Besides matcha and black sesame, the next most well-known Japanese flavor in desserts is probably kinako aka roasted soy bean. And Kissho Karyo specializes in just that.
I have always love kinako, especially when it is used with kuromitsu (black sugar) to create mellow roasty notes. So I was curious to learn about Kisshoan, a modern mame (bean) shop that was opened by Kitagawa Satoru, the 16th-generation owner of traditional Wagashi shop, 桂華堂, back in 2006.
While he continues to run Kisshoan as an online business selling modern western-style sweets with a Japanese twist, Kisho Karyo was opened in Higashiyama that serves as a retail shop and tearoom where guests can enjoy desserts such as parfaits, kakigori that revolves around the core ingredient--kinako.
The most popular item is the Warabi Mochi (¥810) that is made 100% with warabi flour from Southern Kyushu. As no starch is incorporated here as compared to most warabi mochi in the market, the dark, almost black warabi mochi is soft and stretchy yet not to the extent of being too jelly-like or gloopy. It is already sweet enough without the need for kuromitsu (black sugar syrup), but I took the advantage of the free-flow kinako powder and scattered them generously with whatever syrup that still remained. Irresistible.
Having matcha parfaits in Kyoto seems quite like an old-fashioned tourist activity because parfaits these days come in various flavors and styles. I was totally blown away by the stunning purple looks of the seasonal edition Sweet Potato and Apple Parfait (¥1296).
There's red tea jelly, tangy Apple yoghurt mousse, white chocolate crispies, purple sweet potato mousse--all tastefully arranged in a slim, elegant glass--before being sealed up with sweet-potato chocolate dusted crispy meringue on the top. It's one of the best parfaits I've ever come across but if you missed this, there's always the regular Burnt Kinako Parfait too.
The Kinako Soy Milk Espuma Kakigori was a pleasant departure from the usual matcha or fruity kakigori. How could it not taste delicious with the golden combination of kinako and black sugar syrup? I loved the creamy espuma but some parts of the kakigori were too icy and there was sadly no other components beneath the giant ice berg.
The roll cakes were par excellence and probably one of the best I've had so far in Japan. Their intriguing marble patterns sparked my interest and I still can't figure how the chef managed to roll in so perfectly. The Roasted Kinako roll is a black charcoal sponge with kinako cream and warabi jelly (not mochi) while the Matcha Roll is filled with matcha cream and matcha warabi jelly. The sponge was super soft and tender. I could also catch the distinct notes of matcha in the sponge unlike roll cake from Marukyuen.
Besides the sweets, they also serve savoury meals such as Soy Milk Ochazuke (rice in tea) but the desserts are more than sufficient to keep me satisfied. This place has recently gain quite a lot of attention in local media and I would recommend anyone to skip those usual matcha spots listed in guidebook and visit this place.
Kyoto is definitely more than just matcha when it comes to sweets.
Kissho Karyo 吉祥菓寮
吉祥菓寮 祗園本店. 〒605-0066 京都市東山区古門前通東大路東入ル石橋町306.
Tea Room: 11:00～19:00