I started my year of reviews in Nishioji, a suburb west of Kyoto Station, which might not stand out but for a few notable cafes. One of these is Hagi and another is Mina_Mina, where owner and baker Jiro Yamaguchi transformed an old home into a cozy cafe and bakery. The bakery is located to the back of the building, beside a narrow and minimally decorated Japanese garden.
As well as being a small cafe, it’s a small operation; by the time lunch has finished, choosing becomes much easier because nearly everything is sold out, so be warned.
There’s more savory than sweet on offer; Yamaguchi makes a nice range of seasonal bagels — cranberry, sweet potato, apple and cinnamon — complemented by a mini bagel burger. I have developed an addiction to the karepan (curry bun) — the filling is made delicious with the addition of potato. But it’s the thyme-encrusted shell that sets it apart from other curry buns. The range of bread is decent: white loaves, baguettes, black sesame loaves, grape loaves and sweet pea bread.
As of last month, every Tuesday, a soup seller comes by. In this weather, he’s as welcome as the old-fashioned wood-burning stove that Yamaguchi tops up throughout the day. If you have a sweet tooth, try the rusk or the almond cookies. Mina_Mina is a great little spot — just be sure to get there early.