OKU is a gallery & café in 祇園Gion by the owner of 美山荘Miyamasou in 美山Miyama, Kyoto. Oku meaning “interior”, the name, OKU, does not only pertain to the depth felt in the interior of the café but the deep emotional charm characteristic of Japan.
It took Yuri and me some time to find it after going to あじき路地Ajiki Roji first in mid-March of this year but after passing it once due to failure at paying attention, we finally found it one street west of the busy 花見小路通Hanamikoji Street
There was quite a line waiting inside, so I took some time to check the place out.
We were eventually provided seats on the “artistic” second floor (the first floor has a more luxurious feel). The place is just beautiful with walnut flooring, an attractive mix of Japanese and Western style. All the chairs in the café are from Italy.
Just like Miyamasou, the café serves meals made from freshly picked ingredients during lunchtime along with Japanese sweets. However, since we both had lunch already, Kimura-san and I both decided to get the わらび餅(笹茶付き)warabi mochi (sasa cha-tsuki) (bracken-starch dumpling with bamboo grass tea), ￥1350…to the left are the teapot and cup as well as a strainer that one holds over his cup while he pours the tea; to the right is the warabi mochi that comes with 黒蜜kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup) and きなこkinako (soybean powder) to be added to one’s liking.
the first cup of bamboo grass tea
the gooey mixture of warabi mochi, kuromitsu and kinako
It might not look good to those who aren’t familiar with warabi mochi but this was one of the better that I have had with a cool, very smooth texture. I tried my best to get it all with my chopsticks but it was a hard feat; it was tempting to drain the cup to get the rest but I resisted. ☺
With the tasteful interior and the refined presentation that comes from the arrangement of food and vessels in which OKU so much believes, time spent with a friend seemed even more luxurious; although it might be a little intimidating to go alone, I guarantee it’ll be an ultimate Kyoto (even an overall Japanese) café experience.
Update: In June 2012, café & gallery OKU reopened as 和バールWa-Bar OKU. Although they still offer café service, they seem to be concentrating more on cuisine for which Miyamasou is known.