Not even a year after closing to my delight, the former owner of eskapi + Luno was back in business as of mid-March of this year in a different location, with a different name and a different but no-less charming style: ひのとhinoto is a small treasure of a café tucked away in a quiet residential area in Kyoto and can only be found following personal directions from the owner which means one has to be her friend, acquaintance, former customer or be invited with any of the former to have the honor of visiting.
Unfortunately, circumstances kept me away 😢 but in August I contacted Eriko-san about visiting and she gave me days and hours that she would open the café (Eriko-san has another job as well as involved in various activities). Boy did I think about who I could take for the first visit although it’s definitely okay to go alone; since hinoto accommodates at most three reservations a day, I figured the more customers (up to four in a party) the better for Eriko-san. Finally, I invited Ijiri-sensei because I could get an immediate response from her; of course she was excited about going to such an exclusive café and agreed without hesitation. I made reservations for two for the last day of August from 2:00pm (she was open from 2:00-6:00pm that day).
With me leading the way since I’m more familiar with Kyoto, we got lost only a bit before coming upon the café which looked as normal as any of the houses around it. However, when Eriko-san opened the door and led us inside, it was clear that the inside was NOT ordinary AT ALL.
Just like eskapi + Luno, hinoto is an ideal escape from reality with a theme the perfect balance of antique, natural and exotic. Although I could point out some decor from eskapi + Luno (the most apparent being the light fixture by the entrance in the picture below and a sign in the restroom), there are so much that were new to me. Eriko-san has a good sense for finding treasures, especially anything dealing with birds which is her favorite theme.
the entrance area where Riri, Eriko-san’s pet 文鳥buncho (Japanese sparrow) greets guests
the biggest table in the place, often used when Eriko-san hosts special theme parties
the lovely area under the stairs…although there is a second floor, the café comprises only of the first floor.
the view of the kitchen area from the front…Eriko-san made the shelves and racks herself!
the two-seater table (the table part of an antique sewing machine!) by the kitchen in a private corner where Ijiri-sensei and I ended up sitting
Needless to say, we took our time taking pictures and checking out the place before and after placing our orders…I’m just going to have to check everything out little by little from now on.☺
The menu consists of a few cakes and several drinks; although I liked the expansive menu at eskapi + Luno, hinoto’s smaller menu made for easy decisions considering I know that whatever Eriko-san serves is going to be delicious and satisfying. Ijiri-sensei and I shared the チーズケーキcheesecake, ￥650, and the スパイスケーキspice cake, ￥600. The cheesecake, topped with fig, was made of blue cheese and perfect for those craving something salty and sweet at the same time; the cute-shaped spice cake was richly spicy and an irresistible texture similar to my kind of financier. I had the milder hinoto blend coffee, ￥550 (closer in the picture below), while Ijiri-sensei chose the dark-roast eskapi blend, ￥550.
Not too long after we got our order, another party of two young women arrived, so Eriko-san was busy tending to them. However, halfway through our stay she presented us with these adorable financier on a unique slab-of-wood plate!
We only stayed about an hour before we had to go to a friend’s art exhibition in the center of town but I felt like I could have stayed forever. If I had stayed another hour, I would have gotten another drink…it states on the menu in Japanese that for anyone who stays a while, he may be expected to pay ￥500/hr. in the case that they don’t make another order. Highly understandable since only reservations are up to three parties a day.
I made a reservation just for myself a week later…to my dismay, though, it turned out to be a wet day and since we were in the middle of typhoon season, I was worried about the trains being stopped for one reason or another…but a promise is a promise, so I made it in, luckily without the anticipated rain.
With the hours being the same as the last time I went, I got there by 2:00pm again so that I could get some quality time in there. The 塩shio (salty) and プレーンplain scones that Eriko-san had posted on Instagram were available for take-out at ￥250 each on a table by the entrance to the kitchen. I took no time asking for two shio and one plain for the road to be paid for when I left.☺
I couldn’t resist getting the spice cake again, this time with ハーブティーherbal tea, ￥700. One can customize their own herbal tea or Eriko-san can suggest one; I asked for one to help with fatigue and she served me one a mixture of ルイボスrooibos, レモングラスlemongrass, スピアミントspearmint and カモミールchamomile. With all the spice and herbs as well as some alone time, I definitely got my relaxation.
Another party of two young women arrived after I was served. After being served they were interested in playing with Riri, so Eriko-san let him out of his cage; during this time at one point, Riri came and alighted on my head at which Eriko-san came to fetch him.☺
When I asked Eriko-san details about the scones, she presented me with one of each warmed up and with a side of homemade plum jam so that I could see for myself! Since I was finished with my herbal tea, I ordered the チャイchai, ￥700, which came in a generous portion and like the chai at eskapi + Luno, it was more richly spicy and delicious than most one may have. When the other party left, I invited Eriko-san to sit with me and we caught up over the months that we hadn’t seen each other. As I was leaving, since there wouldn’t be any more guests that day, she gave me a few more scones and added the plum jam to my goodies to go!☺
Although I hadn’t talked to my long-term friend from study abroad in Lyon, Yukico, who would be in town for the day from 愛知県Aichi-ken, I reserved a place for us at the 2:00-4:00pm September event, お月見のお茶会O-tsukimi no Ocha-kai (Moon-Viewing Party), a week later (luckily she was okay with it) with a participation fee of ￥2000. No surprise that we were the first ones to show up again but we were followed soon after by Eriko-san’s friends, the charming and boisterous Mariko-san, the adorable and energetic Hiromi-san and the sexy and sweet Hagi-san who all knew each other from the eskapi days.
This is the presentation that we walked upon and you can bet that there were a lot of “oohs” and “ahhs” for a while, not to mention picture-taking.☺ The menu included: green-tea mont blancs topped with cream, black beans and a full-moon cookie (these cookies were packaged and sold for ￥100 that day), rabbit 大福daifuku with a whole grape inside, tofu-based brownie with a slice of sweet potato (this was also a representation of the full moon) and お月見団子o-tsukimi dango snowball cookies. The drink options were coffee or tea (of course I had to have the coffee).
We started the party on time although one guest was still on the way; she had gotten lost and Eriko-san went to find her only for the lost guest, the shy and kind Megumi-san, to arrive alone…one of the girls called Eriko-san back and we officially started the party. Luckily everyone was super friendly and we all were getting on like we’d been friends forever…most importantly, this group likes good eats! So, this confirms that eskapi regulars and Eriko-san’s friends are all nice people.☺
When Maki expressed an interest in going to hinoto (she’s been to eskapi before, too, including once with me), I got us a reservation for the first day of October; we were actually the only guests that day. Maki and I both had the さつまいもタタンsweet-potato Tatin, ￥500; for drinks I ordered the カフェオレcafé au lait (to the right in the picture below), ￥600, and Maki opted for the chai.
I couldn’t resist indulging in a simple spice マフィンmuffin, ￥150, available for take-out and in a chocolate flavor as well (Maki and I both got some to go).
Maki likes birds, too, and was interested in playing with Riri…here’s Riri looking at a picture of himself taken by Maki’s iPhone.
It’s hard to get him being still when he’s so excited at guests being around; he alighted on both our heads many times and he even relieved himself on Maki.😅
I can’t express how happy that Eriko-san’s made another charming environment where I can enjoy her extraordinary baking and her soothing elixirs; I shall be back.☺
Facebook page: https://ja-jp.facebook.com/hinoto.kyoto/