From afar倉庫01 is a beautiful tearoom that I had seen in the Instagram feed of shewhoeats. Her Instagram feed is gorgeous – filled with photographs of cakes, pastries and desserts that she bakes and her travels.
We were heading to Asakusa for dinner at Otafuku Oden and decided to drop by From afar倉庫01 in Kurumae which is along the way to Asakusa. Kurumae is an old Tokyo neighborbood that is situated along the Sumida River. We alighted at the Kurumae subway station and walked along the Sumida River to get to the tearoom. We have never been to that part of Tokyo and it was nice exploring a new neighourbood together.
Wow. From afar倉庫01, part tearoom and part gallery space, is visually stunning. It is located in a quiet alley off the Sumida River in what looks like a refurbished warehouse. The calm but dim and edgy-looking interior is filled with beautiful wood furniture and pottery.
It may sound a little strange to say this, but I felt like I was in Taiwan. The tearoom has a strong Taiwanese vibe (as opposed to Japanese). This place feels like it came out of a Jay Chou music video. If you are a Jay Chou fan, you will know what I mean. 🙂
This is definitely what I would call an Instagram-worthy tearoom.
I was attempting a “stylo-mylo” photograph of that part of the tearoom but since the man would not budge from the comfort of the sofa, he had to try to look the part.
We ordered a slice of cheesecake, an iced Thai milk tea and a cappuccino and rested our feet from hours of walking since the morning. The tearoom is highly recommended for those who want to get away from the crowded and touristy spots in Tokyo. While it is a little off the main tourist route in Tokyo, it makes a good stop on the way to and from Asakusa or the Tokyo Skytree.
Address: 東京都墨田区東駒形1-1-9 (〒130-0005 Tokyo, Sumida, 東駒形1-1-9)
Directions: Exit A2 of Asakusa subway station, or Exit 6 of Kurumae subway station. See Google Map below for location of the tearoom.
Motoya Express is another favorite coffee joint of ours. We would always drop by for a cup whenever we are in Tokyo. Motoya does not operate out of a brick-and-mortar shop but out of a little mini bus. It is unbelievable how the barista can manage his coffee machine, coffee supplies and pastries at the back of the mini bus. But he does, and does it very well.
You can find Motoya Express parked outside the Daikanyama train station. I read that there are several Motoya Express mini buses around Tokyo but I have only been to the one at Daikanyama.
The barista is friendly, always bantering with his customers. Even with foreigners, he attempts to converse with them in English.
Parked at a shady spot with potted plants and shrubs, Motoya provides benches and chairs for its customers to rest their feet while waiting for their coffee.
My usual cup of flat white. The husband goes for a double expresso.
I do not eat much bread in my diet but whenever I am in Japan, I find myself eating bread almost every day. We usually go to a kissaten close to our hotel (you can usually find one along the streets or in a train station) for our Japanese-toast-slathered-with-butter fix in the morning.
I like how the Japanese slice their white bread thick so I get a nice deep bite of soft, fluffy and fragrant bread in each mouthful. The texture of the Japanese bread is completely different from what we get in a loaf of Gardenia or Sunshine bread. The bread baked by our old-school bakeries come close, but still not quite.
I first came across Hamanoya Parlor in my Instagram feed. The Instagram photo was a uber delicious-looking egg omelette sandwich served at Hamanoya. According to TimeOut, Hamanoya is an old-school Japanese cafe located at the basement of the Shin-Yurakucho building that serves a selection of sandwiches, and they are particularly good with egg sandwiches. Off we went to go pay them a visit, especially when Yurakucho is just one stop away from our hotel in Shimbashi.
The Shin-Yurakucho building is quite easy to find. It is just across the street from BIC Camera which you cannot miss coming out of the Yurakucho train station. Take the escalator down to the basement of the building and you will see Hamanoya Parlor on your right.
Walking into Hamanoya Parlour takes you back to the 1980s, with its red vinyl seats and brown paneled walls. They do not have an English menu which meant that I had to slowly make out the Katakana characters on the Japanese menu. Luckily, an English-speaking Japanese lady seated at the next table heard me asking for an English menu and offered to help us with our orders. She explained to us what was on the menu and also offered her recommendations (she is a regular at Hamanoya) as to what we should try.
I have always wanted to eat a Japanese fruit sandwich and when she told us that Hamanoya makes one of the best fruit sandwiches in town, I had to order it. She suggested the ham sandwiches and if we still had space in our stomachs, to order the egg sandwiches too. Also, Hamanoya charges a little bit more money if you ask for bread to be toasted.
So we started off with a platter of ham sandwiches and fruit sandwiches. The ham was good but the fruit sandwiches were absolutely divine. Mikan and cubes of sweet pear in a delicious (and not too sweet) thick whipped cream filling sandwiched between two slices of soft fluffy bread. I was glad that they gave me mikan and pear instead of strawberries ‘cos I do not like strawberries, not even the very sweet Japanese ones.
After devouring most of the fruit sandwiches in super-quick time, I was quite full but I had to order the egg omelette sandwiches. Well, they were the reason why we went to Hamanoya. The egg sandwiches were excellent. Thick, fluffy and still warm, having come straight out of the kitchen. I would have enjoyed the egg sandwiches even more had I eaten them on an empty stomach. As you can see from the photo, the egg sandwiches are thick and very filling.
Address: Basement 1F, Shin-Yurakucho Building, 1-12-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
Directions: Take the train to the Yurakucho station and leave the station by exit #D2. You will see BIC Camera in front of you. The Shin-Yurakucho building is opposite BIC Camera.
It is simple comfort food, best eaten in cold weather (for me) with a mug of beer. Usually, we eat oden in an izakaya in Japan. This time, I wanted to visit a traditional oden restaurant. After some research, I picked Otafuku in Asakusa because of its long-standing history and also because it is located in Asakusa which makes it a convenient dinner stop after visiting the Sensoji temple.
Cutting through the food alleys at the back of Sensoji, Otafuku is about a 10-minute walk away. We took quite a bit longer because Google Maps led us on a merry walk through a labyrinth of food alleys and a shopping arcade, backtracking many times before we found the restaurant. Well, Google Maps navigated us to the back of Otafuku which was why we could not find it until we figured out what was wrong and made our way around a street to get to the front entrance.
Otafuku is located in a traditional Japanese house with a pretty garden out at the front. We did not make a dinner reservation and were lucky that they had a table for us.
At Otafuku, you get to pick what you want to eat from the menu (and they have an English menu). Each table gets a large oden pot set over a fire, so your oden is always nice and warm throughout your meal. We ordered piles of oden and then spotted a blackboard with more food items written in Japanese. Good thing that I could make out gyu suji nikomi (stewed beef tendon) on the board ‘cos that is one of our favorite things to eat.
The oden was fabulous. We loved all the beancurd things that we picked and above all, the very tasty broth flavored with lots of mustard. The stewed beef tendon was very good too. So good that we polished off two plates. The meat was soft, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth tender.
We had such a simple yet satisfying (and relatively inexpensive) meal that I would definitely want to go back to Otafuku again on our next visit to Tokyo.
From Otafuku, it was a 20 minute stroll back to the Asakusa subway station. We were glad to be able to walk-off the huge dinner that we had just consumed.
Since we had to walk pass Sensoji on our way back to the subway station, we decided to visit the temple. We have never gone there at night, only during the day, and were amazed at how beautiful the temple looked at night. The crowds had thinned, and many of the shops along the Nakamise-dori were preparing to wind down for the day. It is a much nicer place to visit at night than during the day when the place is packed to the brim with tourists.
Despite a belly full of oden, I could not resist scarfing down a deep-fried mandu filled with azuki purchased from one of the shops at Nakamise-dori. It was the perfect sweet ending to a wonderful day out in Tokyo.
We visited Cafe Kitsune for the first time on this trip. The cafe is located at Omotesando – not Omotesando Hills but across the Aoyama main road, on the side where the Prada, Chanel and other branded boutiques are situated. We had our morning cup of coffee before heading to Maisen Tonkatsu for lunch. I make it a point to be at Maisen Tonkatsu 10mins before the opening time at 11am so that we are right at the front of the queue. Very kiasu.
Fashionably-dressed baristas. Not surprising since the cafe is linked to the Kitsune boutique. Love seeing men dressed in a preppy cardigan-and-tie outfit.
I could not resist the French toast baguette. Coffee was good too, and I bought a bag of beans for a friend whose current interest is trying out various coffee beans on his coffee machine.
All in all, quite a nice quiet cafe to hang out at if you are in that part of Omotesando.
At Toranomon Koffee (previously Omotesando Koffee) at the swanky Toranomon Hills tower. Pity that the charming machiya at Omotesando has been demolished.
The ambience of Toranomon Koffee has a slightly different vibe compared to its predecessor, but no less charming, I like their new digs at Toranomon Hills. The building is gorgeous, the cafe has plenty of sitting space and there are two barista counters instead of one (so the waiting time is shorter).
I ordered one of the iced cappuccino even though I was so cold from walking to Toranomon Hills from our hotel in Shinbashi. I love their double iced cappuccino. It is so rich, creamy and intense. In addition to their famous baked custard cube, I also ordered an almond financier and a matcha financier. Oh, they were so yummy.
We are not fans of hand-drip coffee, but we learnt that Cafe De L’Ambre’s hand-drip coffee is excellent. Not just the coffee, the ambience is lovely too. The interior is 1980s – brown wood, dark, smoky. You sit at a bar counter and watch them make each cup of coffee by hand, filtered through a cotton bag. It is an interesting place to while away a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Cafe De L’Ambre has been around for over 50 years and serves only coffee. No juice, beer, milk, or any type of food. Coffee is not cheap but in my view, worth the splurge if you enjoy drinking coffee.
This is the coffee version of sitting at a cocktail bar, watching the bartender conjure up delicious cocktails. The barista makes every cup by hand, slowly pouring hot water into the filter bag and letting the coffee glide into a small copper pot, which he then heats up for a quick minute before pouring it into a cup and serving it to the customer. The filter bag is a smaller and shorter version of the ones that our local coffeeshops use to make coffee.
A delicious cup of hot hand-drip coffee that has well-balanced flavors. I usually find hand-drip coffee too acidic for my liking, but not L’Ambre’s.
We also tried their cold coffee which is very good. The coffee goes into a cocktail mixer filled with ice, then poured into a cocktail glass. The coffee is good hot, but even better chilled.
How much coffee can one drink in one sitting? At least 3! We felt as though we were in a cocktail bar, tasting various alcoholic concoctions, and being wow-ed one drink after another.
After a hot coffee, a chilled coffee, we decided to try something different. We ordered the Blanc et Noir “Queen Amber” – sweet cold coffee with a layer of milk floating above it. You don’t mix the milk and coffee but just sip it as it is – sweetness followed by a slight bitterness. Simple and good, and absolutely addictive. My husband and I had two glasses each.
It is a good thing that coffee, even copious amounts of it, has no effect on our ability to sleep at night. 🙂 Satiated from coffee, we went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.
Cafe De L’Ambre
Address: Ginza 8-10-15; 81-3-3571-1551 (銀座8-10-15 Chūō, 東京都 〒104-0061) Opening Hours: 12pm to 7pm
I cannot believe that I have not heard of Maisen, this popular tonkatsu restaurant until recently! From what I have read and heard, Maisen is housed in what used to be a public bath-house, and is practically an institution in Tokyo. My husband is a big fan of tonkatsu, just not me. Not sure why, I love eating pork, but tonkatsu isn’t something that I am very fond of. I was really happy to learn that Maisen serves kaki furai, deep-fried oysters, ‘cos that’s one of my favorite things to eat.
So off we went to Maisen on our first morning in Tokyo. He gets his fried pork, I get my fried oysters, and we both get our cup of joe from Omotesando Koffee located just around the corner before that. No disagreements there. We read about the long queue during the lunch-hour, so we made sure to arrive 15 minutes before their opening hours at 11am. I hate queuing for food, but I am Singaporean, and queuing for food is in our blood and this is one place that I don’t mind queueing at.
That’s what I ordered – 5 deep fried oysters accompanied by a huge (and re-fillable) bed of cold, crisp, shredded cabbage and a bowl of miso soup. I like to eat my kaki furai ‘neat’, that is, without any tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the luscious little golden packages of fried oysters. I find the taste of tonkatsu sauce too heavy and it masks the flavors of the food.
The fried oysters tasted as good as they looked. They were bloody good. I savored every bite with utter delight. 🙂 Plump. Fresh. Juicy. And they had a slight hint of that metallic taste that comes with oysters. The batter was very light and didn’t leave an oily aftertaste on my lips.
My husband ordered some special cut of pork loin that had only 5 portions a day. I took a small bite of my husband’s pork and needless to say, it was super. But I still prefer kaki furai.
That’s the interior of Maisen. I like the high ceilings and that the windows let in lots of light into what is otherwise a rather sombre dining room decorated in the 1980s Japanese style. I didn’t get any good shots of the dining room because the wait staff kept giving me the evil eye when I took out my camera.
This dining room is for customers who come in a group. If you are on your own, they will probably ask you to sit at the bar counter outside. I think we might give the bar counter a try on another visit. That area looks less sombre and more…well, fun.
Sorrieeee! I cannot resist putting up more photos of these lovelies. This close-up shot of the kaki furai is making me want a piece so much now.
Besides pancakes, the other two things that I really wanted to eat in Tokyo were fruit sandwiches and a fruit parfait. Oooohh, I love sandwiches made with soft white Japanese bread and filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream. I ate this once a very long time ago in Tokyo, and lurrrrrved it ever since. So I researched for a fruit parlor in Tokyo but unfortunately, we left this till it was too late in the trip to squeeze a visit to one of these fruit parlors. One of these options was the Shiseido Parlour in Ginza near our hotel, but getting a table involved a one-hour wait. I thought this would have to be carried over to our next trip.
I was extremely fortunate to come across the Takano Fruit Parlour in Takashimaya when we were shopping for some gifts on our last full day in Tokyo. I saw Takano’s signage near one of the escalators advertising their strawberry parfaits and the reaction was an immediate ‘let’s go now’! Takano is located on the 5th floor of Takashimya, just a minute away from where we were.
The Takano parlor is a simple, elegant space. I opened the menu and got lost in it. Too many options, and every one looked absolutely scrumptious. I went into Takano determined to order a fruit sandwich but all thoughts of that flew out of my mind when I was visually assaulted by the beautiful photos of their parfaits in the menu.
It took me ages to decide on something. I ended up with one of their strawberry parfaits. I am not very fond of strawberries in general because they tend to be sour and not very tasty. But it was the strawberry season, and Japanese strawberries are usually very sweet and fragrant.
Look at my parfait! Chockful of strawberries in a cocktail glass. It was too pretty to eat.
I felt sorry at having to ruin the beautiful presentation with my spoon.
My husband does not like eating fruit, so he chose the option that came with the least fruit. 🙂 How is it possible for anyone to not like fruit, especially Japanese fruits?
I read that the Shinjuku outlet is Takano’s flagship shop, and they have a space in one of the basement floors in Takashimya selling fruit.
Takano Fruit Parlour
Address: 3-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. 東京都新宿区新宿3-26-11.
Tel: +81 3 5368-5147
We walked past Aoyama Flower Market, a beautiful florist-cum-tea-house in Omotesando, and dropped in to use their bathroom.
I took a peek into the tea-house and decided that I wanted to go in! The interior was so pretty! Like a conservatory filled with flowers and wooden furniture, and lots of lovely Japanese women in women’s office wear, sipping cups of tea and nibbling on a sandwich or salads.
I wanted to get a table and have a cup of tea (even though I am not really a tea person) just so that I can soak in the feminine ambience of the tea-house. I inquired with the wait-staff and was told that I had to wait at least 30 minutes before a table would become available, and even then, there was already a bevy of ladies seated inside the cafe waiting for their table. (I don’t think I caught sight of any male in that tea-cafe).
The next best thing that I do was to wander around the flower market, looking at the beautiful flowers, so attractively displayed with blooms in every possible shape and color spilling out of vintage metal cans and glass jars. I could not stop ooh-ing and aah-ing.
Looking at these flowers made me want to ignore all common sense, and walk out of the flower market with the largest bouquet of flowers that I can manage. But what will I do with them?
I love how they arranged the flowers by colors. One section held blooms in shades of vermillion, pink, and peach. Another section held the whites and creams. My favorite section is the one in the last photo – the blue, purple, lavender and maroon blooms.
Next trip, I will be sure to get to the Aoyama Tea House early enough to secure a table, sip a cup of tea and skip out with a stalk of something too pretty to resist. Besides the outlet at Omotesando, they are also located at Akasaka and Kichijoji.
I am very fond of pancakes. My earliest memories of pancakes are the thin crepe-like ones that my maternal aunt used to make for tea. We ate them hot off the skillet, with lemon and sugar. I would roll my pancakes and eat them in two quick bites. They were my favorite tea-time snack.
These days, cafes offer thick fluffy pancakes that come with a variety of options – blueberry pancakes, caramelized banana pancakes, ricotta pancakes, red velvet pancakes, etc. Besides lemon-and-sugar pancakes, I also enjoy blueberry pancakes. Pity that I still cannot find a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes. (If you know of any, please let me know!) I remember that the pancakes at Relish were quite good, but I haven’t been back in such a long time, I am not sure if they still serve it.
When I was planning for our meals in Tokyo, looking for a breakfast place that sells good pancakes was a priority. The Japanese love pancakes, and I read that the city has a number of popular pancake places. I considered going to Bills as I have always wanted to try its ricotta pancakes, but the queue is daunting. The other options were Sarabeth at Daikanyama, Cafe Kaila in Omotesando, or Clinton St in Aoyama.
In the end, we settled on Clinton St, which came from NY. We woke up bright and early, and got to the cafe by 8am. I would rather wake up early to avoid a queue, then to waste time in a queue. Clinton St., somewhere in the Aoyama neighborhood, is a brisk 10 min walk from the Omotesando subway station.
I took a cursory look at the menu, because I already knew what I wanted to order. Without a doubt, a stack of blueberry pancakes! They were so good – golden brown on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with a generous helping of blueberry compote, and a side of maple syrup. The husband ordered French toast, which he said was good. My stack of pancakes were fabulous – the best that I have eaten in ages. My iPhone6 photos of the pancakes do them no justice at all.
Would I go back to Clinton St again? Definitely. Check out their menu here.
Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant
5-17-1, Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Nearest subway station: Omotesando Station
Update: Omotesando Koffee is no longer in business and is now operating as Toranomon Koffee at Toranomon Hills.
So glad to be able to drink Omotesando Koffee’s brew again. This coffee bar was a regular feature during our February trip to Tokyo. It is a very convenient stop as there is a direct train-ride from our hotel in Shimbashi to Omotesando on the Ginza Line.
Located in a little machiya, on a quiet street in a residential estate at the back of Omotesando Hills, the coffee bar is one street away from Maisen Tonkatsu. We would usually stop by Omotesando Koffee for our coffee fix at around 10.30am in the morning, before strolling over to Maisen at around 10.50am to stand in line when it opens at 11am for lunch.
I hate queuing for food, but when I have to queue, I make sure that I am right at the start of the line!
The place is so picturesque, with a pretty Japanese garden out at the front.
That’s all the available sitting space in the coffee bar. If you don’t manage to grab one of those two benches, you have to stand around to drink your coffee.
Very simple place: one man, one counter housed in a frame that occupies all the space on the first floor of the machiya.
There is something mesmerizing about watching coffee trickling out of the portafilter into the cup.
The barista uniform – a standard lab-coat in powder blue.
Cold doppio cappuccino. I do not usually take cold, ice-blended coffee, and I do not like to try new things when I am very happy with the tried-and-tested (which in this case is their hot doppio cappuccino). So I have no idea what possessed me to order this at Omotesando Koffee during one of our visits. I guess it was one of those random ‘let-me-try-something-different-today’ impulse, and oh my gawd, I am so glad I gave in to the impulse.
The cold doppio cappuccino was shatteringly good. The barista put (what looked like) expresso, milk and ice into the blender and out came this thick and creamy beverage that was utterly delicious. This is now my favorite drink at Omotesando Koffee.
We also like the bite-sized baked custard snacks that Omotesando Koffee sells. The snack goes really well with coffee. Don’t over-indulge in these tasty morsels. They are tiny but quite filling.
Lucky to have these very attractive customers around as subjects when I was photographing the garden.
All smiles, enjoying expresso in his favorite coffee bar, in his favorite part of town.
I will put up directions to Omotesando Koffee shortly. I have got the directions to the place pat down in my brain, but they won’t stay there for long.
Address: 4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines), exit A2 Open Daily 10am-7pm
1. Take Exit A2 at Omotesando station on the Ginza Line. You will see a huge Apple store on your right and the ITO Hospital building in front of you. Turn right at the street and follow the Maisen Tonkatsu signages.
If you are at the opposite end of Omotesando boulevard (the side nearer Harajuku), just walk along the main road in the direction of Aoyama to get to the Apple store. Best to walk on the same side of the main road as Omotesando Hills and you will arrive at the Apple store outside the Omotesando station.
2. Walk along the street till you reach the T-junction at the end. You will see a Scandinavian home decor shop called Flying Tiger on the left of the street. Turn left at the end of the street and you will pass by a cafe called AfternoonTea Tea Stand.
3. Turn right into another street immediately after you walk pass AfternoonTea Tea Stand, (where the lorry is turning out of), following the direction of the Maisen signage again. Walk along the street.
4. Keep walking along the street and you will eventually see this blue building. This is Maisen Tonkatsu. To get to Omotesando Koffee, turn left at this junction.
5. You will see this big open-air carpark on your left.
6. Keep walking for a little while more and you will see a small cross-junction with this building on your right. Turn right immediately at this building and Omotesando Koffee is about 20 steps away, on your left.
We had a reservation at Shin-Hinomoto in Yurakucho on our second night in Tokyo. It was a rainy day, and the rain continued into the night. We were 30 minutes early for our 7pm reservation and had to wander around the vicinity because the izakaya was mobbed and could not yet give us a table. There are many restaurants and eateries tucked under the Yurakucho train tracks and Shin-Hinomoto is one of them. This is another place worth exploring in the evenings if you have no idea where to go for dinner.
That’s the front of Shin-Hinomoto, looks kind of scruffy on the outside, but it serves amazing food at very affordable prices. The shop may be difficult to spot in the dark, but the tip is to look out for the red lantern hanging outside the shop.
Huddle spot for smokers.
It was cold and rainy, and we decided to seek shelter at this concourse just 2 mins away from Shin-Hinomoto, where I killed time by taking photos.
Juxtaposition between the old and new.
Japanese plastic food samples that make my stomach growl.
Time for dinner! I was tempted to pop into this udon-ya for a quick bite. I was so hungry and cold but was damn glad I held out for what was to come at Shin-Hinomoto.