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Elk: Who doesn’t eat soup with their pancakes?

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Here’s an odd couple: soup and pancakes. But this is how Elk, a small but expanding chain of cafes, advertises itself. The day I ate at Elk the pancake crowd was definitely in the ascendancy; there were a few soup eaters like myself, but we were in the minority. And speaking of minorities, men were so thin on the ground that when another guy came in I thought about sidling over and hanging out with him, but he had his girlfriend with him for that.

Anyway, how do soup and pancakes get along? The answer is surprisingly well. I say surprising, because I often make and eat these two, but never have I sat down and eaten them together. The soup of the day was seafood chowder, sweet and creamy but without any noticeable bits of seafood. It came with salad, mostly greens, and three silver-dollar-style pancakes, each featuring an Elk stamp — just in case you forgot where you were, I presume. There was a wee bit of waiting time as it was the weekend, but these fluffy pancakes were slices of heaven. And while I waited I gazed at the colorful pancake creations the other customers finally got round to devouring after taking the obligatory 300 smartphone photos.

My only quibble: Maple syrup costs extra, and who wants to eat pancakes without syrup? It’s like eating soup without … pancakes.

595-5 Uradera-cho, Chukyo-ku, Kyoto; 075-212-8221; www.cafe-elk.com; open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; nearest station Kawaramachi; no smoking; lunch around ¥1,000; English menu; some English spoken. Also other branches in Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya.