らん布袋 is a charming machiya café & gallery found around the middle of 三条商店街Sanjo Shopping Street. According to the information that I could find on the café in English and Japanese (and there’s quite a lot), in 2007 Randy Channell, a master of tea who also has a background in martial arts originally from Canada, opened the café to offer a place for people to drink Japanese tea (green tea as well as houji tea) casually; along with traditional tea and Japanese sweets, one can also find sweets and drinks of unique blends of Japanese and Western, all to be enjoyed in an Art-Deco and Taisho-Roman environment of as unique a blend. One can even experience tea ceremony by calling in to schedule beforehand.
I assume the name of the café comes from Randy’s name (ran) and him resembling the god of abundance and health a bit (Hotei).☺
I’ve passed ran Hotei many times and have seen it in a TV show or two since coming to Japan but were unable to drop in for one reason or another…when Mason and I were finally able to drop by one evening last year in October, we found the green-tea cheesecake, the reason for us being there, sold out but we got to talk a bit with Randy-san although I’m not sure if he remembers us because when I dropped by another time to check for the green-tea cheesecake, he addressed me in Japanese.
In mid-May this year, I finally got to experience ran Hotei when I stopped in for lunch before going into work.
the うぐいす色uguisu-iro (greenish-brown, like a nightingale) café with the sweets display case (yes, you can take sweets to go as well) and a caricature of Randy preparing tea on the window that looks into the café…it blends in so well with the quaint ambience of one of Kyoto’s well-loved shopping streets.
a variety of comfy seats, including a sofa, throughout the café
There is also counter seating in front of the kitchen.
The area in the back is probably the most coveted spot in the place with a view of the inner garden (shoes to be taken off before stepping up).
a closer look at the inner garden
steep traditional staircase (yeah, those are drawers built in on the side) lined with sake and statues of Hotei next to the kitchen
Besides me, there was a party of two at the table looking out on the garden; I chose the two-seater next to the table with the sofa near the front. The staff member who served me was very friendly; I found out that she had worked at the café for three years and commuted from Sonobe, a town a little north of where I live.
I ordered the カレーとナンセットkareh to nan setto (curry & nan set) with 本日のコーヒーhonjitsu no kohhii (today’s coffee), ￥950.
I had the coffee with a 抹茶チョコチーズケーキmaccha choko chiizukehki (green tea-chocolate cheesecake), ￥560.
As can probably be seen from the picture, the curry was not very thick and quite mild in spiciness and the fragrant nan was thin but the perfect size for me to have room for dessert and drink afterward; they went together well and were delicious in an old-fashioned Japanese way. The cheesecake was dense and rich with the flavor of green tea and white chocolate and the crust was perfect, not too crumbly…my coffee tasted all the more better.
Besides the occasional chat with the staff member, it was a peaceful, lovely stay. The party of two left and I ended up having the place to myself while I was there (I love when that happens). I definitely want to try more of the food, sweets and drinks soon…maybe I’ll be lucky to have the whole place to myself again the next time I go.☺