Gion Kinana basically combines everything that makes a good foodie and cultural experience in a marvelous way. A dessert parlour housed in a machiya (townhouse), hidden amongst the historical geisha district of Gion in the heart of Kyoto. Glen and I stopped by here to recharge amidst a busy day’s itinerary of hanami…which is actually a lot harder than it sounds, pondering about the fragility of life while simultaneously taking many pictures of full sakura blooms and attempting not to block the rather congested pedestrian pathways. I kid. It was a hot day, and when is ice cream never welcome?
Getting to the shop is an odyssey in itself, sitting on the smallest of small lanes in the haphazardly planned neighbourhood. The walk there is charming though, and entering the machiya feels a little like getting in on someone else’s secret – it’s identifiable only by the words 祇園きなな calligraphed beautifully onto linen curtains hung at the entrance. Or by the unobtrusive sign perched just beyond eye level. The first floor is for takeaways, and the second is a tearoom outfitted with a sleek and modern Japanese aesthetic.
Glen got the berry parfait: yogurt heaped with berry compote and two scoops of the day’s flavours, mochi balls, frozen raspberries and a yatsuhashi (八つ橋) stick, a cinnamon-like sweet biscuit that is one of Kyoto’s 名物, or famous products. It’s just as good as it looks – creamy and rich matcha and sesame flavours dance on your tastebuds, and when those run out, the slightly sweet and sour tang of the berry compote harmonizing well with yogurt.
I got the signature kinako ice cream, and it is honestly one of the best ice creams I have had (and I have had a lot). Incredibly smooth, with the flavour of roasted soy beans coming right through. I love that it never feels heavy, like some ice creams can, and two scoops truly isn’t enough. Neither is it overly sweet like some wagashi can be, and goes wonderfully with the accompanying pot of houjicha. I clearly can’t say enough good things about this.
Kyoto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Gion-machi Minami-gawa 570-119
Note: It opens around 11am and the last order is at 630pm. Also, if you want to dine in, it’s a must for each person to order something. Completely worth it though! I say get all the parfaits (especially if they have seasonal specials) and have a feast.