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!

Website

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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

Hawker Chan

Last year when it was announced that the world’s cheapest Michelin starred eatery was coming to Melbourne social media and news outlets went wild. On its opening, Hawker Chan attracted crowds and wait times of up to three hours. By the time we got around to visiting the wait time had shortened to a much more modest 25 minutes to get to the register, and then another 10 before getting our food.

Hawker Chan is meant to be set up like a Hawker Hall, where there is no table service. However, the shiny screens, air-conditioning and number system reminded me more of an upscale food court than anything else.

hawker chan melbourne hor fun

Plum tea was just not our cup of tea (excuse the pun) it was vegetal and too sour to really quench our thirst. The osmanthus tea fared a lot better and was sweet with the light passionfruit taste that is characteristic of osmanthus flowers. I felt that the drinks could have down with a bit of ice so that they were actually cold instead of just a bit below room temperature.

hawker chan thai style tofu

Soya sauce chicken with rice is the signature dish, so of course, we had to order it. It was obvious just from the get-go that this portion of chicken was tiny. I had a look around and felt that the servings were generally on the small side, but for some reason, this plate looked especially sad. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued. The chicken was tender, but really lacked that soy sauce flavour that we were expecting. The rice didn’t have much flavour even with sauce drizzled on top, so we resorted to mixing the hor fun sauce and chilli into the rice dish.

hawker chan rice

Soya sauce chicken with Hor Fun was a few dollars more expensive, but definitely worth it. This chicken was a lot better than the chicken with the rice. It was super tender and coated with sweet and salty soy sauce. Likewise, the sauce on top of the slippery Hor Fun was full of flavour, even when I pushed the spicy paste to one side.

Thai style tofu was fried extremely well so that the outside was crisp and the inside of the tofu still silken and soft. It was sadly let down by the sauce which was too sweet, cloying and one dimensional. This would have been amazing if in true Thai style there had been a bit of sour, saltiness and spice in the seasoning and garnishes.

In the past when big Asian institutions have come to Melbourne, they have never been able to compete with the real deal in their home country. It’s probably something about the ingredients, pricing and expectations in Melbourne which make it impossible to replicate that amazing meal overseas. Even with those admissions, Hawker Chan was still a bit of a letdown. Sure, the dishes are cheap, at less than $10 for almost everything but the small portions, inconsistency and wait times mean that I would rather fork out an extra $5 to $10 and get a more satisfying feed elsewhere.

 

Website
Hawker Chan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Small Axe Kitchen

Isn’t it amazing how food can affect our mood? An amazing slice of cake or blissfully lazy long brunch can instantly turn my frown right around, and I know that I’m not alone!

Stumbling into Small Axe Kitchen on a Tuesday morning was an absolute blessing. We had originally intended to go somewhere else, but GPS, traffic and timing mishaps meant that we stopped by Small Axe Kitchen instead. I was not in the mood for brunch or conversation when we pulled up into the parking lot, but I couldn’t leave after laying eyes on the cute courtyard and tempting pastries. It also definitely helped that the young man who greeted us had the most soothing voice and helped us to a seat in the courtyard almost straight away.

Small Axe iced tea

Ryan was even more tired and grumpy than I was and therefore in desperate need of a coffee. The cappuccino was smooth, creamy and all around excellent drinking. My seasonal iced tea was the prettiest iced tea I have ever seen! What I originally thought was a floral incased spoon, was actually a gorgeous long ice cube with flower petals frozen inside. The actual peach tea was also the refreshing hit that I needed on the very warm Summer day.

Small axe pasta

Now, we couldn’t go to this cafe and not order the Breakfast pasta! All the individual components of the pasta are very good, from the al dente pasta to the crispy cured meat, but break the soft boiled egg on top, mix it all up and there you have it: brunch perfection. Although breakfast pasta by name, I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.

Small Axe pear

I don’t usually order sweet breakfasts, (even though I frequently eat cake for breakfast) but the Sangiovese poached pear with natural yoghurt really called out to me! Pear poached in wine sounds like a heady breakfast,  and the poached pear was definitely all soft and sweet with an almost berry-like sweetness from the wine. However, the dish as a whole struck a balance between light and decadent.  The pomegranate, honey and savoiardari crumbs topped it all off for a bit of extra sweet, sour and light crispy crunch.

Small Axe Kitchen was everything that I didn’t know I needed. The chill ambience, smooth beats and irresistible food put me in the right mood to face the rest of the day! In fact, the Sicilian inspired menu was so intriguing that made me very excited for more brunch in 2018. All I can say is I’ll be back for you ‘Mozarealla in carrozza’.

Small Axe menu

Website
Small Axe Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

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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

Jiyugaoka

Jiyugaoka is described as a place where every day feels like the weekend. No, that doesn’t mean that there are party goers and revellers around all day and night. Instead, it’s perennially filled with young couples and families on dates and people slowly enjoying their day.

Patisserie paris s'eveille

Jiyugaoka is also a hotbed for some of the most highly ranked cake stores in all of Tokyo according to tabelog. As soon as we got out of the station we made a beeline for Patisserie Paris S’eveille. 

chocolate cake

Patisserie Paris S’eveille is well known for their chocolate cakes so I couldn’t go past ordering this decadent chocolate slice for breakfast. The fig and chocolate cake is what dreams are made of. Usually, I’m not the biggest fan of rich and heavy desserts but this was probably my favourite of the cakes we tried. The cake was dense and moist and the chocolate ganache sandwiched chopped up bits of fig adding to the fruitiness of the dark chocolate.

The berry cake was a much lighter affair. Hidden inside the light fluffy centre were even more berries. I could have cried at just how sweet the raspberries were. These two cakes actually complimented each other perfectly, as the fruity taste of the dark chocolate naturally fed into the berries of the lighter cake.

eclair

We didn’t go all the way to one of Tokyo’s best bakeries to only get two slices of cake. This beautiful eclair looks like a perfect little garden with the green choux and edible flower petals. This was probably the weakest of all the cakes we tried. The pistachio flavour was perfectly pleasant and the fruit exquisite but as I find is often the case with eclairs I found it a touch too soggy.

Cakes aside there is also a sizeable assortment of bread, pastries and biscuits ready for take away and eat in. Whilst we were savouring our sweet breakfast, a small group of French mothers and their children came in to partake in some sweet pastries and croissants on what looked like a regular mummy date. If nothing else, I feel like having French natives come and partake in these baked goods must attest to their quality.

Mont St Clair, m.koide and Bloom’s were also on my list of cake stores to check out. Sadly I only managed to walk past half of them and peek into the windows because I was already too full!

 

Potato Cream Cafe is probably one of the cutest and carby-est (that’s not a word, but I’m going to use it anyway) holes in the wall anywhere in the world. The potato wreath decoration speaks to me (and probably all other potato lovers) on a spiritual level. As the name suggests this quaint store sells nothing but potatoes. Mashed potatoes to be precise.

potato cream food

For the most part Potato Cream seems to do takeaway business. However, there is a small counter where you can stand and enjoy your mash! There are 5 toppings to choose from, and you can make it a set with some toasty baguettes as well. I picked the fresh tomato and Ryan had a more adventurous mince lamb. The mash was a little different to what I’m used to. It was smoother and more watery than the creamy and buttery mash I make for myself. However, it worked here since most of the flavour came from the toppings and the soft mild mash just padded things out to make each mouthful smooth and easy to eat.

 

Jiyugaoka is sometimes called the Europe of Tokyo. I’m guessing the reason for this lies with La Vita, a tiny little block of shops that has a mini canal and gondola in it. Sadly on the day, I went the water was drained and the gondola covered, making for a bit of a sad sight. Therefore, there are no photos. On the other hand, I might have audibly gasped when I laid eyes on Puppily Hills. I had a quick peek into this store, and it was everything I imagined and more. The most pampered dog was having a bit of a groom and photoshoot in clothes that cost more than some of mine!

tokyo-kumano-shrine-jiyugaoka-125627

Don’t think that Jiyugaoka is just trendy cafes and cute stores though. Kumano Shrine
appears almost out of nowhere, hinting at a history beyond the Jiyugaoka that you can see now. Being the idiots that we are, we actually spent more time horsing around on the slightly run down playground equipment in the park leading up the shrine than actually at the shrine!

Playing around on see-saws that are too small is thirsty work! Luckily, one of the most charming traditional Japanese tea houses was just a stone’s throw away. Aside from a small menu outside, there is nothing to indicate that Kosoan is anything but another residence.

kosoan

Walk up the path and into the garden and soon you’ll see groups of people lounging on the tatami, contemplating their matcha and chit chatting away. I desperately wanted a seat by the window, so that I could enjoy the pretty garden and slight breeze, but alas they were all full so we settled for a spot in the middle of the room. We were given the menu, which is in Japanese only with a few Japanese sweet options.

 

Despite the warmth of the day, I couldn’t go past a traditional matcha. This was served with a cute little-cubed wagashi. The matcha was smooth with just enough bitterness and the right temperature to drink almost all of it straight away. Ryan’s first anmitsu was a bit of a revelation for him. Fresh fruit, crisp kanten and chewy mochi coated liberally with kuromitsu syrup is always an absolute winner. I wish more places served this back home because it really is the perfect summer snack, especially when topped liberally with soft-serve (which was also an option here!)

 

Simply, Jiyugaoka is the perfect place to simply stroll around. If you get too far from the station, it quickly starts getting residential, but a few more twists and turns back and you’re bound to stumble upon an adorable zakka store or charming homeware and food mega stores like Today’s Special.

Maybe my tastes are changing as I get older but Jiyugaoka is one my favourite suburbs in Tokyo. I love the cute homeware stores, stylish cafes, open streets and leisurely people. I can easily see why so many Tokyoites want to make this charming neighbourhood their home. If you’ve got a few days in Tokyo and are in for a bit of a change of pace away from the crowds this is the place to go.

Links

Paris S’eveille
Potato Cream
Kosoan

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

Yong green food

Although gluten free and vegan foods are on the rise in Melbourne, it is surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant that offers a broad range of both gf and vegan options. That’s where Yong Green Food comes in. It caters to almost every dietary requirement under the sun, with a handy colour coded menu. The chilled ambiance and roomy tables also made it a great place to catch up with visiting out of towners and friends.

The Matcha latte was an incredibly bright green colour. Yong Green offers a wide range of milks, from dairy to soy, to coconut and almond at no extra cost! I was tempted by the almond milk but decided to play it safe. I found this to be more powdery and sweet than most matcha lattes, but perhaps that is due to the soy milk.

Ryan commented that the espresso wasn’t the best, and didn’t provide him with the caffeine boost he so desperately needed. Our friends ordered a chai tea and some of the cold drinks. These seemed to go down a treat.

yong green food

I ordered the Yin and Yang Charger. Initially, I was a bit dubious because it was one of the most expensive items on the menu. However, once this spread arrived in front of me I knew that I had made the right choice. Interestingly, the highlight wasn’t the fried mushrooms. Instead, I found the squash salad to be utterly delicious. It was cold, sweet, soft and just a touch stringy. The soup also had incredible savoury depth for a vegetarian offering.

yong green food japchae

Ryan and one of my friends both ordered the Japchae. I usually make my Japchae vegetarian so I had no doubts that this could be incredible even though it had no meat. I snuck in a bite and found it much less greasy than the usual japchae at restaurants but full of flavour. The vegetables tasted fresh and light, and noodles had good bite.

yong green chilli

My gluten intolerant friend ordered the chili. She commented that it had a good spicy kick to it that went well with the sour cream.

The Vegetarian curry was a very generous portion. It looked and smelled exactly like a beef Japanese curry.

The Katsu was a little bit more diminutive in size. I’m assured, however, that it was very tasty. Especially when mixed with the curry sauce. We all agreed that the biodynamic rice that came with a lot of the dishes was excellent.

The service was friendly if at times a bit scattered. They also pulled up tables for our group of 6, even though it would have been fine for us to squish together on the larger table!

Raw, organic, vegan, gluten free, no onion and garlic? Yong Green Food has it covered. More than that, it serves some straight up tasty food regardless of the labels.

http://yonggreenfood.com.au/

Yong Green Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aoyama Flower Market Tea House

Aoyama Flower Market Tea House could be the most photogenic cafe in all of Tokyo. As the name would suggest Aoyama Flower market is actually a florist. They have locations all over Japan, but the tea houses are found only in Tokyo.  Every surface is adorned with fresh seasonal flowers that change weekly.

Aoyama

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From the outside, the original Aoyama Flower Market Tea House looks like any other florist. The only way you can tell that it’s a cafe is from the line of Japanese girls waiting to get in. I’ve heard that the line can be somewhat excruciating, but I was determined to wait it out and see this cafe for myself. Perhaps it was because we visited on a weekday, but a short but very warm 20-minute wait later we were promptly seated.

 

The weekly theme was delphiniums. Each table had at least one cute little pot next to or on the table itself.

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I felt like something light so the  Tea House Salad was my choice. Initially, I thought that the entire sprigs of herbs would be too overpowering, but after making my way through this plate I found the whole thing very well balanced. The creamy but tangy dressing really brought everything together. I do still question the inclusion of the biscuit pieces in the otherwise fresh salad.

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Ryan loves sandwiches. The Roast beef sandwich on the lunch menu jumped out at him. Perhaps it’s because western style sandwiches tend to be meatier and more substantial but Ryan wasn’t all that impressed with the actual sandwich. Instead, he really enjoyed the carrot salad on the side! No mean feat considering Ryan isn’t usually one to order salads.

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Vacation tea tasted of tropical fruits. Although no sweeteners were added I found that the fruity flavour didn’t need anything else to bring out the flavour. I can imagine myself sipping this iced or hot, leisurely by the beach in a tropical country. The Iced House Tea helped cool us down on a hot day but otherwise wasn’t as remarkable as the other drinks.

 

 

 

Flower Parfait is the piece de la resistance of the whole cafe in my opinion. Delicately flavoured rose jelly sits atop crunchy biscuits and granola. The top is liberally sprinkled with even more flowers and a scoop of ice cream plopped on top. This struck the golden ratio for parfaits. Each mouthful was a contrast of textures, flavours and temperatures. The somewhat unusual addition of jelly really made it stand out.

Akasaka

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Unusually for Japan, Aoyama Flower Market tea house in Akasaka has an abundance of alfresco seating. When the weather is good you can lounge around outside, in amongst the beautiful flora and watch businessmen and trendy Tokyoites pass on by. Whereas the Aoyama location is dominated by girls chatting, I feel like this could be the right place to go on a date. The almost European feeling outdoor seating and hushed interior warmed softly by a couple of street lights and recycled lamps are positively romantic.

Unlike Aoyama, this location also has a couple of more substantial dinner offerings and a dinner menu that offers a main, drink, mini dessert and a small bag of flowers to take home!

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Farm Bowl or perhaps more accurately translated as a field bowl. I would describe this as a healthier version of taco rice. Spiced minced beef with tomatoes is placed on top of a generous serving of rice. The real stand out of this dish was actually the vegetable leafs! They tasted incredibly fresh and provided a crisp and refreshing bite when mixed with everything else.

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Vegetable gratin or more literally, baked pasta. Ryan was super happy with this dish because it was covered in delicious melted cheese, which can sometimes be a bit of a rare commodity in Japan.

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One of the most popular choices at Aoyama Flower Market Tea House is the French toast. The Mini French toast is a good way to try it without having a whole serve. Although the small size doesn’t have the same fruits and flowers scattered atop the dish, the actual French toast is still a winner. It’s soft, slightly eggy and sweet enough even without lashings of syrup.

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Mini shortcake is much more normal as far as desserts go. The cherry on top was delicious as was the cream, but I expected a little more from the cake. It was soft and easy to eat but was a little bit bland.

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Fresh Herb Tea is one of the signature drinks at all the tea houses. To my understanding, it’s really just a combination of herbs steeped in hot water. I was a little surprised at just how much the minty lemongrass taste came through. Ryan had another tropical tasting tea with mango flavours. This was also another great choice.

As part of the dinner set menu, we got to take home a small bunch of seasonal flowers. I was so happy to get a cute bag of hydrangeas, as they really encapsulate the rainy season and are some of my favourite flowers. It was a real shame that we were flying back home the next day and couldn’t take them with us! I passed them on to the girls at the hotel reception desk instead, and they were very thankful!

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The decor and menu of both cafes are different enough to warrant a visit to both locations. However, if I had to pick just one I would recommend Akasaka. The late hours and spacious outdoor seating mean that you probably won’t have to wait in line for a table. The lack of other people also made for a much more subdued and relaxing atmosphere.

Tokyo has no shortage of themed cafes and restaurants. After going to a few you’ll see a trend. The more overt the theme is, the worse the food. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much from Aoyama Flower Market Tea House culinary wise, thinking that it would be more about the pretty decor. However, the food was almost as beautiful and tasty as the flowers were gorgeous.

English Website

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