4 and more. Any number smaller than that will have to be charged ¥500 per head. 

I gave up that thought naturally as I would rather spend the money on the food. After all, I was the only customer (together with my 2 family members) so we still enjoy the scene from my table without any obstruction. In fact, this is a new kid on the block as it barely open for more than a year. Compared to the highly-revered tea house, the concept at Nisiki ichi ha is a fusion of both old and new. 

Before stepping into the cafe area,  there is a small retail section selling all kinds of Japanese tea and popcorns. Yes assorted popcorns in matcha, houjicha and genmaicha flavor which you can top with soft serve (matcha/houjicha/mixed) of your choice (scroll to bottom pic). It's innovative but the soft serve is simply too sweet. Fortunately, this wasn't the case for the dine-in menu.

The Kyo-Matcha Pancake 京抹茶のパンケーキ (¥1300) was the first to arrive and we were shocked by the huge portion. Three thick fluffy pancakes stacked upon each other with a dollop of Matcha Chantily cream that soon collapsed after it was served. It was not too sweet at all and thus the red bean was put into good use. However, it was too thick and became quite a boring eat after a few bites. Fortunately, each set came with a choice of hot/cold drink and so I picked the Houjicha au lait, which turned out to be a wonderful match as I could dunk some of the pancakes inside before putting it into my mouth. 

Instead of the pancakes, I prefer the matcha azuki toast (1200 yen) as the white sandwich bread is browned to a perfect crisp, completed with the velvety matcha cream (similar to that in matcha pancakes) and sweet red beans paste. This was a luxury breakfast, but nothing overboard and too rich compared to western breakfast platter or any waffle/pancake stack. 

All the teas (I'm talking about sugarless whisked ocha) here are more expensive than average as they all come with traditional wagashi that are unique to pair with the drink. The cheapest match set was Matcha Kouyou 紅葉(¥950) and the next few higher grades of tea sets are Ginyou 銀葉 and Kinyou 金葉. 

No matter how full you are, the signature Matcha Fondue (1500 yen) is definitely a MUST MUST TRY. Presented in an exquisite three-tiered wooden lacquerware, traditional Japanese ingredients such as namafu, dango, castella cakes as well as fruits, chestnuts and sweet potatoes are arranged on sticks for convenient dipping into the warm Matcha Fondue bowl. 

Needless to say, the matcha fondue was impeccable; so rich, bittersweet  and viscous the way I like it to be. The one from Tampopo Liang Court was good but still miles apart from this. How can anything so delicious exist in the first place? 

I figured most people would have lots of matcha ganache left but it wasn't the case for me. I dipped whatever pancakes left into the fondue and lapped up the bowl. 

Squeaky clean. If I hadn't, I would walk out in regrets. 

Nishiki Ichi Ha 錦一葉
〒604-8052 京都府京都市中京区鍛冶屋町210
Japan 604-8052, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku Kajiya-machi 210 (Inside Nishiki Market)
Daily 10am-6pm (LO 5.30pm) 

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