Le Sputnik

Tokyo is a great city for fine dining. It is the most Michelin starred city in the world and always dominates Asia’s top 50 best restaurants. That said, sometimes finding a great fine dining restaurant experience in Tokyo can be completely bamboozling. The sheer number of restaurants can be somewhat overwhelming. Then there’s always the holiday budget to take into account. Is it really worth it to blow the price of the plane ticket on a single meal when there’s also so many cozy local places to eat at and shopping still left to do? Not to mention all those bastions of Japanese cuisine that seem impossible to reserve a table at unless you are located in Japanese and speak fluent Japanese.

So I came up with a simple two-step process to take away some of the stress.
1. Online bookings: Japanese of English, it’s pretty easy to figure out most online bookings systems. I preferred booking through the restaurant’s website directly. I’m not that fond of third party websites like pocket concierge that charge a premium for English language bookings.
2. Lunch specials: Many fine dining restaurants offer a cheaper lunch course. Rather than splashing out for just one expensive dinner, I love being able to sample a few different shortened tasting menus for the same price.

Le Sputnik ticked both of these boxes perfectly. I was drawn in by the amazing rose dish splashed across the restaurant’s website and also the painless booking. I’m not completely sure how I came across this website, but I have the vague recollection of browsing a few Eater and Japan Times articles before coming upon Le Sputnik and being intrigued.

To start we actually had a glass of celebratory champagne. What were we celebrating? Being in Japan and eating well I guess!

le sputnik tokyo

Cured fish atop a very zen garden-esque rock was a light little nibble to kick start things. I think Melbourne has spoilt me for fresh sashimi style dishes, because as good as this was I found myself missing the acidic tang of some my favourite cured kingfish dishes back home.

le sputnik bread

Baguette from Maison Kayser with a salted butter. This is as close as it gets to an authentic French baguette in Tokyo. Instead of the usual light fluffy bread, this had the crunch and chew that most Europeans look for in a good loaf.

le sputnik gobo

Deep fried smelt atop deep-fried gobo (burdock). The entirety of this was edible, but we were advised not to devour the whole thing as there was still plenty more food coming. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the earthy taste of gobo but this dish just didn’t do it for me. It was fried with a light touch, crispy and not at all greasy but I wasn’t all that into the flavour.

le sputnik fish

Saba with blue cheese sauce and fig. This arrived in a dome, with billows of smoke swirling around inside. It was unveiled theatrically and we were left with something as pretty as a picture. Saba is a fish with a very strong and distinct flavour profile so it was a bit of a shock with the similarly strong fig and blue cheese sauce. However, I soon came around to it.

le sputnik espresso

Foie Gras with orange and espresso jelly. Now, this is really where the meal came into its own. Soft fatty seared foie gras is always a pleasure to eat. The addition of slightly bitter coffee and sweet citrus fruit cut through the fat, to make this incredibly moreish and just rich enough to keep going back for another bite without feeling overwhelmed. The soft jelly seemed to melt into the foie gras whereas the crumble provided some welcome textural contrast.

le sputnik mushroom

Buckwheat crepe with poached egg, mushroom ice cream and a sprinkle of truffle. My face immediately lit up as this dish was being explained to us. This dish was a combination of everything I loved, crepes, eggs and mushrooms. In my mind, this was brunch gone fine dining in the best way possible.

le sputnik fish main

Sea Bass in a squid ink sauce with cabbage. Little known fact, I love Japanese cabbage. It’s so much sweeter and softer than Australian cabbage. I could probably eat half a cabbage by myself! Cooked like this, and paired with soft tender fish and an intense savoury sauce it was even better!

le sputnik venison

Venison from Hokkaido with a red wine reduction. We ate incredibly well on this trip, but I can say with confidence that this is the best single dish that we had on the entire trip. The meat was shockingly not gamey at all and the sauce incredibly rich and bold.

le sputnik dessert

I’m not too sure what this dessert was called, but it was an absolute masterpiece, both to look at and to eat. Crisp crystallised sugar broke apart to reveal juicy berries. The sorbet was fresh and light, exactly the sort of dessert I wanted to enjoy after eating a little bit too much on a warm Spring day.

le sputnik petit fours

Petit fours and tea finished off the meal and kept the highs going. The green tea dusted choux cream was a delightful little bite but I was more taken with the houjicha cream served in a small dish with a side of olive oil and salt. The creamy houjicha was already perfect on its own. The salt made it a touch more interesting but I preferred the houjicha cream by itself.

As each dish came out the meal just kept getting better and better. I will admit that I wasn’t wowed at the start, as I found the first few bites falling flat. However, by the end I was completely won over. The unusual flavour combinations and complex elements reveal an ambitious younger chef, keen to come up with something novel. Sometimes I found this a little bit too much. Certain elements seemed to be added for the sake of inventiveness rather than to actually improve the dish. Despite this, no matter how strange everything was grounded in solid skilled cooking and the hits far outshone any misses.

Ps. At 6,500 yen plus 10% tax, the 8 course lunch is the most amazing value for money!

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Patisserie Dominique Ansel Omotesando

I think that most people’s Tokyo food wish lists are filled with high end sushi stores, famous slurp worthy ramen counters and freshly fried tempura shops. As much as I love all of those things, I would do away with all of them in favour of all the delectable sweets in this bustling city.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is just one of the many extraordinary sweet stores in Tokyo, but it is famous among locals and tourists alike. Dominique Ansel found his fame in another city entirely: New York. There he created the half croissant, half donut hybrid, also known as a cronut. I’ve tried a few of these in my time and often found them a little bit too rich and oily to be one of my favourites. Even without cronuts, there’s still a range of other sweet treats to indulge on.

dominique ansel cakes

As I waited in line to order, right next to me was a whole row of pastries and cakes tempting me to wreck havoc upon my wallet and waistline. I ended up buying the tomato bread and DKA to enjoy the next day. As for dining in, the obvious options were the dine in exclusive cookie shot and the iced smores.

The frozen smore is blow torched right in front of your eyes just before you take pick it up. This is a mix of almost every texture imaginable. The crisp torched shell, the chewy marshmallow, crunchy biscuits and the cold creamy ice cream were so addicting together. It also got increasingly messy to eat, threatening to fall off the stick the more I bit into it.

The cookie shot was just as novel but a little less complex. It’s exactly as it sounds: a shot of milk in a cookie shot glass. The inside of the still warm cookie shot was coated with a thin layer of chocolate to stop the cookie from getting soggy and disintegrating. The cookie was the quintessential all American chocolate chip cookie, chewy soft, sweet and buttery enough to just feel it on your hands. Honestly, I felt like I needed a bit more milk to help the sweet and rich cookie go down but Ryan loved it.

Patisserie Dominique Ansel is Tokyo by way of New York in the best way. There’s a combination of lighter Japanese inspired pastries along with a collection of very sweet decadent Americans treats. Whether you enjoy picking at something a bit more refreshing or want to be hit by saccharine sweetness this is the place to enjoy both worlds.

Tips
There is no table service on the first floor. You line up for your sweet treats and then find a seat to enjoy them. It’s a lot easier to come with someone else and have them scout out a table while you wait to order something in line, but when I came by myself it was also pretty easy to politely ask to sit next to another group on the communal table. The second floor has table service and a vastly different menu. There’s a 10% surcharge for ordering items from the first floor on the second floor. I think that the best way to experience both would be to head up to the second floor for a plated savoury or sweet and then heading down to take away a few more sweets for later, or just sitting down and indulging again.

There is also a take away only Patisserie Dominique Ansel located in Ginza for sweets on the go.

Website

Salon Bake & Tea

I like to think that I’m not a slave to pretty Instagram food trends, but sometimes I see something in my feed that is so arresting I can’t help but bookmark it for later. The very tall and very picturesque parfaits from Salon Bake & Tea immediately fell into this category. Before we get into this creation, a little more background on the cafe itself!

Salon Bake & Tea is another part of the Adam et Rope empire. In contrast to Salon Ginza Sabou, Bake & Tea is focused on European styled offerings. However, like Salon Ginza Sabou, the cafe is situated just past racks of clothes and other Adam et Rope goods. We popped by just after afternoon tea time to find it pleasantly half full. The clientele was mostly young ladies indulging their sweet tooth and gossiping with their friends. The space is bright and airy, but slightly upmarket thanks to being located within the rather fashionable NEWoman department store.

salon bake & tea

We sat at the end of the dessert counter which gave us a great view of the parfait being made.

parfait salon bake and tea

This impressive creation was a sight to behold. Layers of confiture, cream, mousse, granola were topped with an icy berry concoction sandwiched between choux pastry. As beautiful as this was, it was pretty darn difficult to eat. We ended up deconstructing it by taking off the choux pastry and iced berry and putting it on the serving plate. We alternated between mouthfuls of the more traditional parfait and the more eclectic icy pole like creation on top.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely won over by essentially sticking an icy pole on top of a parfait as it made the whole thing impossible to mix and enjoy every component in one mouthful. It was, however, very novel and we both agreed that the elements of the parfait individually were very high quality!

crepe salon bake and tea

My focus was entirely on the parfait, but this crepe was shockingly good. It ended up completely stealing the show for me and I would return just to eat more of this! Judging from all the cream I was expecting something rich and even a little cloying. Instead, what I got was somehow, soft and as light as air. I almost polished it off in three spoonfuls, before realising that I should share.

tea salon bake & tea

Just be warned, there is a minimum order of one drink per person. Unless your drink is ordered as part of a set the tea is incredibly expensive! I splashed out on this seasonal tea from Theodor tea. It was a light green variety with floral hints. The little timer meant that I could steep the tea perfectly to my own tastes. It definitely wasn’t worth the $15 I paid for it, but I’ll admit that it was good to finally have a perfect pot of tea on this trip.

Tips
The menu changes seasonally. They parfait flavour and composition changes accordingly. Sometimes they don’t offer these super instagrammable parfaits. So if you’re keen on the super tall parfait that is their signature make sure you check the menu on the website and the new items in their news section beforehand to make sure they have it! That said, even without super tall parfaits, the offerings at Salon Bake & Tea are worth trying if you’re a sweet tooth in Shinjuku with some time and money to spare!

Website

Asakusa (by night)

Asakusa’s traditional Japanese architecture, stores and the iconic Sensoji temple draws in flocks of tourists all year round. It’s true that the massive bright red gates and rows of stores make quite the impression. If you’ve never been to Tokyo before, Asakusa is one of the first places people will recommend. After all, it’s one of the biggest vestiges of traditional Japan in central Tokyo. Despite all this, I feel like it is a bit overrated. The crowds can be way too much and the stores, for the most part, sell overpriced generic goods aimed directly at tourists. That said, I still find myself visiting Asakusa at least once every time I’m in Tokyo. That’s because Asakusa by night is an entirely different experience.

After all the shops have shut for the day and most of the people have left there is a lovely lull to the streets that you can’t experience during the day. The temple isn’t open but you can still see the gates and wander down the streets. I love seeing the modern take on traditional themes on all the shuttered stores.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there’s still some decidedly good food options around at night. With complete confidence in the recommendations from the Jimbocho Den staff we sought out Yutaka. For a better google search try Pork Cutlet Yutaka or Tonkatsu Yutaka.

I love a good tonkatsu and Yutaka is probably as good as it gets. The pork is freshly fried and the panko breading crisp but not at all greasy. The pork is juicy and has just enough fat to make the meal a bit of a guilty pleasure without leaving you feeling heavy.

After dinner is also the perfect time to pick up some purin from Testa Rossa cafe. Although a cafe by name, the store near sensoji is more of a purin stand with various flavours for you to pick up and take home. I fell in love with the adorable glass bottles that even have the lantern from kaminarimon on them!

Taste wise, this was actually some of the best purin I tried on the trip! Silky, smooth, creamy and not too eggy with just the right amount of bitter caramel.

asakusa view

This is the view that I can’t resist. A short stroll to the Sumida river and it gets really quiet and serene. The cityscape is notably lower and the only people are photographers setting up and couples on strolls. Would you believe that even after all these trips to Tokyo, I’ve never actually been to Sky Tree. On the other hand, I have taken many many photos of it from the other side of the Sumida river, like the one above.

If you’ve never been to Asakusa, or if you just want to see it under a slightly different light, definitely check it out after dark for the perfect low key Tokyo night.

asakusa me

Tips
If you desperately want to visit Sensoji and the shops during the day I highly suggest heading in a little before all the stores are open. That way you get to check out the shutter art, head into the temple and turn back to do some shopping without too many people in the way.

Links
Tonkatsu Yutaka
Testa Rossa

Pierre Hermé Tokyo

Pierre Hermé is a well-known name if you love sweets. Macarons, patisserie, chocolate, he has a hand in it all. His sophisticated sweets empire extends all around the world, although sadly not yet to Australia. It makes sense since he is French that most Pierre Hermé stores are located in France, but did you know that Japan is the country with the second most Pierre Hermé stores.

pierre herme tokyo

In Japan, there’s nowhere better to enjoy Pierre Herme’s creations than the Aoyama flagship store. Walking into the first floor I felt like a kid in a candy store, literally. Every corner and turn there were gift displays and sweet treats of every colour on display. I hovered in front of the cake counter and hesitated by the chocolate cabinet, overwhelmed by all the amazing looking treats.

Curiously, the set up of the first floor is rather modern. There is no table service, so you just pop up to the counter and order. The seats face out onto the street with earphones and iPods for company if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t want conversation getting between you and cake. I hear that the second floor is a more upmarket experience, with limited seating and a premium chocolate lounge, but sadly we didn’t have time for a long languid cake session.

pirre herme mille fuille

Way back in 2014 when I was an exchange student in Japan I had my first Pierre Hermé mille-feuille. I had carefully carried the delicate pastry all the way from Shinjuku Isetan to my tiny little dorm room, praying that it would hold up on the journey. I brewed up a quick cup of cheap green tea and tucked in. That orange mille-feuille probably ranks amongst the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, and since then I’ve been converted to the church of Pierre Hermé pastries.

The 2000 feuilles didn’t reach the exact same hights, but that was probably more a case of expectations than a reflection of the dessert itself. Rich hazelnuts, crisp flaky layers of pastry and soft flavourful pastry cream crumbled into a mess as I tried to cut it up, but every mouthful was a delight.

peirre herme macaronpierre herme ispahan

The Ispahan is probably Pierre Hermé’s most famous flavour combination. The masterful mix of sweet lychee, fresh raspberry and floral rose petals is now iconic and copied worldwide. I’ve tried many tribute versions of this dessert, but it was still worth buying one from Pierre Hermé proper.

Looking back at the cake display I regret not having time to treat myself to more of Pierre Hermé creations or bringing some back home. I guess it’s just another excuse to seek out more of Pierre Hermé’s stores when I’m in Japan or France one day!

Website

Jimbocho Den

If you’ve read much of my blog, you’ll know that I usually like to give detailed write-ups for restaurant reviews. Going through dish by dish helps me relive the night and makes me hungry all over again. Hopefully, it also gives you a lot more insight than a few pictures and parting comments. However, for Jimbocho Den I am going to have to make an exception.

Dining at Jimbocho Den is full of delightful surprises. To tell you too much about the dishes and flow of the evening would spoil the experience. Instead, I’m going to mention some highlights and my final thoughts with a few photos. Even then, that might be too much of a spoiler. So all I’ll say is, if you’re after a unique and captivating fine dining experience in Tokyo, put Den on speed dial and make a reservation as soon as you can!

Jimbocho den cured fish

Jimbocho Den salad

As with all kaiseki everything that was served at Den was seasonal and grown locally. There are a lot of little details that went into the meal, from the cute little hydrangea sticker to the more obvious smiley face and Dentucky chicken.  My stand out dish was actually the pork. Fatty, unctuous and just all around glorious to eat with the fresh and unusual greens. Apparently, this is a divisive one, with many foreigners not enjoying how fatty the meat is. Perhaps all the tonkotsu ramen I ate over the trip trained me up, but I fell in love with this.

I could talk about all the things I ate in detail, however, it’s not the food that I want to ruminate on. It’s everything else. Usually, chefs say that they want to tell a story with their food. I’ve been told all about the local landscape and culture, the chef’s childhood nostalgia and the origins of dishes. However, Den goes one step further. This was a dialogue. Literally. Zaiyu Hasegawa, the head chef and owner came out to speak to us a few times about the dishes, his travels and the restaurant in general. His ever gracious kimono-clad wife also stopped by to exchange a few words. She professed that she was working on her English in the hopes that she would be able to chat with overseas guests as well.

We mentioned that we loved eating out and all types of food in general, and asked for a couple of suggestions. Chef Hasegawa asked if we had tried Fuunji since it’s pretty famous, and we both gave back blank looks. He paused and said that one one of the chefs really loves eating out and had heaps of recommendations. At the end of the night, we were presented with this list of restaurants to check out. Hasegawa even offered to help us secure a booking for one of the classier restaurants if we were interested.

Armed with this list, we left a little giddy with the euphoria of our meal, the excellent nihonshu and ready to unlock even more of Tokyo.

Jimbocho Den counter

Are there more refined Japanese Kaiseki restaurants out there? Definitely. In fact, Hasegawa admits as much. Saying that it’s not hard to find amazing top quality food almost anywhere in Tokyo. In all honesty, my favourite dishes of the trip were actually not from Den. Then why do I love Jimbocho Den so much?

It goes without saying that the food at most fine dining restaurants will be high quality and interesting. After all, that is why you are parting with all that money. Sure enough, the food at Den is tasty, fun and engaging. However, as a complete dining experience, Den is so much more. I’ll remember the boundless hospitality, the convivial atmosphere and sense of generosity long after I forget what the dishes were called and what they tasted like. If truly good dining is about evoking emotion and a sense of genuine connection, then from start to end Den is a brilliant success.

Tips

Booking is a bit of a nightmare since reservations are only taken by phone. You should start trying to secure a booking at midday exactly, Tokyo time, two months before your desired dining date. It took me one and a half hours of continuous speed dialling before I got through, but once I did I managed to get my first time preference and date.

Website

A tale of two curries

Japanese curry is definitely comfort food. It is mild, easy to make and even easier to eat. For most of us, (including most Japanese people) Japanese style curry is as easy as chucking a few things into a pot and adding the prepackaged roux. Even in Japan it’s not hard to find plates of curry from chains like Coco curry or family restaurants like Denny’s.almost everywhere you go. As much as I enjoy the taste of these simple curries, there’s also a whole spectrum of other curry dishes in Japan.

That’s where the next two restaurants come in. Although they both serve Japanese curry by name, they could not be any more different.

Rojira samurai curry

Soup Curry from Rojiura Curry Samurai

We first became acquainted with Soup Curry in its hometown of Sapporo. Soup curry sounds rather unappetising and bland, but trust me it is anything but. Unlike normal Japanese curry, the curry sauce and other ingredients are cooked completely separately. It’s only at the last stage that the crisp flash fried vegetables and meat meets the sauce.

At Rojiura there’s an almost endless amount of customisation in this bowl of curry. From the texture of the chicken, spiciness of the broth and amount of rice, it’s all up to you. Their signature curry comes with 20 types of vegetables! There’s also add ons like mochi cheese, soft boiled eggs and even oysters so you can even more in your bowl.

samurai soup curry chicken

I couldn’t resist getting the curry with 20 vegetables and an extra egg on top of my rice. The vegetables looked at tasted so vibrant. The quick flash fry left them crisp and so fresh. The curry had a very different spice profile to the Soup curry I had tried in Hokkaido but it was every bit full of flavour.

samurai soup curry shimokitazawa

Ryan added a potato cheese mochi and opted for half chicken and half pork. He also had a few less vegetables, settling for 13. If there’s something that you have to add to the soup curry it’s definitely the mochi cheese potato. I would eat 10 of those on their own at an izakaya if that was an option. The pork was also just as good as the chicken.

Rojiura Curry Samurai is actually a chain from Sapporo, but even there it is a highly regarded purveyor of soup curry. The Shimokitazawa branch is the first Tokyo outlet but their success has seen them expand beyond this original location.

Samurai curry website

French curry spoon

French cooking x Japanese curry at French Curry Spoon

This style of curry is entirely in a class of its own. The chef and owner of French curry spoon worked at a number of fine French restaurants before deciding to open something a little bit more humble whilst still making use of his classical training.The result is a satisfying blend of French cooking techniques, comforting Japanese curry and a unique blend of Indian influenced spices.

Ryan’s W curry was not very pretty to look out, but it was everything he wanted. A very generous double serving of tender beef sat next to the thick curry sauce. The beef is cooked in a red wine sauce and some of the most melt in the mouth meat that I have ever had. If you want to amp up the flavour profile even more, feel free to add even more spices to your curry!

I’m a little less carnivorous than Ryan. So I opted for a regular serve of meat with plenty of vegetables on the side. Of course I also added an ontama because that’s what I do when I’m in Japan. Once again it was clear that the vegetables were cooked separately from the curry. A combination of poached, sauteed and raw veg meant all sorts of crunchy textures. There’s less of the chunky curry sauce but even so it was delicious.

French curry spoon foi gras

The month we visited French Curry Spoon was actually celebrating their eight year anniversary.  To commemorate the occasion they had a few specials. When we saw just how reasonably priced the foie gras done three ways was we immediately caved and ordered it. Sweet berry sauce, fatty rich fried foie gras and creamy pate. We were in French food heaven for a moment there.

As a word of advice, we managed to squeeze into the last two tables at the counter for dinner. However, I hear that this is a very popular lunch spot so be prepared to get there early for a midday meal. Otherwise, getting a curry set to go is always an option!

Tabelog

Bien Etre Patisserie

I don’t really like rainy days. It’s hard to walk around, public transport is incredibly crowded and I’m never wearing the right shoes. However, after looking at these photos it seems fitting that we would stumble through the back entrance of Bien Etre Patisserie still shaking off our umbrellas and dodging the steady rain outside.

Although it is sandwiched between Shibuya and Shinjuku, Yoyogi is very much a residential neighbourhood. Situated up a very steep incline, Bien Etre Patisserie is a store that you have to seek out. Just as well, seeing as it only has a handful of small tables.

Bien etre tokyo

Next to the counter is an assortment of cakes, cookies and teas all ready for you to take home or gift a lucky someone. The cakes in the refrigerated counter are equally colourful and salivating.  However, Bien Etre Patisserie’s most famous dessert is never on display. The only clue you have is a tiny little handwritten placard on top of the cake display.

That’s right, Bien Etre Patisserie’s true calling card is their beautiful seasonal parfaits. The parfait for June was Hibiscus and American cherry with a caramel sauce. Fresh pastry cream, tempered chocolates, herbs and a generous amount of biscuit crumbs met with the slightly sour and bitter sorbet and caramel sauce to make each bite interesting. If I lived in Japan I would try to come back regularly to try all their monthly parfaits.

DSC03136

The berry cake didn’t reach the same fantastic highs as the parfait. However, the tart and sweet berries and soft cake was a nice light way to continue my sugar high.

Bien etre tea

Hibiscus tea was tart with just a hint of sweetness. It really helped keep me alert as the rain poured down outside and the gentle sounds of people tidying up in the kitchen made its way into the cafe. Chamomile tea was on the other end of the spectrum entirely. Sweet and soothing I would have happily fallen asleep drinking this.

Tabelog
Website

Frances Food & Coffee

I’m thankful that these past few years have seen the rise of more quality brunch places in the city. There’s the usual inner city suspects that almost every self-respecting brunch-loving Melbournian has tried. However, sometimes I’m not feeling baked eggs, madeleines, hot cakes or matcha anything. I just want to go somewhere a little different, less trendy and less crowded. That’s where Frances Food & Coffee comes in. Located close to the iconic Victoria markets, this is a bit of a walk away from the rest of the brunch heavy hitters.

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Green salad with hummus and halloumi. The greens were actually still warm and coated in dressing. They were actually a touch too well seasoned, towards the end of the dish it started to get a little bit too oily and salty which isn’t entirely what I had n mind when I ordered a salad. I must admit that I usually find halloumi in large doses far to salty for me to handle, so that may have contributed to me finding the whole thing a bit too much. I would say that this is the perfect salad for people who actually don’t usually like salads because it was warm and the flavours so full on.

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The chicken sandwich could have easily fed two people. This would have been a pretty good sandwich with just the juicy chicken, salad and crispy bread but the apple slices, walnuts and balsamic really took things to the next level. This is a combination that I’m looking forward to trying out myself at home next time I’ve got all these ingredients on hand!

Frances Food & Coffee won’t be winning any awards for innovation or setting Instagram afire with the hottest new thing. The tables and chairs are a bit squishy and the view is one of construction. However, the food is generous and hearty. It is comforting without being boring and definitely worth a try.

As an aside, my mum who is rather discerning when it comes to her coffee really enjoyed the brew at Frances Food & Coffee. So this might be a good spot to stop by to get an afternoon or morning or afternoon pick me up.

Website

Frances Food & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

TOLO Coffee and Bakery / Shirohige cream puff

I have a confession to make. The first time I watched My Neighbour Totoro was two years ago. In fact, it’s only rather recently that I’ve really started watching a lot of Ghibli films and enjoying them for their artistry and storytelling. My relative lack of knowledge has never stopped me from loving the cute and very charming looking characters though. At Shirohige cream puff shop you can get a literal mouthful of Totoro.

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tolo and shirohige

You can always pick up the cream puffs and homemade cookies to go or enjoy them on the small patio just outside. However, upstairs is Tolo Coffee and Bakery. This is a cafe and restaurant in its own right, cream puffs downstairs aside. If you want to enjoy the cream puffs straight away at Tolo there is a small surcharge on each plated Totoro and a minimum drink order per person. I managed to nab a cute little spot out on the balcony all to myself. So, I decided to have some me time and order a pasta and a sweet.

tolo pasta

I chose the most interesting and Japanese pasta on the menu. Whitebait, bamboo, chilli and tomato pasta. The combination sounds strange on paper, but it really worked. There was a real savouriness to the sauce thanks to the tomatoes and fish but the bamboo kept things texturally interesting. Even though it was an oil pasta it still felt very refreshing, summery and not at all heavy. The pasta at Tolo changes seasonally, so I think you’ll be in for a treat no matter what you pick.

The bread was a bit too soft and flavourful to be much good at mopping up leftover pasta sauce. Instead, it served as a bit of a carby starter!

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Now onto the main event: the adorable cream puffs. These are almost too cute to eat. I actually felt bad when I stuck my fork into this adorable tottoro and cut his face in half. The flavours also change with the seasons. I lucked upon strawberry custard. This was surprsingly filling. The custard cream is lightly flavoured and not too sweet. I was impressed with how they managed to fill the Totoro with so much filling!

tottoro cream puff

The shop and cafe is located in a rather residential area of Tokyo. The closest station is Setagaya-Daita but it is also very walkable from the bustling Shimo-Kitazawa. In fact, right after this meal, I meandered over there to do some shopping.

Tolo Coffee and Bakery is somewhat overshadowed by the more famous shirohige cream puff shop but both are absolutely worth a visit. Even if you’re not the biggest Ghibli fan, the pasta is excellent and the atmosphere wonderful.

tolo bakery and pasta

Shirohige cream puff shop
TOLO Coffee and Bakery