We didn’t exactly plan on indulging in desserts in Japan. Considering how I never stopped raving about mochi since the 2018 trip, we were practically on a mochi hunt during the 2019 trip. But, everytime we had coffee or tea (and we’re coffee and tea people in the family), there was always a parade of cakes and pastries and we ended up ordering more sweets than hot drinks.
It began on the night we flew in. It was late. Restaurants were closed and we had to content ourselves with food from the convenience store — which was far from mediocre, by the way. In addition to the bento box meals, we bought bags and bags of sweets. Too bad we didn’t think about taking photos because they were so good we just enjoyed them.
The next day, our first full day in Kyoto, we went to Kyoto Station to check out Kyoto Ramen Street on the 10th floor. After lunch, we walked around, found a cafe and went in. Now, which cafe that was, I can’t recall. I remember that “UCC” was in the signage so it could have been UCC Cafe Mercado.
Days later, after the Torii Gates experience at Fushimi Inari, we were looking for the best spot to get a Grab taxi when we passed by a cafe. Komeda’s Coffee. Ice cream. They served ice cream and the girls wanted to go in.
Alex chose the house specialty called Shiro-noir — warm Danish topped with soft ice cream and drizzled with syrup.
I had chestnut cake which was pretty good. Sam had soft serve ice cream in a cone. For Speedy, it was a chocolate and strawberry cake.
In Osaka, I wanted to bring them to the place at Namba Park that I discovered a year earlier. I ordered the same thing I had a year ago — matcha ice cream and warabimochi covered in kinako (sweet toasted soybean flour). Speedy ordered strawberry shave ice, Sam had mochi with ice cream and, for Alex, pure milk shave ice with mochi.
Speedy declared that Taiwanese shave ice is better than the Japanese version. I can’t say I disgaree.
But the best cakes and pastries we had during the trip was in a place that wasn’t even in my radar. We just had lunch and we were looking for Hozenji Temple which, according to Google maps, was on a narrow street near Dotonbori.
Well, to be more accurate, it was the street, Hozenji Yokocho, that we were looking for and Hozenji Temple was the landmark. The street, I had read, gives a glimpse of what Osaka looked like hundreds of years ago. An old street with quaint shops and restaurants.
Who wouldn’t want to capture an atmosphere like that in photos? We tried to do that in Gion but it was late, there weren’t enough street lights to take good photos although, the way she lagged behind so often, I think that Sam managed to do so somehow.
To make a long story short, we never found Hozenji Temple. Walking along a stone-paved street (I’m not even sure we were in Hozenji Yokocho), we passed by a shop selling tea and Alex, the tea addict, wanted to go in. Salon de the Alcyon.
While Alex was checking out the tea for sale, I was already fixated on the cakes and pastries. I suggested an early afternoon tea.
We climbed up to the second floor where the tea house was. Unlike traditional Japanese tea houses, Salon de the Alcyon had a very European feel.
It was dizzying how many tea flavors there were. In addition to the usual white, green or black, each tea variety came in an array of flavors. Floral, fruity, herby… The teacups and the fact that sugar was served on the side was reminiscent of English tea. The cakes, meanwhile, were very much French in influence.
There are very few places where everything is perfect. The food, the drinks, the service, the ambience. Salon de The Alcyon has it all.