Turning on to 柳馬場通Yanaginobanba Street from 御池通Oike Street, one will find café 火裏蓮花Karirenge, which opened in February 2007, in the back of a narrow roji. I ventured there one rainy day in late March of this year on foot…I guess that I could have taken the subway to 京都市役所前駅Kyoto Shiyakusho Mae Station but I’ve been stubborn about paying for transportation when I can very well walk it. Needless to say, I was soaking wet (there had been a very strong wind that threatened to take out my umbrella many times) when I got to the café.
The machiya which the café occupies was built 100 years ago during the 江戸時代Edo Period. “火裏蓮花Karirenge” was chosen as the name of the café from Chinese literature in the image of a lotus blooming even more beautifully despite the adversity of fire.
The retro-modern interior was quite charming.
homemade muffins on sale next to the register in the case that one wants to take home omiyage
Having come alone, I sat at the counter (under stairs that lead to the Japanese-style second floor) where there are books for the reading pleasure of the customers. 京都とっておきのカフェKyoto Totte-oki no Café recommended the 懐かしいチルチルのBピラフnatsukashii chiru-chiru no B pirafu (“dear” chiru-chiru B pilaf), ￥950.
Butter rice in a tangy and flavorful sauce containing onions and mushrooms and topped with pieces of teriyaki chicken…now how could this not be delicious? ☺
Of course I had to buy a muffin that was on a table next to the register when paying for my meal. Multi-grained and filled with berries, the flavor reminded me of some muffins back home; I hope that they’re still selling them when I go back!
Update: After lunch at Sunshine cafe I took Mason to Karirenge for a Kyoto-style coffee and dessert (her request) almost five months later; we sat a table in the back of the café.
the view of the front…sadly there were no muffins on sale this time.
a clearer view of the stairs up to the second floor
looking straight up at the second floor area and the clear glass roof tiles that let more light in
京都とっておきのカフェKyoto Totte-Oki no Café also recommends the まったりお抹茶ミルクのケーキmattari o-matcha miruku no keeki (rich green-tea milk cake), ￥600, and that’s what I wanted to try along with the オーガニックブレンドコーヒーooganikku burendo koohii (organic blend coffee), ￥500, the recommended drink to have with the green tea milk cake; after perusing the menu, Mason decided to get the same. .
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of green tea sweets but I think that I’m going to have to change my mind because I’ve had so many good green tea sweets lately. This moist and creamy cake was delicious on its own but when combined with the bitter green tea sauce, it was just heaven, no exaggeration; I ate slowly to make the cake last for as long as possible. The coffee was flavorful and for me adding the brown sugar and creamer made it perfect to sip on while chatting. I believe that Mason felt the same way as I did about the food as well as the environment. ☺
Update: Over four months later, I met the owner of a certain café that I frequent at Karirenge, his first time there although he’d been interested in visiting for a while; we got the two-seater next to the window at the front at which I’ve always wanted to sit. Since he hadn’t had lunch yet, he ordered the chiru-chiru B pilaf that I had when I first came while I decided to have the 豆きち杏風味きびチーズのケーキmame-kichi anzu-fuumi chiizu no keeki (apricot-flavored, bean-based cheesecake) which came with a 小さなパルフェchiisa na parufe (small (coffee) sundae), ￥750, with the recommended ウィンナー珈琲Uinnaa koohii (Vienna coffee), ￥650.
The moist and crumbly cheesecake was a considerable size with just the right amount of sweetness; although it was good, I had trouble finishing it, so my company helped me although he was full from his order. The Vienna coffee has three layers to it for three different experiences: the top is creamy due to the whipped cream, the middle is more bitter being mainly organic coffee and the bottom contains granulated sugar.
My company asked why the pilaf is named chiru-chiru B to the waitress who served us; apparently it’s named after the restaurant where the owner used to work and where he learned to make the pilaf…mystery solved.☺
Update: Over a year and a half later, Maki and I were successful in getting a seat at Karirenge…before that, we went twice when it was full and received ￥100 discount coupons for our next visit. We sat at the four-seater next to the kitchen
but when the seat next to the front window opened, we asked to be seated there (luckily a party of three walked in just as that table opened up, so it was only logical that we move there so that they could have our table☺). The waitress (my first time seeing her) who mostly served us was so kind and friendly which more than made up for the cold treatment that we had gotten at kotori cafe where we had lunch before going to Karirenge.
While waiting on our orders, we looked around the café; we discovered there is now a herbal-ball massage parlor on the second floor as of March 9, 2013, called ハーブボールマッサージ ふ和りHerb-ball Massage Fuwari and one must reserve for the service…for more information: http://ameblo.jp/mattya-02/entry-11808706709.html
I got the green-tea cake that I had when I came with Mason because I’d been thinking of it for the last half-year or so; the price had gone up ￥60…to accompany it, I also got 炭焼きのカフェオレsumi-yaki no kafe ore (charcoal-roasted café au lait), ￥640. Maki got the 自慢のクラシック・ショコラjiman no kurashikku shokora (“satisfactory” classic chocolat) and one of the teas.
We let each other have a taste of each’s cake…both cakes were especially moist and rich with just the right amount of sweet flavor; even before finishing my cake, I felt like having another one.
We stayed a long time, so long we ordered more to drink…I got 黒蜜レモン(炭酸入り)kuromitsu-remon (tansan-iri) (carbonated brown-sugar syrup-lemon), ￥640, and Maki got a milk tea.
For a carbonated drink, it’s pretty filling because of the brown-sugar syrup and quite sweet; it was the perfect drink for another hour of chatting.
This day was especially pleasant because I found out that one of the mothers of the kids at a school where I used to teach is a good friend of the owner and she happened to be working there that day (she pointed this out to me when I asked for a menu)…at first I couldn’t recognize her because her long hair was now short but I was thrilled to be reunited and she warmly told me to come again when I could. I gave her my card after telling her that I wrote a post on Karirenge for my blog a while ago and she said that she would check it out sometime. I also got to talk to the owner who I recognized from when he used to bring the student to school in place of his mother (I’d always felt like I’d seen him before)…I asked him why there were no muffins and he said that he usually makes them during the cold season, so the next time that they would be available would be in the fall. Anyway, I’m so happy to have another café that I can easily go back to and feel at home.☺
Other items on the menu that I’ve had:
* アイスカフェラテiced caffè latte, ￥650, pictured with the rich green-tea milk cake
Address: 京都府京都市中京区柳馬場通姉小路上ル柳八幡町74-4 Kyoto-fu. Kyoto-shi. Nakakyo-ku. Yanaginobanba-dori. Anekoji-agaru. Yanagihachiman-cho 74-4
Telephone number: 075-213-4485
Access: 地下鉄東西線京都市役所前下車徒歩5分ぐらいabout 5 minutes by foot after arriving at Subway Tozai Line Kyoto Shiyakusho Mae…no parking available but there are several car parks nearby.
Business hours: weekdays 8:00am-6:00pm, weekend & national holiday 12:30-6:00pm
Café Holiday: undecided