Wanting a light meal, but somewhere more upmarket than a small booth at a 1970’s kissaten? The Iyemon Salon Café is a tea house with a sense of occasion. While better known for its specialist teas, they also serve an eclectic mix of International, Japanese and Asian meals. Some are great for sharing, like their plate of shrimp dumplings and salads, while others suitable for single diners. The shrimp dumplings were the standout for me, being succulent, tasty and with the pastry having just the right amount of give. While not filled with juices like their Shanghai counterparts, they are bathed with a mild stock and dressed with shallots, making it too tempting to stop at just one. They also had Vietnamese rice paper wraps, which while lacking the tang of a Hanoi market, was pleasant and the ingredients sourced were fresh and of high quality
This eatery’s warm wood décor and long smooth dark floorboards give a calm atmosphere reminiscent of a machiya, the traditional Kyoto merchant’s house, albeit in a much wider space. The burnished copper exterior with its floor to ceiling windows and modern minimalist lamps give it a contemporary and chic atmosphere.
If the weather is pleasant, sit outside on the wooden deck and watch Kyoto come to life on this side street near Karasuma Oike Subway Station and the Monterey Hotel. There is some road noise and traffic during the day, but the morning and evenings outside winter is an ideal time to relax and people watch, with a number of classic early twentieth century commercial buildings in the background.
Befitting the atmosphere, the local and tourist crowds here are equally chic, but without any airs of snobbery. The tables are fairly well spaced. Even with a full house, you don’t have to shout to make yourself heard. They even have Wi-Fi as well as power outlets should you need to charge your phone or camera after a big day out.
They also have a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with a good sample of different varieties, but not so much to overwhelm you. Their creativity with green tea shines through, with green tea beer, shochu liquor and cocktails. .
In the mornings they serve breakfast from 8 am, and while you can have western style sandwiches, it is their Japanese breakfast set with rice, fish and miso soup that is a standout from 1500 yen. In the afternoons and evenings the Japanese dessert platter with adzuki red bean mochi rice cakes is plump and filling, perfectly matched with some of the best tea in Kyoto.
Iyemon Salon café is just 3 minutes’ walk from exit 6 of Karasuma Oike subway station, where the 2 subway lines of Kyoto meet up.