Yesterday, I met Maki for the first time in three months…our original plan was to go to Eggs ‘n Things which had opened south of 四条通Shijo Street in Kyoto over a week ago but due to the long wait to be served (I was given a 3:30pm seating ticket when I arrived at 11:30am) and how rude the staff was (covered in ❤Hitori Kyoto’s Recommendations❤, at the bottom after all the recommendations), we made up our mind to go elsewhere without hesitation. We ended up having lunch at KAWA CAFE and dessert at 祇園Gion NITI.
I’d been wanting to go to 祇園NITI since I saw it in KYOTO CAFE BOOK 2012, so I was ecstatic to finally go. Both of us being houkou-onchis, we made it there thanks to a navigation function on Maki’s phone but it took us quite a while to find it…probably because it was tucked away in a roji off of 花見小路通Hanamikoji Street and we were looking for “NITI”, not “にち”, as it was written on a sign at the entrance to the roji.
the cafe’s simple emblem on the noren outside the café
We were impressed with how gorgeous it was inside while we waited to be seated in the 玄関genkan, or entrance, which was just a like a genkan in someone’s home…along with table seating, there was counter seating, too, and a lovely garden for the customers’ viewing pleasure.
There were no seats on the first floor, so we were led to the second floor…the entrance area was covered with what appeared to be the name stickers of the maikos and geikos who have been here.
The second floor was also gorgeous…with the cushy armchairs, this was EXACTLY the kind of place where Maki and I wanted to spend the afternoon chatting☺..we had to wait 20 minutes for our orders anyway (because there were other orders before ours).
the hallway from where we came…there are two private rooms (one of them smaller than the other) along the way, plus the restroom.
We chose the table by the window that looked out on the garden…although we couldn’t really see what was past the leaves, the leaves were pretty enough.
I had no question that I would order the 抹茶宇治金時淡雪maccha Uji kintoki awayuki (shaved ice with green tea syrup and Uji red beans), ￥1200; Maki ended up ordering it, too.
The awayuki, “light snowfall”, is made with natural ice from 四代目氷屋徳次郎Yondaime Kohhriya Tokujiro in 高知県日光市Nikko, Kochi Prefecture, and does make one feel like he’s eating deliciously flavored snowfall. Not only is the awayuki made with (real) green-tea syrup and Uji red beans, there’s a delightful mousse made from 練乳rennyuu, or condensed milk…the baked yatsuhashi was a nice complement. Whether you eat each yummy ingredient separately or everything mixed up, this shaved ice makes for an exciting dessert, especially because it melted instantaneously on touch.
We ended up staying for four hours, until the end of café time (11:00am-6:00pm) and nearly the beginning of bar time (7:00pm-1:00am), even though we had finished our ice not too long after they arrived…that’s just how comfortable our stay was. I was able to take a picture of the smaller room of the private rooms on our way out:
I want to live here.☺
They had run out of shop cards when I asked for one on our way out, so one of the staff gave me the name card for the manager (with permission from the manager of course). I will definitely be back.☺
Update: Over eight months later, I went back to NITI with Jennifer when she mentioned she wanted to try the 生おかき＋涼炉（手火鉢）5種ディップ添えnama-okaki + ryohro (tehibachi) 5-shu dippu-zoe, ￥1000, an order of uncooked thin slices of rice cake which come with a small grill and five dips, something that I noticed on the menu and hoped to have the next time I went.
We sat on the first floor this time because there was a table for two open; from my seat I could see the opening to another private room to which one enters by taking off his shoes.
Jennifer and I decided to share the okaki and each order 永谷宗(そう)園 ほうじ茶Nagatani Soen hohji cha (Nagatani Soen’s hoji tea) which came with sweets for ￥600.
Although there were seats open, we were told that we’d have to wait a bit for our orders with which we were fine but I didn’t feel we waited terribly long before they arrived.
The dips were ウニのクリームチーズuni no kuriimu-chiizu (sea-urchin-egg cream cheese), 柚子胡椒の白味噌yuzu-kosho no shiro-miso (yuzu-pepper white miso), 和風サルサwa-fuu sarusa (Japanese-style salsa), 海苔の佃煮きなnori no tsukudani (soy-preserved laver) and きなこと黒糖のみたらし風ムースkinako to kuromitu no mitarashi-fuu muusu (mitarashi-style soybean-powder & brown-sugar mousse). The sweets with the hoji tea were きなこ黒蜜マドレーヌkinako-kuromitsu madoreenu (soybean powder & brown sugar madeleine) and くるみのほろほろクッキーkurumi no horo-horo kukkii (walnut snowball cookie).
There were 12 slices of okaki, so we got six each. We were advised to grill one slice at a time because it didn’t take long to grill both sides of the okaki; it puffed up in no time and swelled down just as quickly when taken off the grill.
The crispy and chewy okaki topped with the dips was an interesting experience…overall all the dips were nice except for the salsa which I found to be lacking a bit in flavor; my favorite was the cream cheese. The hoji tea was soothing and fragrant and the madeleine and cookie were good complements for it. Glad I finally got to try it.