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Minamoto Kitchoan (Japanese sweets), SF - anything worth trying?

  • hhc Aug 31, 2009 06:50 PM
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I just found out about this place from Yelp. Minamoto Kitchoan - Japanese sweets. Anything worth trying. Read they are expensive.

Minamoto Kitchoan
648 Market Street (Near Montgomery St Bart)
San Francisco, CA 94104

This might be the website:
http://www.kitchoan.com/

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  1. I tried two jellies last week:

    loquat (seasonal, $4): quite good, a very soft jelly wrapped around a piece of loquat. This reminded me lychee jellies, but of course at over ten times the price and admittedly softer and tastier. I don't know that it was worth the price tag to me.

    yuzu ($2.50): intense yuzu flavor, a little like lemongrass as well. I'm not sure how to describe the texture. It was much firmer than jello, with a grainy quality that makes me think there was mung bean paste in it (like some mochi fillings).

    One thing I did not like: their products are very sugary, on par with supermarket Japanese treats like Lotte or Meiji brand candies. But those brands are very popular, so I'm in the minority here.

    Beautiful packaging, nice staff, good products, but I don't know that I'll be going again at those prices. That's not a knock against them, it's just sort of like how I love specialty chocolate shops but don't usually want to pay $2.50 for a confection.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      Do they make the wagashi on site or are they shipped out from somewhere (like how Kissako Tea sources theirs from Southern California?)

      1. re: K K

        They are shipped from Japan. The loquat one was double vacuum packed, the other was not. That was another thing I found disappointing; the high prices pay for shipping, not for paying a skilled artisan.

        I just checked the ingredients: first ingredient is granulated sugar, which explains the temporary toothache.

        They had an $11 jelly (!) flavored with white peaches. I was almost tempted. If anyone has tried and loved it, please do post. It was gorgeously constructed to look like a fresh white peach nestled in paper.

      2. re: Pei

        the sweetness of the jellies is in counterpoint to the bitter of matcha - tea ceremony is meditation and the experience of mindfullness and its beauty

      3. Outside of the brand, is this stuff different from what they sell at Benkyodo or Nippon-Ya in Japantown?

        No place record for Nippon-Ya: http://stores.shopnipponya.com/-strse...

        -----
        Benkyodo
        1747 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I unfortunately did not try a mochi at Minamoto, and I've never had a non-mochi at Benkyodo, so I can't offer side by side comparisons.

          But from appearances, they do seem to sell similar products. Minamoto's is the Godiva, Benkyodo is the See's.

          Neither of the things I tasted at Minamoto was revelatory. They were nice, but not new despite the big buzz about a wagashi specialty store finally hitting the Bay Area. I've never been to tea in Japan, and even to me the treats did not taste novel. I've mentally lumped them into the category of overly sugary Asian treats that I grew up with and decided I don't like.

        2. I was disappointed that at least one of their sweets contains margarine--I checked the label. In this day and age, it surprises me that hydrogenated fats are used at all, especially a new place that targets an affluent demographic. I've placed a couple of pictures here:

          http://thesluicebox.blogspot.com/2009...

          6 Replies
          1. re: DandySF

            Same goes for Beard Papa. Maybe the Japanese just don't care yet.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              It is much like here--some people care, some people don't. In addition, Minamoto Kichoan is trying to open up stores overseas with goods made in Japan. They are therefore much more likely to be using hydrogenated fats and chemical preservatives to keep their stuff beautiful and "fresh." I've been to several stores (no one on staff looks like they've ever made mochi in their life) and the stuff often looks much better than it tastes, unfortunately.

              Benkyodo is actually closer in flavor and spirit to the little mom and pop mochi shops I love in kyoto. They make a batch of goodies every morning with no preservatives, and you pretty much have to eat day of or else it will get stale. The fact that their strawberry mochi are seasonal, is very Japanese.

              1. re: sfbing

                Well said. On top of that Benkyodo is like the last of the breed that not just makes it the old school way, but entirely by hand (and as you've said, no preservatives, I'm sure the makers are all strongarm Thor hammering types), even though the final product does not look pretty enough to be in some high end department store / shop. The fact that many SF Japanese tourists get bus'd over to Benkyodo to bring boxes back to Japan near New Year's is a telling tale.

                1. re: K K

                  Agreed. And because Minamoto has only been opened for a week, there are still a few kinks they have to work out. For instance, I got their gomadango (mochi filled with red bean paste and covered with a generous portion of black sesame), and the mochi itself was tougher and more chewy than usual, which probably means they need more time to clear out some stale inventory before you'll get fresher ones. I do like this store though and usually load up on a few items whenever I'm in NYC etc.

                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                    I don't follow how being open for only a week would mean that they need time to clear out stale inventory.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      For instance, they might have stocked up early in anticipation of opening back in July, but due to certain delays they ended up opening in August and as a result, what they're now selling is still before the expiration date but not nearly as fresh as they had planned.

          2. I got a few things:

            Fukuwatashi Senbei $2.50- a small thick waffle-like cookie w/ some white sweet cream sandwiched between another waffle-like cookie. I liked it though it's made w/ margarine!

            Saisaika $4 (loquat jelly) - seasonal item - like a goopy jello w/ a loquat in it. Not very tasty & too slippery to eat - skip it!

            Kazekaoru (bean cake) - seasonal item $3 - cake like w/ mochi & red beans inside a bit sweet.

            I should have gotten the "rabbit cakes" seasonal item - though only 10 in a box for $20 was spendy but so cute!

            They can wrap your gifts, I don't know if it's extra - didn't this time.

            Credit cards taken.

            Hrs:
            9:30a-7p Daily

            They have other stores in NY, London, Singapore.

            Website:
            http://www.kitchoan.com/

            Ph:
            415-989-1645

            My pics:
            http://picasaweb.google.com/hiketoomu...

            1 Reply
            1. re: hhc

              I like buying inexpensive but pretty treats as birthday presents for friends from here. Personally, I find the taste of the goodies to be reliably stale though. It's all about the looks. They also sell relatively decent green tea, or at least the Costa Mesa location does.

            2. I finally went today after having to walk by it the last few days on my rush home.

              I bought Tokoyo, Usagi & the 3 jellies they had near the front, one of which was the Yuzu mentioned. I liked the other two better actually, I think one had red bean paste involved & the other had apple/plum. I surprised myself w/the red bean. My sister is usually the best fan of that stuff but the taste was the best I've had so far. I don't mean the red bean by itself but the combination of the fruit & red bean was very palatable to me. I'm typically one for fruit first but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. I had to have Usagi as soon as I saw it. I predict my nephews will soon have some as well. Taste was top-notch. The Tokoro as well was good. Sugary but that's really part of the intention when you cook something in liquid sugar...^.o

              I will definitely be trying the Hakuto & Tsuya (nice taiyaki) sometime in the future.

              $$$? You bet. Then again Japanese items, especially delicacies, are always very expensive. Despite this though, I was basically pleased with everything I had. It should be noted that you've got to K.I.M. that this is all wagashi & wholly designed to enhance the "tea experience." You've got to be a bit bent towards the stuff in the first place. Taken on their own/non-contextually, you're definitely missing out on some of the point. I was @ work & didn't have time to have it with tea but luckily I'm kinda crazy about jelly items & some of these confections in the first place, so I thoroughly enjoyed them.

              No, I certainly don't intend to drop by the shop on anywhere near a daily basis, though I may drop in once in a while for a jelly (what was name of the 2 I liked?! @#).

              I'll post about the Hakuto when that happens, perhaps next payday.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DinoTheOriginal

                ...I just opened up my box for another bite of Usagi. There are only 7/box (abt. $2.85ea)!

              2. To add to the benkyodo vs minamoto discussion:

                I have loved Benkyodo for years. It's made right there, and has a real homey just-made feel.

                Minamoto is definitely more refined, prettier and more delicate looking, pretty pre-made packaging as well. And much more expensive.

                If pressed, I would say I prefer Benkyodo but they are really different things.
                For the things that they both make,
                As Pei said, Minamoto is Godiva to Benkyodo being See's.
                Or perhaps Tokyo vs Kyoto, or city versus county, or modern versus rustic....
                I'd get Minamoto for my boss , Benkyodo for my sweetheart.
                :-)

                But Minamoto also carries some things you don't find at Benkyodo, specifically all those jellied things which I really love.
                So actually if buying for my sweetheard I might have to stop at both.
                :-)

                -----
                Benkyodo
                1747 Buchanan St, San Francisco, CA