Two weekends ago, I met Kimura-san for the first time in several months. Knowing that I probably had a café in mind, she left it up for me to decide; when I suggested SOBACaFe. Sarrasin, a machiya café with a menu based on そばsoba, or buckwheat in the 烏丸五条Karasuma Gojo area, that I’ve been dying to try for months, especially because it’s close to where I work, she agreed to it right away.
However, when we arrived right in the middle of prime lunchtime, there was a waiting list of about two or more parties. The owner apologized profusely and recommended that if we didn’t have business to take care of while waiting for the café to call us back, we should either take a look at 東本願寺Higashi Hongan-ji Temple which was in the area (not so near when we’re talking about walking there in horribly hot and humid weather, though) or go to a café nearby. We chose to do the latter and we had just ordered lunch when we got a call that seats had opened up but of course we weren’t ready to go for a while, so they promised that we would be seated immediately when we arrived.
After lunch while walking there, I was curious about what would happen if we arrived and all the seats were full (would they kick people out of their seats for us?). Luckily there were some seats open but they were at the counter near the entrance next to the register where there were soba goods.
the view from the entrance
the register area with soba goodies on sale
There was an artisan’s work was also on show and available for purchasing near the front behind our seats. Besides the counter seating where one could be in on all the action, the rest of the seating were tables with more privacy.
I thought that the café was hot because we were so close to the exit and out of the stream of air from the one small air-conditioner that seemed to be cooling the entire café; plus, the iron plate upon which the galettes were made were producing a large amount of heat not too far from us. However, when I walked in further, it felt no more cooler than where we were sitting, so I gave up on moving when seats at the tables opened up. I decided that my next visit would be when the weather cools down more and I would appreciate the warmth of the café more.
Kimura-san was still relatively full from lunch, so she opted to get only a そばフィナンシェsoba financier, ￥150, and ホットそば茶hot soba tea, ￥350…the color was yellow, much lighter than the bottled soba teas which tended to be a light brown color.
I was here to try a galette, so I got a dessert one, シトロンフレンチシュクレcitron French sucré, ￥500, and アイスそば茶iced soba tea,￥200, as the セットドリンクset drink.
Even though I was still a bit full from lunch, I was still able to eat the galette (after giving some to Kimura-san); maybe it helped that I had ordered one with lemon confiture or something of the likes with sugar in the folds, also good for momentarily helping me to forget how hot that I was. I have soba tea when I can find it sold because it has such a rich flavor that makes me feel the same as when I drink coffee (a meal and drink in one because it fills me up) but this tea was very light (in color as well) and refined; there were soba seeds at the bottom of the glass which I drank feeling a little like I was having bubble tea.☺
How can I resist goods on sale next to the register? I ended up buying そばチップス(カレー味)soba chips (kareh aji, or curry flavor), ￥200. Light and crispy with a subtle curry flavor…I expected (and wanted) a stronger curry flavor but it was satisfying enough, plus tasted healthy.
Update: Over a year since my last visit, I went back to Sarrasin for lunch before going into work. The place was pretty much full house but I was able to get a table in the middle that gave me a great view of the whole place. I was able to read the black boards above the kitchen: looks like Sarrasin celebrated their third anniversary over two weeks ago on September 9th.
I ordered the 季節のお食事ガレットkisetsu no o-shokuji garetto (seasonal meal galette), ピリ辛チョリソーのレッドガレットpiri-kara chorisoo no reddo garetto (spicy chorizo red galette), ￥1000, topped with egg (たまごのせtamago-nose in Japanese) for an extra ￥100 and as part of the 平日のランチセットhonjitsu no ranchi setto (weekday lunch set), which includes サラダsarada (salad), soup and a drink, for ￥300 more (only from 11:00am-2:00pm). The soup of the day was 皮ごとカボチャの冷製スープkawa-goto kabocha no reisei suupu (cold soup made from pumpkin with skin); I chose アイスコーヒーiced coffee for my drink.
If I had known how huge, filling and complete my meal galette would be, I would have foregone the lunch set of the day! But I’m usually one to get the most out of any experience and I finished everything, so it was definitely worth it! My galette consisted of daikon radish sprouts, lettuce, cheese, mashed potatoes, chorizo and sunny-side-up egg with tomato sauce and mustard, I didn’t know where to start at first! Once I started, however, helped by being alone and on a time limit, I didn’t stop until everything was gone. The chorizo wasn’t as spicy as I expected, a good thing since I was still a bit flushed from my walk from Kyoto Station when my food arrived which didn’t take very long at all. ￥1400 total is such a deal considering I was still full by late evening! However, the lunch set of the day is available only from 11:00am to 2:00pm on weekdays. I gotta go more often, especially since it’s so close to work!
Update: The day after I went for lunch, Sarrasin was covered on the TV program, “LIFE ~夢のカタチYume no Katachi (Shape of Dreams)~“…looks like Sarrasin will be opening a baked sweets shop in Keihoku soon.
Update: At last-minute I decided to have lunch at Sarrasin half a year after my last visit. When I arrived, the place was almost full but the two-seater table right underneath the staircase was still available and that’s where I was shown. At first I felt closed in with the stairs slanting right next to me (right above my head, too) and the customers next to me so close that I heard their whole conversation (one of them was getting married) but it wasn’t so bad once I got used to it.
Before I came in I read that the 本日のスペシャルガレットhonjitsu no supesharu garetto (galette of the day) was ビーフストロガノフ・サワークリーム添えbiifu sutoroganofu・sawah kuriimu-zoe (beef strogonoff with sour cream)…sounded attractive to me, so that’s what I got as part of the weekday lunch set with iced soba tea as my drink (the soup was グリーンピースとじゃがいものポタージュスープguriin-peesu to jagaimo no potahju suupu (green peas & potato potage) topped with soba seeds).
The color of the potage was pretty and the flavor was very subtle (it’s a good thing that I like subtle flavors, though); the salad was dressed with a creamy yet light dressing. Although the stroganoff was drier than I’d expected, the dish was tasty and I enjoyed trying different combinations of the toppings (beef, mashed potatoes topped with caper, steamed vegetables and sour cream) with the galette that was flavored with black pepper.
Halfway through my meal, after reading the signs around the café while I ate, I decided to order a そばチーズケーキsoba cheesecake, made at the shop in Keihoku; however, it ran out just as I was ordering it, so I made do with the そばシフォンケーキsoba chiffon cake, ￥350. Made with 100% soba flour, it was fragrant with a rich soba flavor; the fresh cream was topped with soba seeds as well.
While being rung up, I checked out the soba goods next to the register and ended up buying some そばほろりSoba Horori, ￥300, small, round, crumbly cookies made with soba flour and soba seeds, for the road. I had them in the evening after dinner…although I’m not into crumbly food, the cookies were rich and tasty and the texture was delightful, thanks to the soba seeds with which the cookies were coated. ￥300 is a bit expensive for five (small) cookies) but I didn’t regret getting them at all.
Update: About four months later, I was back at Sarrasin for lunch after discovering SOLUM CAFE to be closed. After checking out all my options, I ordered the シャンピニョンクルマンガレットchampignon gourmand galette, ￥1050, and include the Aセットset for ￥400 which came with にんじんの冷静ポタージュninjin no reisei potahju (cold carrot potage) and a drink which I chose to have after the meal. The soup and galette were delicious; I was well satisfied with my meal.
Although I was full, I still ordered the そばチーズケーキsoba (buckwheat) cheesecake, ￥430, which I couldn’t have last time, to have with アイスコーヒーiced coffee (bottom right picture).
The cheesecake wasn’t the texture (a little too soft) and taste (a bit more sour than most that I’ve had) that I usually like in my cheesecakes and I was hoping to taste more buckwheat but it was definitely worth a try.
Update: As of the beginning of March 2015, Sarrasin closed its doors so that the owner who gave birth to a boy the year before could concentrate on child-rearing. It’s not for sure that Sarrasin will open anytime soon but the owner hopes to reopen shop someday to bring everyone yet again the ultimate buckwheat experience.
Update: Good news: Sarrasin will be reopening in the same location as of May 12, 2016, so for those who have missed their galettes or buckwheat treats or are curious to try them, there are plenty of chances for that now.☺