First established in Tokyo, Chocolat Bel Amer has now opened a boutique in a gorgeous traditional machiya (town house) fronted by a Japanese maple tree. In a rather bold move, it is directly opposite Inoda, an institution among Kyoto's cafes. What connects both these places — besides the street — is an extreme earnestness.

The cafe, or "Chocolat Bar," as it's called in Bel Amer parlance, is on the second floor. But getting to the small flight of stairs that takes you there might take a while — the shop on the ground floor has hundreds of varieties of chocolates, madeleines, biscuits and cakes to distract you. Some of the flavors are bewitching (or baffling), including curry-and-rice flavored chocolate biscuits.

On a recent visit, I headed upstairs and treated myself to the Special Dessert (¥1,620, including tax), an artfully arranged mille-feuille. While I waited, a middle-aged couple across from me dined on an afternoon tea set (¥5,400) that involved a three-tiered silver tray that would have been at home in Buckingham Palace.

However, it was my Special Dessert that turned heads. After this tower of pastry, fruit and cream arrived, a cook from the kitchen proceeded to make strawberry ice-cream in front of me — an elaborate process that seemed to involve dry ice and wizardry. It is a sweet, over-the-top treat that is definitely worth it.