のばら珈琲Nobara Coffee is a charming retro café in the 西陣Nishijin area, another establishment that Iori-san recommended (he learned of it from Mica-san). Apparently it opened in early January 2011 but I’d never heard of it before. When I went last weekend, I had no idea it would be in such an indiscrete location, at the end of a narrow path between two houses on 上立売通Kamidachiuri Street west of 浄福寺通Jofukuji Street, so I passed it a couple of times before I finally asked a nice woman in the neighborhood who warned me about it being down a narrow path…great hint, that’s how I finally found it.
Halfway down the path is a tiled sign spelling out the cafe’s name.
If it weren’t for the blackboard sign, it would look totally like someone’s home.
I walked in to realize I’d be taking off my shoes before going up to put on a pair of slippers that I chose from a basket there
the record player close to the entrance
There are three small tables for two in the main area and one more near the kitchen; one of the tables in the main was occupied by a female customer quietly reading a book.
I chose the table by the window which is the best seat there, at least in my opinion…the chair was definitely comfy.
The owner, a polite older woman who was reserved but still exuded of warmth, brought me the menu and a glass of water and went back to the kitchen to give me time to decide what to order.
When she came back, I had decided that the ミルク珈琲milk coffee, ￥400, and a plate of プティフール3個three petit fours, ￥300, sounded nice.
Another female customer came in and sat at the table closest to the kitchen; she ended up ordering a milk coffee and cinnamon toast after me…cinnamon toast, sounded promisingly delicious as well…
The fillings for tarts that were the petit fours were an orange cake, tiramisu and custard cream topped with strawberry; the petit fours were delicious, nice complements for my coffee although they didn’t even last long enough for me to finish half of my first serving.
I liked that I could prepare my own milk coffee which was basically two servings (man, such a good deal at that price)…the coffee seemed to be made from dark-roasted beans because it had a rich, deep flavor. For the first serving I used a little less than 3/4 of the coffee, so my second serving was more milky.
The customer who had been there before me left only to have another female customer take over her seat while I was in the middle of partaking in my order; she seemed to be a regular because she and the owner talked jovially about it being rare that she came at that hour.
Since I still had plenty of coffee left after finishing the petit fours and thought I could handle a little more to eat, I ordered the シナモントーストcinnamon toast, ￥200, that I’d heard the customer order earlier.
I almost regretted ordering it because I thought for the price, the serving would be small…not at all! However, when I tasted the perfect layer of cinnamon, sugar and butter on the barley toast, my regret became satisfaction at being able to have such a yummy snack.
The owner pretty much left everyone alone, coming into the dining area only to leave a pitcher of water (self-serve?), to make sure no one was cold and to change the old records that served as the BGM.
I felt like I could have stayed there forever, it was so homey and comfy, but half an hour before closing time, I dragged myself up from my chair. While I paid, I raved about how pleasant my experience there had been to which the owner humbly thanked me. I can’t wait to go back again, and I hope that the table by the window will be free then, too.☺
Update: The next time I went to Nobara was three weeks later; to my delight, the table that I sat at last time was open…actually, I was the only customer for a while but that was okay by me because I love it when I have a place to myself.☺
This time I ordered a ホットドッグhot dog, ￥350, as well as the cinnamon toast and milk coffee I had last time. The cinnamon toast was cut into fours instead of the bite size pieces that I had last time but it was still as delicious as ever. The hot dog, old-fashioned Japanese-style, was a wonderful discovery…in place of a wiener, there were two shorter sausages on a bed of stir-fried cabbage and lightly topped with ketchup and mustard. The bread also appeared to be of barley and was perfectly toasted and soft yet chewy. Upon first bite I knew I’d be ordering this again. And I did two weeks later (got my favorite seat again!), this time with アイスミルク珈琲, ￥450, because the weather was warming up by then. The glass for the coffee was long like a sundae glass and filled with the cutest round ice cubes, definitely charming presentation. For dessert I had フランクフルタークランツFrankfurter Kranz, ￥250. Texture-wise, it wasn’t my cake because it crumbled easily and was hard to eat but the taste was fine although I didn’t really care for the cream part. After I paid and just as I opened the door to exit, maybe it was because I was the only customer for a long time and when I left or she knew me by now, but the owner came up to me with a beautiful rose from the garden out front and offered it to me, as long as it wasn’t a bother for me to take it. How could I refuse such a sweet gesture?☺ I fell in love with Nobara even more that day.
Over a week later, I went there for coffee with Iori-san and his friends, Mica-san and Bara-Hime, both designers, when Iori-san and I had stopped by 遊空間u for the last day of Bara-Hime’s event…since Iori-san and I had just had tons of Portuguese sweets with Kou-san before that, I could only afford to order an iced milk coffee. The owner was surprised to see that we all knew each other…although Bara-Hime left a little earlier, we stayed until close, taking up the two tables next to each other in the front room.
Two weeks later, I took Mason for her first (and maybe last for a while) Nobara experience. We both ordered the cinnamon toast and I had アイス紅茶iced kohcha (tea), ￥350 (see the link for a picture below), as well. Mason also found the cinnamon toast yummy as well as the atmosphere desirable. The iced tea was flavorful and refreshing and came in the same glass with the same round ice cubes as the iced milk coffee.
About a month later, I went to Nobara; this time, I wasn’t able to sit at my favorite table, so I sat in the next comfy seat across from it and ordered a hot dog and iced milk coffee. By now I’ve discovered that besides the front room and the area by the kitchen, the tatami room that one has to pass to go to the restroom is also available for dining; however, in the summer it might be a little warm because there’s no air-conditioning in there (the fan will be blowing, though).
The male customer who sat at my favorite table left before me; when I heard him make chit-chat with the owner (he has a distinct voice and kind sounds like the Texan of Japanese, haha!), I realized he was a regular also at ひだまりHidamari, a university professor…I noticed he had forgotten his hand towel after he left and the owner set it aside to give to him the next time he was by. However, when I went to Hidamari after that, he ended up coming after me and I was able to tell him about the towel which he went to get after that. Small world in those parts.☺
Two and a half weeks later, I went to Nobara for some lunch. Since I felt I need to have more than just the hot dog, I ordered the 野菜・チーズ・生ハムのパリパリサンドyasai, cheese, nama-hamu no pari-pari sando (vegetable, cheese & prosciutto-ham “crispy” sandwich), ￥400, with iced milk coffee. The crispy-cracker-like bread was stuffed with plenty of lettuce and cucumber as well as cheese and ham, a healthy and filling sandwich. Since dessert seemed possible, I had a new cake, ウィークエンドシトロンケーキweekend citron cake, ￥250, a light and moist pound cake iced with subtly sweet lemon icing with a crushed pistachio for pizzazz…I’d love to have this again, the perfect sweet to have with the coffee. By the way, shaved ice is now available for the summer.
I was able to chat a bit with the owner on my way out…she was pleased that I enjoyed the sandwich since she thinks I’m some major gourmande☺. She thanked me for always making the trip out there.
Half a week later, I went back to finally have the タマゴトーストサンドtamago (egg) toast-sandwich with salad and iced tea (I had told the owner that I’d be ordering it the next time). She wasn’t kidding when she said the serving was pretty big, especially with salad (good thing I ordered iced tea instead of coffee). The salad topped with cottage cheese, radish and curried chicken was absolutely delicious; the homemade mayonnaise and vinegar dressing was the perfect choice. The egg in the sandwich is sweet but this is what made the sandwich, which was made with the same bread as the one for cinnamon toast, so filling. The cucumber slices, the condiments of mayonnaise and butter, everything was so good together. I want to have this again.
By now I’m sure one has noticed how ridiculously reasonable the prices are and the items on the menu are all satisfying, especially because you can feel the careful attention that the owner puts into putting together our orders. I found out she actually bakes her own bread with a machine…and I always thought she got the amazing bread from a bakery!
About two months later (and I’d been back a few times before that), I was back to have the hot dog and cinnamon toast, this time with アイス珈琲iced coffee, ￥350…I was able to relax and catch up after an eventful night at Galerie Apotheke the night before and since it was a rainy day and few people dropped in, I practically had the place to myself. The owner’s friend had dropped by and they spent a while talking. When I went up to pay, I ended up talking with the owner and her friend whose name I found out to be Yoshiko-san about being a foreigner who speaks Japanese and lives in Japan; the conversation got broken up when a pair of young girls came in and I took that as my cue to leave…looking forward to going back again.☺
Other items worth ordering:
Address: 京都府京都市上京区蛭子町Kyoto-fu. Kyoto-shi. Kamigyo-ku. Ebisu-cho 655
Telephone number: 075-406-0274
Access: 地下鉄烏丸線今出川駅から徒歩20分minutes by foot from Subway Karasuma Line Imadegawa Station or バス停千本上立売から徒歩5分minutes from Bus Stop Senbon Kamidachiuri…no parking available but there are car parks nearby.
Business hours: 11:30am-7:00pm
Cafe holiday: Monday, Tuesday