When I saw a picture of 森林食堂shinrin syokudo’s curry in a magazine at a café some time last year, I put the café on my list of must-go cafes. According to the magazine, before opening the café in late March 2012 the owners went from place to place catering Indian-style curry since 2006; actually, they still do so the days when the café is closed. My chance to go came in early April of this year when I deemed it to be the perfect place to take Mason for a belated birthday dinner. The night before, I happened to be in the area, near 二条駅Nijo Station, so I decided to stake out the place since I had the shop card on me but with it being dark and me being a houkou-onchi, I gave up pretty quickly after going in circles a couple of times. Besides, I had no idea what the exterior of the café was like, so I wasn’t sure I would have recognized it anyway.
The next day, I got to Nijo earlier than expected, so I went on ahead to see if I could find the place in broad daylight; this time I brought my magazine, the same issue in which I had first seen shinrin syokudo, which I had recently bought and whose map was easier to read…I found the café in no time.
There was still some time before Mason would arrive at Nijo Station, so I thought it would be best to go in, grab us a table and check out the place, maybe take some pictures…there was no one inside except the owner who was getting the place ready for the nighttime customers.
“shinrin shokudo” means “forest restaurant”; the very charming décor did make me feel a bit like I was in a forest.
the kitchen with a beautiful green wall beyond the counter seating
the handwritten menu on the wall next to the kitchen
When I told the owner that Mason and I were celebrating Mason’s birthday, she offered us use of this room, also painted in lovely green, which looked like a part of her private home; I told her that I’d let Mason choose when she arrived.
For the time being, I sat at the two-seater to the right in the picture below and talked with the owner, Kumiko Imanaka, until customers arrived and things got busy. Kumiko-san, a young woman who oozed exoticism (quite rare with all the cuteness one gets in Japan) is originally from Nara, a prefecture known for its nature, and her educational background is in the arts; I felt that the café embodied all this about her.
Mason ended up being half an hour late during which a couple came in and I gave them “the right”to use the room I had been offered earlier; from there customers continued to trickle in and there wasn’t an empty table for whole time that we were there…the place filling up pretty quickly wasn’t a rumor after all.
Since I had plenty of time to go over the menu while waiting, once Mason made up her mind upon arriving, I immediately ordered the チキンほうれん草カレーとダルの合いがけchikin hourensou karee to daru no ai-gake (half-chicken spinach curry & half-dal), ￥950.
Mason got the キーマほうれん草カレーとダルの合いがけKiima hourensou curry to daru ai-gake (half-spinach Keema curry, half-dal), ￥950.
Our curries looked just as good as the curry in the magazine and tasted just as good! I regretted that I had no room for the tandoori chicken that is also a recommendation in the magazine. Next time, next time…
But we did have room for ホットチャイhotto chai (hot chai), ￥400.
Sweet and rich, the taste was so much to our liking that we had another one, the perfect complement to our conversations!
This calendar designed by the owners was hanging at the café but before Mason and I left, Kumiko-san gave each of us one as a present…it is now hanging in my room. ☺
The calendar indicated that the café is closed on the days of the multiples of six…when I checked out the homepage, I discovered that the day before when I went, the café was closed due to a catering job…that’s why I couldn’t find it the day before! Must check if they’re open the next time I get a craving to go or I shall be sorely disappointed!
Update: A year and a half later after NUMEROUS (well, four, five times sure feels that way) fails, I finally arrived with Mason to find shinrin syokudo open! And unbelievably Kumiko-san remembered me!
The front dining area had changed with only one two-seater, at which we sat, and a counter against the wall opposite from the other counter.
I had to familiarize myself with the menu on the wall again (there seemed to be more than last time), so we both took our time before Mason ordered the キーマカレーとダル合いがけKiima kareh to daru ai-gake (half-Keema curry, half-dal) and I ordered the チキンカレーとキーマほうれん草カレー合いがけchikin kareh to Kiima hohrensoh kareh ai-gake (half-chicken curry, half-spinach Keema curry), both ￥950.
The tables that had originally been in the front had been moved into the back dining area to seat more people…the neon art pieces are for a Halloween event,”NIJO HALOWEEN:「光で愉しむネオンの森Hikari de Tanoshimu Neon no Mori (Neon Forest of Enjoying Light)」Neon Art by tetsuo abico” from October 18-26 in which shinrin syokudo and other shops around the Nijo area (including 喫茶雨林舎Kissa Urinsha and CLAMP COFFEE SARASA) are taking part; if you come during that time, drinks are ￥100 off at shinrin syokudo.
I ordered some タンドリーチキンTandoori chicken, ￥600, to go.
It was delicious; next time I definitely want to have it at the café since I now know that it’s boneless.
Address: 京都府京都市中京区西ノ京内畑町Kyoto-fu. Kyoto-shi. Nakagyo-ku. Nishinokyo Uchihata-ho 24−4
Telephone number: 075-202-6665
Access: JR嵯峨野線二条駅・地下鉄東西線二条駅より徒歩約10分、408m, about 10 minutes from JR Sagano Line Nijo Station & Subway Tozai Line Nijo Station
Business hours: 11:30am-10:00pm
Cafe holiday: irregular, please refer to the calendar on their website