After having gone to cinq cafe several times, I was always curious about going to les trois maisons, another machiya café and ryokan in Kyoto of the small chain since 2007. However, since it was in the 西陣Nishijin area and I had always deemed it far from the area that I primarily frequented by foot, I always put off that visit, until I started making it to the Nishijin area for certain cafes (ひだまりHidamari, のばら珈琲Nobara Coffee and 逃現郷Togenkyo are close by) that is. I was actually on my way to Nobara Coffee in early May of this year when I came upon it after turning off 五辻通Itsutsuji Street on to a small street west of 浄福寺通Jofukuji Street; I decided on the spur of the moment to finally drop in.
an 80-year-old machiya renovated into a café/ryokan
The front area was darkly lit but the daylight sunshine let in enough light to make for a cozy atmosphere. I would have thought of sitting at the counter seating that looked on to the street if it hadn’t been occupied already by someone who had generously strewn his work in the area…there were plenty of seats available anyway. There was also counter seating that looked into the kitchen as well as table seating in the middle.
I soon learned that there was only one person on staff that day, especially by the way he was hurrying around; I took the liberty to find my seat.
the hallway that leads to the back dining area as well as the restroom, a gallery room and the only room of the ryokan
I took off my shoes before going up into the tatami-floored back dining area. Although I didn’t check out the ryokan part, I imagined it to be Japanese-style with a touch of French accents, similar to the café. The seat by the inner garden was taken, so I settled on the two-seater in front of the kitchen.
the view of my area from my seat
the rest of the charming dining area after other customers had left
what I assumed to be the small patio seat for one of the rooms…makes me want to rent a room just to use it.
The first time I had passed les trois maisons was on my way back from Nobara Coffee (seriously they’re that close) and I had noticed that they were selling かすうどんkasu-udon, ￥650, an udon that is topped with crispy ホルモンhorumon, or pork offal (it’s really good!), which I’ve only had in Osaka years ago…if I hadn’t been full from my Nobara Coffee visit, I would have dropped in for an early dinner. My mission that day was to eat that udon for lunch, even if I was hot from my walk there from the JR円町駅Enmachi Station, but alas, to my disappointment and due to the oncoming hot weather, the café had stopped serving it until the fall! The kind owner looked like he would have made it for me if they had the ingredients (I would have waited however long to have it). All they had available were sandwiches, so since I was already seated, I ordered the 厚切りベーコンとジャーマンポテトホットサンドatsugiri behkon to Jahman potato hotto sando (thickly sliced bacon & German potato hot sandwich), ￥580, with an アイスカフェラテiced caffè latte, ￥280(￥200 off with the sandwich).
With its charming presentation it was a very good sandwich that made me almost forget that I couldn’t have the udon and the caffè latte was also just what I’m accustomed to drinking, maybe on the strong side but I’m not complaining. And I had a lovely environment to enjoy it, getting another wonderful Kyoto café experience.
While paying I talked a bit with the manager, the only staff that day…I asked him if the gold-framed mirror in the hallway used to be at cinq cafe, and he was impressed that I had noticed it. At the end he wrote his name and number on a shop card so that I could call to give him a heads-up to have ingredients ready for udon when I planned to drop in again.
When I passed the place in August, they were closed almost a month to renovate the café space; I think the menu changed considerably, too. Definitely worth checking it out, if not just to relax in that gorgeous space.
Update: So over a year went by before I actually went back for the udon. For about two months before that, I would pass by, sometimes on days that they were open as well as their regular holidays, and the udon was on the menu regardless of it being summer!
On a rainy day I arrived an hour before they closed of which the manager (I remembered him from over a year ago) who was doing computer work in the front area timidly informed me; I reassured him that I was aware of it and would be out before closing at which he relieved welcomed me in to the dining area.
Upon entering I could see the huge change that the dining area had undergone…the tatami and cushy sofas were replaced by wooden flooring and wooden (still comfortable) chairs giving it a brighter and cleaner look. I, however, preferred the look before. The only customer was a young female at the table that I occupied when I first came; it looked like she had been working on something there for a while. I chose the four-seater table along the wall closest to the two-seater by the doors to the garden.
As soon as I mentioned my desire to try the udon, the manager’s suspicion was confirmed that I was the customer from over a year ago. He told me that he had been waiting for me all this time and wondered if I’d ever come back…now, how awesome is that!
There were a few toppings that could be added; I added きざみあげkizami-age (chopped fried tofu) for an extra ￥100 and ordered an アップルジュースapple juice for ￥100 (remember ￥200 off drinks with meals?). The udon was the perfect texture and although the kasu wasn’t as crispy as I would prefer, I just assumed that it had been in the soup a little longer when it was brought to me…the oils from the kasu made the soup richer and more savory making for a satisfying bowl.
The other customer left about 15 minutes before closing and I followed her not too long after that although I took some time to talk to the manager before leaving. He offered to give me a ride to the JR 二条駅Nijo Station since it was raining but not wanting to impose on him and since the rain wasn’t too bad, I said I was walking to 円町駅Enmachi Station although I was thankful for his offer. (Later, I regretted not taking him up on his offer because light rain turned into a torrential one from the 北野天満宮Kitano Tenmangu Shrine area and I looked like I had climbed out of the sea when I got on the train dripping all over.) I will definitely be back for that udon.
Address: 〒602-8477 京都市上京区千本通五辻東入ル二筋目上ル姥ヶ榎木町Kyoto-shi. Kamigyo-ku. Senbon-dori. Itsutsuji-hairu. Nisujime-agaru. Ubagaenoki-cho 848
Telephone & FAX number: 075-950-7299
Access: 地下鉄烏丸線今出川駅/バス 浄福寺下車徒歩3分minutes by foot from bus stop Jofukuji (taken from Subway Karasuma Line Imadegawa Station); JR 二条駅/バス 千本今出川下車徒歩3分minutes by foot from bus stop Senbon Imadegawa (taken from JR Nijo Station); 北野白梅町駅から1,273m from Kitano Hakubaicho Station
Business hours: weekday & Sunday- 11:00am-6:00pm (LO 5:00pm), Friday & Saturday: 11:00am-10:00pm (LO 9:00pm)
Café holiday: Tuesday, every 2nd & 4th Monday