Monday, March 29, 2010

66. Restaurant Review: Chao Phraya

Chao Phraya is a newly opened Thai restaurant in Shimokitazawa.  Walk down into a basement to find a very clean, clutter-free, and quite open dining space.  The interior is black and chocolate brown (including the ceiling) with cream & salmon colored walls decorated with photos of Thailand and Thai beer posters.  Ethnic music (not necessarily Thai) plays in the back ground.

There are black bench seats along two walls that, with the addition of 10 chairs, create 5 tables for four.  There are three more tables for four, and two tables for two in the center of the room.  Those who do not sit on the bench seats will have cushioned stools. 

The staff, all Japanese, was very friendly.  The menu is all in Japanese (mostly katakana).

In the evening its specialty is 'Thaisuki', a one-pot dish similar to Japanese 'nabe'.
During the day, however, they have some very reasonable lunch specials to choose from. 

A)  Kaogapaogai (minced chicken, onions, peppers sauteed in a thai sauce topped with a fried egg served with rice) plus salad, and mini dessert.  680 yen
B)  Kaomangai (Thai chicken with rice) plus cucumber slices, soup, and mini dessert.  680 yen
C)  Thai Ramen, served with salad and mini dessert.  680 yen
D)  Lunch of the day  680 yen
*Add a lunch drink (Oolong tea, Jasmine tea, orange juice, grapefruit juice, coke, or coffee) for 100 yen.
*A lunch beer or wine is 320 yen.

I had Lunch Set A.  The salad contained lettuce, carrots, and red onion in a tasty Thai oil-based dressing.  The main dish wasn't bad, but the portion was small (of course, lunch was only 680 yen).  Dessert was lychee jello.

Lunch is served from 11:30 - 17:00 (last order at 16:30). 
The restaurant stays open until 23:00 (last order 22:00).   

*Vegetable Thaisuki  680 yen
*Meat (scallop, shrimp, pork, chicken) & Vegetable Thaisuki 1380 yen
 Add more vegetables at 80 - 180 yen per order, 380 for wonton,...

The dinner menu also includes a number of side dishes all of which are 380, 480, or 680 yen each.
The side dishes include:  smaller portions of the lunch specials, spring rolls, fried chicken, Thai salad,...

I wouldn't mind coming back to try the 'Thaisuki'.  The price is really cheap and the meal would be incredibly healthy.  As for lunch, if you really have a taste for Thai food, go to the other side of Shimokita Station to Baan Kirao (see blog #28) which is run by Thai people and is absolutely delicious!

Chao Phraya Address:  Kitazawa 2-14-2, B1
South Exit of Shimokitazawa Station.  Located below '7 Colors' and 'News' clothing store on the main street, beside the Recofan CD shop.
Phone:  03-3424-1133

Monday, April 27, 2009

65. Chain Restaurant Review: Pasta Mama

The Italian chain, 'Pasta Mama' can be found all around town. I visited the Shimokitazawa location. The restaurant was small and had a family restaurant feeling. The walls were lime green with some simple tile decorations, and there were wood tables and chairs. Although it was clean, the walls had some splatter stains,...

The music was rap and R&B, in English. There didn't seem to be a non-smoking section, and it wouldn't have mattered anyway considering the size of the place.

I was given a lunch menu that was laminated, but ragged and stained. There were four categories of pasta: salt, cream, tomato, and original. All the pastas ranged in price from 580 to 1000 yen. There were a couple of larger salads on the menu, a few desserts, and a list of drinks. I was also given a separate paper describing a few specials that were not on the menu.

I had the spinach cream pasta for 580 yen, and tomato and mozzarella bruschetta for 380 yen. Nothing comes with lunch, no drink, no side salad, no bread,... There wasn't even a side salad you could add, the salads on the menu were too large for one person. They did have an inexpensive side of garlic bread, however.

Drinks were inexpensive, only 150 yen for coffee, tea, soft drinks,... A glass of wine is 390 yen, a beer 380. Cassis and Dita cocktails were also available for 480 yen.

I definitely do not recommend this chain. The food was fine, but nothing special. The music was probably chosen for the Shimokita crowd, but it did not fit the establishment. With one smoker at the other end of the room, I was ok. But, when another showed up, tobacco was all you could smell.

There are too many fantastic privately owned Italian restaurants around. Don't waste your time eating at Pasta Mama.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

64. Restaurant Review: Fu-chi-ku-chi Dining Cafe' and Bar

Fu-chi-ku-chi is one of those places you’d never notice if you didn’t really look for it. That would be a shame.

Located on the 4th floor of a building on Shimokita’s South Exit main street, it is necessary to take a small elevator up to the café. Upon exiting the elevator, you are immediately looking out over a covered, partially open-air dining area - very nice! There are four tables outside, as well as a counter with bout six seats.

Inside the walls are concrete with beige paint and wood accents, with a Southeast Asian feel. There is a collection of odd sofas, lounge chairs, and tables; as well as a long bar counter. One wall is covered with CD’s, DVD’s, and books. Another has music videos playing on a big screen TV. There is a DJ booth too, although it is not in use during the day. Japanese Pop was playing on the TV when I was there. It was a group I had never heard of, and surprisingly, it was pretty decent.

The lunch menu has 6 items on it, all 700 - 750 yen. The choices are: a tomato, basil, and mozzarella pasta, chicken coconut curry, rice omelet, mushroom cream risotto, Japanese-style hamburger, or mentaiko (fish egg) cream pasta.

They all come with a small salad, and for 100 yen each, customers can add a lunch drink or lunch soup. For an extra 200 yen, the lunch dessert.

I started with the lunch soup - bacon slices and diced onion in a light buttery cream base. It was quite flavorful. The salad was lettuce and vegetables in a tomato sauce dressing. I was also given toasted slices of French bread. My main dish was the tomato pasta, it was very tasty.

A nice touch was that every table was given its own bottle of water for re-fills. The staff was shy, but friendly. The menu has photos but no English.

Also during the day there is a ‘Café Set’ which includes dessert and a drink for 500 - 550 yen.

Shimokitazawa South Exit, 3 minute walk down the main street 4th floor, above clothing store.
Pass am/pm and ‘Reco Fan’ on your left, the next building.

Phone: 03-5433-2191

Closed on Mondays.
Lunch & Café: 12:00 - 18:00
Dinner & Bar: 18:00 - 2:00am

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

63. Cafe/Bar Review: Sorga

Sorga is a really lovely Asian cafe that just opened in July. Run by a young couple, the atmosphere is pure Southeast Asian. The interior is white with dark chocolate brown wood and deep green plants. Everything fits with the theme, ash trays, light fictures, even the air conditioner is hidden by a wooden screen. The music varies, from Bosa Nova to R&B to International instrumental.
There is a long booth on a side wall, with four tables for four and three tables for two. There are two more tables for four against the other wall, and there are four bar stools near the kitchen. In the front of the cafe is a small shop selling Asian pottery and goods. Once inside, I really felt I had been carried far away from the busy, noisy street just out front.
There are three lunch specials each day; a 'curry', a 'plate', or a 'bowl'. They come with soup or salad and a drink for 880 yen. The day I was there the curry was chicken and cheese in a tomato base. The plate was marinated pork with rice, and the bowl dish was something with salmon and avacado.
I chose the pork with rice. It was delicious. They only thing I wish had been different was the side it came with. I would have prefered a vegetable to the tuna salad that was presented. I chose a salad and an ice coffee to go with my meal. All in all, well worth 880 yen.
Sorga has a much more extensive menu in the evening, including a full bar. My husband and I did stop in again for drinks and some snacks, we ended up having dinner as well. Everything was tasty and very reasonable.

Phone: 03-3419-3619
Address: Daizawa 3-1-15. Sorga is about 15 minutes walk from Shimokitazawa Station, on the main street that heads to Shibuya, just beside the Setagaya walking trail, and across from Gyu-kaku.

Hours of Operation: 11:30 am - 2:00 am, closed on Mondays.

All Japanese, but with photos:
The menu is also only in Japanese, but with lots of katakana.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

62. Chain Restaurant Review: Cocoro

Cocoro, which means 'spirit / heart / mind', is a soup curry chain restaurant from Sapporo. The interior is more upscale than most curry places, the Shimokita branch has white brick and dark wood walls, with matching tables decorated with cute, miniature plants. When I was there, mellow English R&B was playing in the background.Along one wall is a long booth chair for four tables for 4. There are four tables for 2, two of them overlook the front window, and one regular table for 4. There is also a bar counter, which overlooks the kitchen, with about five seats. The main downside to Cocoro is that there isn't a non-smoking section.

The menu is all in English, but there are some pictures and most descriptions are in katakana. Ordering is a little complicated, though. Choose a curry, then the spice level, rice size - sm, med, lg, or extra large (extra large is 150 yen extra), and rice type (regular or genmai).

There are about 15 different varieties to choose from, all of which are full of vegetables, and which cost 800 to 1000 yen. Examples include: Pork & Spinach, Cabbage & Bacon, Ravioli,... I choose a curry that boasted 14 different vegetables. It was lunchtime so I also ordered the lunch set, which includes a lassi drink and choice of salad or dessert, for an extra 150 yen.

I was very impressed with the curry. The flavor was wonderful and the vegetables were cooked just right. Incredibly healthy and delicious at the same time!

In addition to the curry, there are a few side items available: cold tomato slices (280 yen), Caesar salad (280 yen), and a spicy chicken wing (320). Drinks include coffee, tea, chai, draft beer, and lassi - plain or flavored (mango, lychee, tropical fruit), and are between 180 and 380 yen.

Hours of Operation: 11:00 - 22:00

Phone: 03-5424-3561
Address: Kitazawa 2-34-8, KM Bld. 1Fl. 4 minute walk from the north exit of Shimokita Station. Check this website for a map.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

61. Cafe Review: Wa Cha Cha

Wa Cha Cha is a cute little cafe that specializes in traditional Japanese sweets.

The interior is white and lime green, with light beige tables and chairs. Located on the 2nd floor, a large window looks out over the quiet alley below. A long white bench seat sits below the windows, in line with 5 tables for two. There are only two other tables for two in the cafe. A magazine rack is up against the back wall, and light Japanese pop plays in the background. The atmosphere is light and airy, with tiny cactus in the windows. If they cleared up the clutter near the kitchen window, it would be just right.
In addition to regular coffee and tea, there are lots of drinks based on green tea and/or sweet azuki beans, all from 450 to 600 yen.
If you like traditional Japanese sweets, this is the place for you! Desserts run from 650 to 800, and they are pretty fancy. They even offer some cool 'combination' plates if you care to sample a variety of traditional sweets at one time. A great choice for visiting foreigners who have never tried them before. I recommend sharing a plate.
In the summer then have flavored shaved ice (strawberry, mizure, yuzu,...) for 550 to 600 yen. Add milk for 50 yen, azuki beans or soft serve ice cream for 100 yen. I had yuzu shaved ice. The portion was large and very refreshing. Yuzu jam is used as flavoring.
There are also some Japanese lunch specials to choose from, all are 'donburi' (over rice in a bowl). Mentaiko (fish egg) and avocado; mixed vegetable and egg; kinoko mushroom and chicken; cabbage and a type of fish with mayonnaise; and chicken, onion, and egg. There is also a tofu hamburger plate. All lunches are 850 yen. A drink can be added for 150 - 300 yen, depending on your choice. A mini dessert set is an extra 300 yen (soft serve ice cream or 'anmitsu').

The menu is totally in Japanese, but there are pictures of the fancy desserts, and most drinks are in katakana. Two nice, but shy young ladies were running the place. I am happy to note they filled my water glass about 4 times without me having to ever ask.

Location: South side of Shimokitazawa Station. Across from Kitchen Ripple, down the small alley in front of Robber Gabriela and the burger joint. Stores called 'Torse' and 'Glimmer' are on the corner.

Hours of Operation: 12:00 to 20:00.

Friday, August 10, 2007

60. Bar & Restaurant Review: Seven Colors

Seven Colors is one of those places that only opens up for lunch to pull in a few customers while preparations are being made for nighttime. The day I was there, nobody came in except for a man delivering alcohol.

Seven Colors is definitely a 'night spot'. The atmosphere is very dark, with dark brown walls and floor, a black ceiling, and mostly black furniture (with a few touches of burgundy). There are no standard tables, mostly comfortable sofas with coffee tables. A few European posters decorate the walls and bosa nova was playing in the background. There is a large flat screen TV on one wall, Japanese MTV was on during my visit. A large open space is off to one side for those who want to play darts, and it probably doubles as a stage for live music.
In the back of the room is a well stocked, and nicely organized bar. Alcoholic drinks are 650 - 800 yen, soft drinks, coffee,... 500 - 600 yen, and desserts 500 - 550 yen.

The food menu includes a variety of snacks (popcorn, chips, french fries, shrimp in a mayonnaise sauce,...) all 500 - 700 yen. There is a variety of pasta 800 - 900 yen each (or half orders for 500 - 600 yen), both Japanese and Western style. I had bacon in a tomato cream sauce, it was good. I was disappointed that there were no lunch sets, so nothing came with my pasta. I ordered an iced peach tea to go with it.

Also on the menu are some rice bowl dishes (Ghengis Khan, Chashu, Tsukune, Saikoro - don), all 800 yen, half for 500 yen. There was also curry or salad udon for 750 yen, and a Caesar or mixed salad for 800 yen, half 500 yen.

It was too hot the day I was there, but outside there are a few umbrella-covered tables on a small balcony.

I wouldn't recommend Seven Colors for lunch, the staff wasn't that friendly to me, and they weren't very attentive (they never came over to see if I wanted another tea although I finished it early in my meal, I had to ask them for water,...). And, to be price competitive, they should have some lunch sets. Perhaps they should just stick to evenings.
Hours of Operation: 12:00 to 5:00am.

Address: Kitazawa 2-14-2, JOW3 Building, 3rd floor (take the elevator up). It is on the main street outside of the south exit of Shimokitazawa Station, a clothing shop is on the first floor.