Cafe Matsuontoko (Nishiki Market, Kyoto) – ★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★ – So-so.
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Location: Within Nishiki Market, Kyoto
  • Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00-22:00
  • Price: $$ – Moderate (typical entrée about ¥900)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Recommendation: Burger Lunch Set (¥950), Fried Yatsuhashi with Ice Cream (¥630

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About and Directions:

Cafe Matsuontoko is a bar and restaurant located in the heart of Nishiki Market (near the Gion District) in Kyoto, Japan. This location makes it ideal for sightseers exploring the area.  They specialize in fast food, including burgers, pizzas, cakes & ice creams. They also serve wine & cocktails, and are open much later than a typical cafe.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 538-6  Shijo Agaru Shinkyougoku-Dori, Nakano-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
  • Japanese Address: 〒604-8042 京都市中京区新京極通四条上ル中之町538-6
  • Train Access: Near Kawaramachi Station
  • Phone Number: 075-251-1876

Google Map:

Cafe Matsuontoko also has a map on their website.

Written Directions:

Cafe Matsuontoko a bit hard to find, as it’s located on a side-street. If you start on Shijo Dori, coming from the Gion District, take a right into Nishiki Market.  If you hit Teramachi Dori, you’ve gone just bit too far.   As you walk up Nishiki Market, look for the following intersection:

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 Then take a right!  And you should arrive at Cafe Matsuontoko:

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 Food Review:

I was pretty disappointed by Cafe Matsuontoko. It had good reviews on Happy Cow,  so I was excited to check it out, after having such good experiences at Vegans Cafe and Cafe Proverbs.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to expectations.

The first time I went, I ordered the Vegan Burger Set (¥850) and the Chocolate Cake (sorry, I can’t recall the price).  Cafe Matsuontoko’s specialty is vegan burgers, and it offers a fairly wide selection, including an Avocado Burger, a Teriyaki Fried Soymeat Burger, the Kyoto Veggie Grilled Burger,  and more. The burger set included their standard “Vegan Burger,” as well as fries, a side salad, and a drink. Not a bad deal for the money. The vegan burger was decent.   The burger itself was small (as is typical in Japan) and kind of dry, but the sauce they used was good and helped to moisten it.  Worth trying, but not the best vegan burger I’ve had by a long shot.

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The Chocolate Cake was also super dry, but it came with a vegan creme topping, green tea ice cream and chocolate sauce so I was able to moisten it up.  The ice cream was quite good, and the whipped topping was AMAZING.  Overall, it was a pretty good dessert.  I wouldn’t necessarily go well out of my way for it, but it was a nice end to the meal.

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Overall, it was pretty good, but after eating so well at my other restaurant visits, I thought maybe I might have just ordered the wrong things.  So, the next day I returned to try some new items.  Unfortunately it made my impression of the restaurant go from “pretty good” to “meh.”  I ordered the Vegan Pizza with vegan cheese, which came in at about ¥1200.  I wasn’t impressed.  The crust was incredibly thin (really more of a cracker than traditional pizza crust), and the “vegan cheese” wasn’t evenly laid out or even completely melted.  While some of it had melted, there were numerous thumb-sized chunks of unmelted cheese placed unevenly across the pizza.  The cheese itself was good, but I didn’t like that I kept getting surprise, half-melted chunky mouthfuls of it.  I ended up pulling a lot of the “chunks” off, which seems a shame since I paid an extra ¥500 just for the vegan cheese.  I would have asked them to cook it more if I hadn’t been in such a rush. So, yeah, the pizza was a disappointment.  If you like ultra-thin pizza you might enjoy it, but otherwise, I’d stick with the burgers.

Without Flash:

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With Flash:

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Next, I got the Fried Yatsuhashi with Ice Cream (¥630).  This ended up being my favorite dish from Cafe Matsuontoko, by far.  Yatsuhashi is traditional Japanese sweet, made of triangular bits of mocha stuffed with sweet beans.  Kyoto is famous for it, and it comes in various flavors.  The one used for this seemed to be a sort of cinnamon-spice flavoring, and that combined with the deep-fried crispy outer layer and the rum raisin ice cream made for an amazing treat.  I would go again just for that.

No flash:

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With Flash:

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Overal, it was so-so.  It wasn’t horrible – I would still go again if I were in Kyoto for a long period of time.  But if you’re only there for a few days, I really don’t think it’s a restaurant that you absolutely have to go to.  There are just better options in the area.  If you do go, though, I highly recommend the Fried Yatsuhashi & Ice Cream, and the burgers set is good and a pretty decent value.

Atmosphere & Service:

I really enjoyed the atmosphere in Cafe Matsuontoko.  It’s a small restaurant but is layer out so there’s some space between the tables and doesn’t feel too crowded.  There’s a little bar at the front, a lot of wood, so that it feels sort of like a pub with a restaurant attached.  The staff are friendly and fairly attentive, and the wait wasn’t too long (except for the pizza, but I imagine that was due to cooking time).

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Okay, that’s all for Cafe Matsuontoko!  Thanks for reading!

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One thought on “Cafe Matsuontoko (Nishiki Market, Kyoto) – ★★

  1. Pingback: Cafe Matsuontoko @ 538-6 Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi | Vegetus. A way of life.

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