culotte is a restaurant/café at the intersection of 油小路通Aburakoji Street and 竹屋町通Takeyacho Street occupying a building which looks like someone’s old home from the outside (apparently it used to be in a different place until it moved here in June 2011); the name and a few items on the menu for the café are discretely displayed by the door so that one wouldn’t know it was an eating establishment unless they stopped to check it out more carefully. If Hasegawa-san (who had recommended culotte to me) hadn’t gone with me, it might have taken me some time to find it, especially because we met after 6:00pm and, with it being fall, the sun was already down and it would have been harder to see.
Upon walking in, it still looked like someone’s house if it hadn’t been for the name of the establishment decorating the foyer area where we took our shoes off before going in
and the several tables and blackboards of menu that I could see past the sliding doors from the entrance.
the area under the staircase upon opening the door into the dining area
Hasegawa-san let me choose where to sit, so I chose the two-seater in the middle of the dining area against the sliding doors where we would have more space. The chairs were comfortable and the tables the right height, perfect to settling down and having a good meal and chat with a friend.
The carpeted floor sank in a little in some places which made the place really feel like you were at your Japanese grandmother’s old-fashioned home. Hasegawa-san wasn’t sure if this really was a part of the owner’s house but we weren’t able to ask this time around.
Besides ordering drinks, there were free Japanese tea (ほうじ茶houji cha (roasted green tea according to Hasegawa-san) available for self-serve.
the kitchen…the owner mans the place by herself.
the dining area
homemade goods on sale by the door
Since Hasegawa-san has been here a few times before, she got ほうれん草カレー(クスクス)hohrensoh kareh (kusukusu) (spinach curry with couscous), ￥900, which she hadn’t tried yet.
Hasegawa-san let me have a little taste: it was mild spiciness made even milder with the cheese that it was topped with; pretty good, I’ll want to try the whole serving sometime.
Of course I ordered the 本日の定食honjitsu no teishoku (daily meal) which included 肉じゃがniku-jaga (meat & potato stew), 青菜のひたしaona no hitashi (boiled soy-flavored greens), ピーマンのトマト煮piiman no tomato-ni (bell-pepper stewed with tomatoes), みそ汁miso-shiru (miso soup) and 玄米genmai (brown rice).
The flavoring for the greens and miso soup was light and reminded me of flavoring for o-banzai food. The niku-jaga was perfectly flavored and the meat used was pork instead of the usual beef; the tomato-stew dish was the most flavorful and went well with the rice which was cooked to the perfect hardness. Hasegawa-san had some of the niku-jaga and tomato stew and though they were tasty, too.
For dessert Hasegawa-san got the 栗のイートンメスkuri no Iiton mesu (chestnut Eton mess), ￥650, and コーヒーcoffee, ￥350, while I ordered チョコレートテリーヌchocolate terrine, ￥500, and coffee.
We gave each other a taste of our dessert: the chestnut in the Eton mess had been soaked in brandy and was good combined with the sweetness of the meringue and the barely-sweet fresh cream but I was satisfied with my choice. I was delightfully surprised at how good the chocolate terrine and coffee was: the rich and sweet terrine practically melted in my mouth (I made sure to slide a little at a time on my fork to make it last longer) and complemented the deep flavor of the coffee.
We almost last track of time through all the good food, the cozy environment and interesting talk that we usually have. When we paid at the counter in front of the kitchen, the owner asked me where I was from and complimented my Japanese; I in turn raved about the food. It was a delightful experience and I’ll be making sure to have it again sometime soon.☺
Update: About a week later, I invited Hasegawa-san to go to 鳥の木珈琲Tori no Ki Coffee for dinner; however, the only meal that they have, ドライカレーdry curry, was sold out for the day, so after having dessert and coffee, we headed to culotte for dinner (yeah, the eating order was a bit messed up☺).
When we arrived a young guy was leaving meaning we had the place to ourselves, until we left. Hasegawa-san suggested sitting at the four-seater in the middle of the dining area since she’d never been able to do so before.
I ordered the チキンカレーchicken curry, ￥850, プラムソーダplum soda, ￥600, while Hasegawa-san had マカロニーグラタンmacaroni gratin.
Hasegawa-san let me taste a bit of the white sauce and cheese which served as the base for flavor…delicious and perfect for when one wants something substantial enough to fill just a bit more space in the tummy. I was shocked at how big my place of curry and brown rice was…man, that curry (a mix of Japanese and Indian curry in my opinion) was delicious and although I was warned that it would be very spicy, the most I did was sniff a few times. I can see why Hasegawa-san had recommended it. My plum soda was filled with plenty of homemade plum jam and its tart sweetness was a good choice to have with the curry. There’s still so much more that I still want to try on the menu.
We both bought homemade cookies for the road, me アーモンドクッキーalmond cookies, ￥320, and Hasegawa-san ジャムクッキーjam cookies, ￥380…I couldn’t resist trying one of the cookies; it was rich in flavor, very yummy, and quite crisp for a cookie of its thinness.
Before I left, I told her that I had written about culotte in my blog and she expressed great interest in seeing it, so I wrote the address to Hitori Kyoto…I look forward to hearing what she thinks of how I presented the place.
Update: A month later, Fumie-san and Chieko-san joined Hasegawa-san and me for dinner at culotte…Fumie-san, Chieko-san and I had been a week earlier (Chieko-san’s first time) and both of them had raved about how delicious everything was; when they’re impressed they always say, “すばらしいっSubarashii!”, meaning “wonderful” or “splendid”, and that word was exclaimed often throughout the evening. This time, I ordered the オムライス～お味噌汁付omuraisu~o-misoshiru-tsuki (ketchup-flavored chicken rice wrapped in omelette with miso soup), ￥850 (so did Hasegawa-san).
I’m not really a fan of omurice but since culotte’s doesn’t come topped with ketchup and the ketchup flavor of the chicken rice (made with brown rice!) is quite subtle, I found it quite delicious and satisfying…I’d order it again.☺
For dessert I ordered the tarte Tatin that Fumie-san ordered last time with チャイchai, ￥500.
Needless to say, it was excellent, otherwise I wouldn’t have ordered it after trying a bit of Fumie-san’s last time. The apple slices were thick and perfectly caramelized and the crust although harder than I would have liked was buttery and just yummy. The chai was good, too, and came in a substantially sized cup. ‘Twas another satisfying meal at culotte.
Update: A week later, I went back for my first hitori culotte☺. When I arrived, there was one female customer, possibly a regular, who had just arrived; she sat in the two-seater at which Hasegawa-san and I had first sat while I sat in the two-seater in front of it. Pretty soon the place filled up and at one point some people were turned away only to come back later when seats opened up.
I ordered the 塩焼きそばshio-yakisoba (“salt-flavor” fried noodles), ￥850, and かぼちゃのチーズケーキkabocha no chiizukehki (pumpkin cheesecake), ￥500, and 紅茶kohcha (tea), ￥400. I hadn’t expected so much fried noodles but I was beginning to see that the portions at culotte are quite generous. The flavoring was perfect and there were plenty of vegetables, so I felt like I was having something healthy despite it being fried. I already knew that I was going to like the pumpkin cheesecake because I tried Chieko-san’s the week before; rich and creamy, and no skimping on pumpkin, it was the perfect pumpkin cheesecake. The tea wasn’t anything special but it was a nice complement for the cheescake. I’m already looking forward to my next meal there.☺
Update: Over three months after the last time that I wrote, I went into the city early to have culotte for lunch…I was half an hour early, so I walked around the area a bit and even stopped by 栞栞カフェShiori Shiori Cafe although I knew it was their holiday to read the February monthly newsletter posted outside the cafe. I still made it to culotte 10 minutes before opening time, especially because it started to sprinkle…Natsuki-san (I know the owner’s name now) opened the door to find me huddled as far in away from the rain as possible at which she quickly welcomed me inside.
The main dish for the daily meal, ￥850, for lunch was チキンカツchicken cutlet…although I don’t like many fried foods, I decided to try it because culotte does many dishes so well. The breading for the cutlet was light and crispy and the chicken was juicy and the side of chopped raw cabbage, the side dish and miso soup toned down any oiliness to not make me sick afterward…I just might have this again when available.
For dessert I ordered coffee and バナナケーキbanana cake, ￥500…I also am not a fan of bananas but this substantially-sized cake was so good, rich in banana and butter flavor, moist and toasted perfectly! It was a perfect way to end my time of freedom and make it into work.
Some other meals that I’ve had since then (I’m going regularly now, about once or twice a week, half of the reason being the meals and the other half being to bask in Natsuki-san’s quiet warmth):
* tea cake
* Brandy cake, ￥350
* カフェオレcafé au lait, ￥500
* 海老のマカロニグラタンshrimp macaroni gratin, ￥950
Address: 〒604-0072京都市中京区油小路竹屋町南西角橋本町Kyoto-shi. Nakagyo-ku. Aburakoji Takeyacho Nanseikado Hashimoto-cho 467-1
Telephone number: 075-241-0062
Access: JR 嵯峨野線二条城前駅Sagano Line Nijo-jo Mae Station or 地下鉄烏丸線丸太町駅Subway Karasuma Line Marutamachi Station…no parking available but there are car parks nearby.
Business hours: 12:00-3:00pm, 5:00-9:00pm (orders stop at 8:00)
Cafe holiday: Saturday, Sunday and national holidays…there may be other unexpected holidays as well.