Founded during the 明治時代Meiji Period, 大極殿六角店 栖園Rokkaku Daigokuden Seien is a long-standing famous Japanese sweets shop on 六角通Rokkaku Street, east of 高倉通Takakura Street. There has always been quite a line of people waiting to be served in the machiya café space (there are currently two parts to the dining space although I only remember the front one when I first went) or people dropping in to get sweets to go in the front for as long as I can remember but I feel like the numbers have increased recently. Despite the long line of waiting customers, the staff is kind enough to not put pressure on people to leave as soon as they’ve partaken in their orders and will fill your teacup as much as you wish to prove it…it sucks (excuse my language) as a waiting customer but as a customer who had waited so long to get a seat, this situation is a godsend. And the owner (or is she the owner’s wife?) has the sweetest smile when she greets you on arrival or thanks you on departure.
The first time I went was in June 2006 with Mr. Man…the summer the year before, he had gone with his sister while I was away in the States and he had thought I’d be interested in trying it out (the man knows me well☺). If I remember correctly, we didn’t have to wait too long to be seated compared to now (I was more impatient then, too).
the 坪庭tsubo-niwa, or inner garden (the doors were open), perfect view to have with Daigokuden sweets
my 梅酒琥珀流しume-shu kohaku-nagashi (plum wine jelly-like “cold candy”), basically an exquisite plum-wine jelly☺
The jelly is actually made of 寒天kanten, or vegetable gelatin, which is considered great for those watching their calories but want something dessert-like. The flavor for the kohaku-nagashi changes each month allowing customers to experience the different seasons of Japan (the four seasons can be experienced through other sweets as well).
It was subtly sweet and refreshing and was gone before I knew it. Besides the free tea served before our orders came, the jelly was served with green tea. And I craved that taste for years afterward but either I didn’t have time to drop by or I didn’t feel like waiting in a long line. The next time I was able to go back to Seien was with Maki in mid-August this year when we met to celebrate her birthday (belatedly due to the typhoon that had struck on her actual birthday). We were both in the mood for shaved ice and after we failed to get some at the then-new Kyoto 雪ノ下Yukinoshita京都店, we headed back to Seien where we had signed in to be served before trying Yukinoshita…although our name had already been called, they seated us as soon as we arrived (love them!).
the table next to ours with a view of the front and some of the goods on sale
the inner garden (too hot to leave the doors open this season)
the table behind us close to the door to the kitchen
When we saw 梅酒みぞれかき氷umeshu-mizore kakigohri (shaved ice with plum-wine syrup), ￥730, on the menu, we both knew that’s what we were getting…it came topped with a plum preserved in syrup and extra syrup.
The ice was soft, accentuated more by the perfect sweetness of the syrup…I didn’t use much of the extra syrup. The only bad thing about shaved ice is that one has to eat it before it melts but it was a pleasure even melted (and I usually don’t like melted shaved ice). It was the perfect way to end Maki’s belated birthday lunch and a hot summer day.
Although the items mentioned in this post are more ideal during a warmer season (shaved ice is not even available now), it’s about time that I finally write about a café I’ve already mentioned in my list of recommendations.☺
Update: Almost two years later, Maki and I decided to have dessert at Seien after lunch at NEUF CRÊPERIE…there was an hour-long wait but we added our name to the list and went to fiveran before coming back just in time to be seated.
Since we’d feel rushed to eat shaved ice, we decided to have the kohaku nagashi, ￥660, (the flavor of the month was mint) which came with soda.
It was a refreshing for such a hot day but mint was quite a unique flavor for a Japanese sweet and such a texture as kanten; I recommend it for those who like mint. The soda which wasn’t too sweet was good at balancing out the sweetness of the mint jelly. Not to mention it was really pretty to look at.☺