A friend from school had told me about this cafe in Gion that serves matcha (green tea) chocolate fondue, so we went there before lunch last week. I’ve been living in Kyoto for 3 years, but I rarely go out for Kyoto delicacies. I love anything matcha, so I was really excited about it. The Jouvencelle Kyoto-style cake café shop is located at Gion near the Yasaka shrine. We walked there from the Kawaramachi Hankyu station. It was a Saturday afternoon and the streets were filled with tourists, local and foreign.
According to my friend, the café is famous amongst youths in the area, and has received great ratings on food review sites and blogs. Other than matcha chocolate fondue, they serve traditional sweets and cake as well. The matcha chocolate fondue is the most popular item on the menu, such that on a public holiday, the matcha chocolate fondue would usually get sold out before 2pm. We took note of that and decided to eat the fondue first before lunch. The café opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6p.m.
My friend and I arrived at the café around 11.30 a.m., but the store was already full with customers. About 5 groups of people were waiting to be seated. We waited about 30 minutes before we were shown seats by the veranda, where you get a view of the streets through the window. The shop is on the 2nd floor so there was a clear view of tourists and rickshaw pullers bustling about. You could even see temples in the distance. Both of us ordered for the matcha chocolate fondue without much hesitation, and when the food came, I couldn’t hide my delight. The matcha chocolate fondue set consists of various fruits and traditional sweets in a porcelain juubako (a two tier food box) and a cup of matcha chocolate fondue to dip in. The fondue is not hot fondue, so you can be rest assured to not burn your tongue.
There were traditional sweets and cake on the top tier, and fruits and kanten jelly on the bottom tier. It looks too beautiful to eat. Before we dug in I took some pictures to show to my family back home and to post to my Instagram. They have dango, mochi, milk and matcha pound cake and sweet chestnuts for the sweets and banana, orange and strawberry for the fruits.
My friend tried her best to explain to me about some of the traditional sweets, and being the foreigner that I am, I was not shy to ask her questions. I learned that the flavour of mochi sweets served in Japan changes by the month. For example, for the month that we came, which was May, the flavour of the month is Kashiwa leaf. The reason is that Boys’ Day (子供の日) is celebrated on May 5th and children eat Kashiwa mochi during that celebration. I also learned that in Sakura mochi, sakura petals are not used as an ingredient, the leaves are used instead.
Without further ado, I tried dipped a piece of banana into the fondue and had my first bite. It was heavenly. The fondue didn’t taste too sweet and had just the right pinch of bitter that I like in matcha. In my heart, I felt very grateful for the creation of matcha chocolate fondue. It is the perfect combination of traditional and modern sweets. We spent about an hour talking while eating the sweets and fruits dipped in fondue. My favourite sweet to go with the fondue was the sweet chestnut. I love the combination of the sweet taste of the chestnut with the bitterness of matcha. It felt almost regretful to finish the food.
However, the meal does not end there. Once you finish the food, the waiter would offer you warm milk to pour into the left over matcha chocolate fondue so that you can enjoy the rest of the fondue as matcha milk. I took special care to stir all the leftover fondue into the milk. The milk was warm and delicious. It was a great finish to a fantastic sweets meal. I absolutely recommend this meal to anyone who loves matcha or Japanese traditional sweets. The food is pleasing to the eye, and satisfies my sweet tooth. The price is not too unreasonable too.
If you ever find yourself planning for a trip to Gion near Yasaka shrine, please consider squeezing in a sweets retreat at the Jouvencelle café. The matcha chocolate fondue is my best and only recommendation! I had a very good time learning and eating traditional Japanese Kyoto sweets. I’m looking forward to another experience like this again in the future.
(Kyoto City, Higashiyama-ku, Yasaka Torii Mae Minami iri Kiyoi-cho 482 Kyoban Biru 2F)
The shop is near Yasaka Shrine's south exit, about 5 minutes walking distance and you can find more information at the official website.