Monday, October 13, 2008

Cream Cheese Kinton

Day eighty-four: Cream cheese Kinton

R-style by
Ryoguchiya-Korekiyo / 両口屋是清,¥500

A stylish cafe in the eaves of the cutting-edge Omotesando Hills shopping center, R-Style is what is sometimes called a wa-kissa, an etymological mash-up of wa, "Eastern" or "Japanese", and kissaten, "coffee shop". Offering
traditional sweets with a modern flair”, the cafe is an offshoot of 370-year-old wagashi maker Ryoguchiya. The menu's hybrid temptations include modernized monaka, a warabi "fondue", and "juices" made of Japanese herbs and kanten jelly.

I chose the cream cheese kinton, a sweet more typically prepared with chestnut or sweet potato. Although the Japanese came late to cheese making and appreciation, this was no anemic Philly spread; the haystack of sieved cream cheese was tart, thick, slightly sweet and aggressively rich, coating my tongue like the worst cold on record. I was starting to feel a little panicky when suddenly a sliver of the koshian (smooth red bean paste) filling cut through the fat like a razor. Unable to taste the koshian, I became attuned to to interplay of the different textures, to the different sensations as the cheese or the paste gave way between my teeth or melted on my tongue. Finally, to clear my head, I ate the garnish, a tiny chrysanthemum leaf cut from
yuzu or sudachi zest--much to the amusement of the middle-aged fashion plates at the next table.

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