October 19, 2011

Tokyo Brunches and Sweet Little Things

Today I'm writing about great places to have brunch or buy treats in the city. Trust me, with more Michelin star restaurants than Paris, Tokyo has lots of good places to eat!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Breizh Cafe Creperie
Shinjuku Takashimaya 13F
5-24-2 Sendagaya
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

This wonderful restaurant is owned by the same group that bring you Le Bretagne (a famous creperie that has branches in Omotesando and Kagurazaka). I normally don't like to eat in restaurants that are located in large shopping centres because of the crowds, but since the Takashimaya in Shinjuku has dozens of restaurants to choose from, you can usually find a seat.

Breizh Cafe Creperie is located on the 13th floor and has indoor seats and outdoor seats on the patio, with a small garden in the center. It's a perfect place to sit outside and enjoy the weather while you eat some buckwheat crepes with yummy fillings and drink either their regional cidre or one of their numerous teas.

I apologize for cutting into my crepe's egg before taking a photo! It was too delicious to wait!

I've been to Le Bretagne in Omotesando and I have to say that location-wise, Takashimaya's Breizh is far superior (anything not smack-dab on a street corner where people sitting outside can touch the cars is an improvement). It also has more seating and isn't super crowded with trendy foreigners. If you don't show up during peak hours, you're pretty much sure to find a seat. I've never been to Omotesando when it wasn't packed to capacity and requiring either a 40 minute wait (on the street) or a reservation.

For my lunch, I had the confit d'onignons au cidre crepe (kind of a sauteed onion jam done in cidre; the apple cider of Bretagne) with eggs, ham and cheese. I beg your pardon for cutting into my crepe and starting to eat it before I took the picture. I was hungry and had no self-control. =) Needless to say, it was delicious. I also ordered the small green salad and a cappuccino. At the end of the meal, we were enjoying the weather and peace and quiet of the garden so much that we ordered some of the teas they have to prolong our stay. I had the ceylon tea with lavender honey. The lavender honey was so lovely and fragrant! For any tea lover, I recommend it!

From the delighted sighs and constant photo snapping from a group of Japanese ladies behind us, it seems the dessert crepes are also a huge hit. I've had the crepes suzette at Le Bretagne and it was quite good, so I'm sure Breizh has some decadent ones, too.

Price wise, I found a lot of the crepes to be anywhere from 300-900 yen cheaper than the crepes at Le Bretagne. Service was also faster and the staff were very polite. They also have a lot of set menus you can choose from, if you want a large meal or want to try more than one crepe.

Feel like shopping for regional goodies from Bretagne? You can buy cidre and caramels au beurre sa (salted butter caramels) or some of the local pottery at the shop. You can also purchase regional items online from the website above. Just click on the restaurant name.

Shinjuku Isetan 7F
3-14-1 Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Chaya is a healthy restaurant sent from heaven.

While I love food and often like to experiment by trying new things, I am a picky eater. It's something I'm ashamed of, but forcing myself to eat foods I dislike has done nothing to curb this problem and has sometimes led to unpleasant results. Chaya, which frightened me with it's label of "macrobiotic" and images of eating wheat chaff or weird vegetables slathered in vegemite, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. More than a surprise, it was an epiphany. Healthy food can taste like this?!? Did I mention it was cheap? Yah, that doesn't hurt either. =P

Let me walk you through my first meal at Chaya:

I sat down with a nervous look at the menu and decided that the dinner set menu didn't seem to have anything offensive or on my long list of foods I dislike, so I ordered it. The food doesn't come out looking like stodgy hippie food that's all brown or mushy, but rather elegant French fare.

My first course was a starter of red quinoa (do you know how long it took me to learn how to pronounce that right?) and beets. I LOVE beets! The salad was light and refreshing and made me a quinoa convert immediately.

Second course was a lovely fillet of white fish (sorry, I forget which one), done in a carrot and orange sauce with seasonal vegetables. Everything was light, well seasoned and satisfying. It came with three different breads made in house with rice flour and a butter substitute. The cranberry nut bread was my favorite and everything tasted like it was baked that morning.

Dessert was the best part, because no dessert at Chaya exceeds 300 calories! No, I did not miss a zero! Can you believe it? I had the tiramisu and I would never have known it wasn't made with mascarpone cheese! All desserts at Chaya, in keeping with the macrobiotic diet, are made with no white sugar and no milk products. Natural sweetener like maple syrup is used along with tofu or soy milk. I know that makes it sound like the desserts won't be decadent, but believe me when I say that there wasn't a crumb left on my plate!

Chaya's menu is available to look at here. The meal I had was "Chaya Dinner".

Chaya is also a great place for lunch or just coffee and dessert. The last time I was in there with a friend, I had tea and their pistachio nut torte seen below. Keep in mind that all food at Chaya is seasonal, so the menu is subject to change.

Ginza 6-9-3
Chuo-ku, Tokyo

I seem to be on a French kick today. This is the third place I'm introducing that serves French cuisine. This particular place is where I go when I need a pick me up. You know what I mean. When I'm super depressed, hate my life, hate my waist size (in retrospect I should steer clear of this place when I'm dieting), and just need SOMETHING to make me feel like life is worth living, I come here.

Overkill? Think no place or food can achieve that feeling and it all comes from working on yourself? Oh, honey. Obviously you've never had an opera from Dalloyau. Or their chocolate macaron, which is like, the fudgiest, richest macaron ever made. Seriously, it's like biting into the darkest chocolate fudge brownie that is still dense and moist in the center because it's straight out of the oven. Actually, it's better. You have to try one to understand. Their framboise (raspberry) macaron is no pushover, either.

I used to make a pilgrimage to the Ginza flagship store whenever I needed a fix, because it was on the train line I used. No longer must I trek through thousands of tourists and shoppers on a weekend to get my fix. Fate has been kind to me. The station near my current job has a Dalloyau shop inside the station's shopping centre! It doesn't carry the full array of the Ginza store, but now whenever the limited edition macarons come out, I can try them if I'm interested. This goes far to ensure my internal goodwill towards man, let me tell you!

Here's a pic of a few I bought for New Year's Eve. I got framboise, green tea, cassis, vanilla, and chocolate.

 Not only does Dalloyau have delicious cakes, cookies and candies, but they also do great breads. Some of the branches also have restaurants. Seriously, you can't go wrong with this place...unless you're on a diet.

I was there right before I moved in September to buy some cakes for a "goodbye old apartment" party. A few friends and I gathered at the old apartment to eat cake and drink obscene amounts of wine. It was a great night. Of course, a few macarons made their way into the bag I brought the cakes home in. I couldn't leave without buying a few favorites. =) Here are some of the cakes I bought.

Price-wise, Dalloyau isn't any more expensive that any other fancy pants patisserie. Most of the cakes run from 350-600 yen and the macarons are usually around 200 yen or so.

I'm constantly going to new restaurants when I'm not financially debilitated, so in the coming months I'll be sure to update with more suggestions on my favorite places to go! If you have any that you'd like to share, let me know. Bon appetit!

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