AWOMB is a Japanese-style café occupying an 80-year-old renovated machiya located on 蛸薬師通Takoyakushi Street east of 新町通Shinmachi Street (not too far away is うめぞのUmezono CAFE & GALLERY west of Shinmachi Street as well as 前田珈琲本店Maeda Coffee Honten right after turning off from 烏丸通Karasuma Street) in an area known for textile shops; the name of the café’s specialty, 手織り寿しteori-zushi (“hand-woven” sushi), comes from being part of such an area but is generally known as 手巻き寿司temaki-zushi, or sushi rice and filling hand-wrapped with dried seaweed. It reopened at the beginning of June this year after moving from its original location in 北白川Kitashirakawa where it started in 2002.
I saw AWOMB in SAVVY’s summer Kyoto edition from this past July last week when having dessert at HACOBU KITCHEN; the picture of the “handwoven” sushi made an impact strong enough to put the café at the top of my list of cafes to visit next. I suggested AWOMB to Rika for dinner when we would meet this past weekend to which she immediately obliged. Since I had some free time before we met that day, I went to check out the location and see if I needed to make a reservation. Surprisingly, it was quite easy to find and I arrived just as a big party was leaving…in the midst of all the hubbub, a male staff who I took to be the owner noticed me first and came over to attend to me. It turned out that it was a good idea to put in a reservation, so I put one in for two at 6:00pm when dinner service would start.
Rika and I met at 前田珈琲 明倫店Meirin Maeda Coffee (about a five-minute walk away) where I was relaxing until dinner…we arrived right on time, just as a staff member came out to open the door.
the front of the café…the name of the café is written small and subtly on the thin wooden plate next to the noren-shielded entrance, so one may want to look closely if the charming exterior fails to catch your eyes.
As soon as one enters, the door to the shop where one can find original clothes, kitchen ware (also used in the café) and housewares is on the right.
the remaining 長屋nagaya structure…take your shoes off and put them on the shelves lining the wall before stepping into some slippers to enter.☺
We were allowed to choose any of the reserved seats on the first floor or the second floor…we decided to see the second floor first.
the view of the street
The clean and simple style is pretty much the same as the former location from what I hear.
a more private seat in the corner over the entrance which gives a bit of a view of the garden on the first floor
We decided on the table closest to the stairwell on the second floor. It didn’t take long to decide that we both wanted to try the 手織り寿し膳 並teori-zushi-zen nami (normal “hand-woven” sushi tray), ￥1450, which came with a tray of fillings and condiments, dried seaweed and sushi rice as well as そうめんsohmen (thin white noodles).
The filling for the “hand-woven” sushi is o-banzai-based using ingredients produced in Kyoto…from left to right, top to bottom: みずなmizuna, or potherb mustard leaves; eggplant and octopus; サトイモsatoimo, or taro; ゴーヤgohya, or bitter melon, & red bell pepper; 生麩nama-fu, or wheat starch, & okra; onion slices; egg cake; もち豚mochi-buta, or pork belly; alfalfa sprouts and 油揚げabura-age, or fried tofu; green-tea egg cake; grapefruit; chicken & cucumber slices; salmon & かんぱちkanpachi, or greater yellowtail; beans & edamame; shimeji mushroom; みょうがmyohga, or Japanese ginger, & grated ginger; black-sesame sauce; wasabi; white miso sauce; pickled plum; pepper; 七味shichimi, or a blend of seven spices; cream cheese; white sesame seeds; plum; rock salt; and soy sauce
an example of the filling for one sushi before rolling it…according to one’s desire, soy sauce is applied with a little brush that is also supplied. I just used the mat to put my sushi together and rolled my sushi without it although it’s suggested that we do so.
Rika and I both agreed that the meal was not only beautiful but fun to put together; if we weren’t exclaiming about the novelty of an ingredient, we were quietly mulling over what mix would give us the ultimate sushi experience. Not to mention according to true o-banzai style, the fillings were delicious and perfectly seasoned (neither bland or too strong a flavor); even the dried seaweed (savory and crisp) and sushi rice (subtly sweet) were exactly how I like them…definitely food for bellies and eyes (and soul) here.☺
the equally satisfying sohmen (refreshingly cool and flavorful) with which we both chose to end the meal
Although we were pretty full after the meal, we were curious about the options for dessert which could be added for an additional ￥280…Rika got the 笹巻き生麩まんじゅうsasa-maki nama-fu manjuu, or bamboo leaf-wrapped wheat-starch manjuu filled with red-bean paste.
I had my eye on the 白みそミルクプリンshiro-miso miruku purin (white-miso milk pudding) since spotting it on the menu and I wasn’t disappointed, especially at the fair amount that I got. And there was no skimping on the white miso which added a savory flavor to what would have been a sweet dessert without it, perfect for anyone who likes the combination of sweet and salty.
There were two other parties on the second floor with us; we were having so much fun with our meal that I didn’t even notice if there were customers on the first floor but when we were leaving close to closing time, there was no one.
the serene first floor…maybe next time for lunch, I want to gaze upon that garden sometime!☺
a view of the other side of the first floor…the register is right next to the staircase.
I talked to the kind and friendly owner near the exit while waiting for Rika while she used the restroom; we even exchanged name cards. He said he’d be happy if I wrote about the café in my blog when I told him how I couldn’t wait to write about AWOMB, that’s how impressed I had been with the café, and how other non-Japanese visitors, as well as Japanese, would want to experience such a meal. Although there are only several options for the food menu, there’s quite a lot on the drink menu (for coffee they use beans from WEEKENDERS COFFEE which is close to their former location)…I’m sure there are plans to increase menu options as time goes by; I look forward to trying whatever they have to offer.☺
Update: Almost four months later, on Christmas to be exact, I made dinner reservations for Moe-san and me after raving about the place to her. I arrived fifteen minutes early but was still allowed to the second floor to wait…there was a handwritten sign on the door of the entrance saying that only customers who had reserved in advance would be served that night.
The shop area had changed quite a bit since the last time I was here; there are fewer goods on sale and the orders are now prepared here.
I had a choice of any table but I chose the one at which I sat with Rika last time until Moe-san arrived when she could choose…before she arrived, a pair of middle-aged women came and took the more private table overlooking the entrance area. Moe-san who arrived later than the time we had decided ended up being okay with the seat that I had chosen.
Since I had had plenty of time to look at the menu, I let Moe-san take her time looking at the menu…we both ended up getting the normal sushi tray and 自家製ジンジャーエールjikasei jinjah ehru (homemade ginger ale) for ￥350 with the meal.
from left to right, top to bottom: sliced onions, とうみょうtohmyoh (pea sprouts), mustard greens, beefsteak plant and mikan orange; curried potato topped with sweet potato; stewed cabbage topped with chicken; bonito flakes topped with chestnut; radish; stewed pumpkin, carrot and turnip slices; fried tofu and lotus root slices topped with yellow onion; red bell pepper, edamame & mushroom; turnip; egg cake and green-tea egg cake; salmon topped with green onion; カンパチkanpachi, or greater yellowtail; almond slices; dried shrimp; garlic chips; raisins; rock salt; red-miso paste; cream cheese; chili pepper; wasabi; ginger; white sesame seeds; plum; and black pepper.
Wrapped in a slice of turnip, the sohmen was warm and in a miso broth this time, very delicious.
For dessert afterward, I got the (季節の)ジェラート(kisetsu no) jelahto (seasonal ice cream) while Moe-san got the white-miso milk pudding that I recommended.
The ice cream was a rich pumpkin flavor topped with a bit of red-bean paste and sweet-potato sticks, yummy! Moe-san was as satisfied with her pudding as I was last time.
Moe-san said that she wants to bring her dad when he visits as well as some other friends soon.☺