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.

59. Restaurant Review: Goemon

Goemon is a 'Japanese' pasta restaurant. What does that mean? Well, it means that no matter what type of pasta you order, you have to eat it with chopsticks! And, if you decide to order a set, the soup is a clear Japanese flavored broth, and the salad is shredded daikon (Japanese radish) with lettuce and bacon bits, in a light Japanese dressing. To add to the Japanese flavor, all dishes are traditional pottery and everything is served on a black lacquer 3/4 moon tray.

All of the pastas, however, are not Japanese style (with seaweed, fish eggs,...). Half are Japanese and half are 'Western'. I ordered a fresh tomato and mozzarella cheese with basil in a tomato base, it was very tasty. It was, however, impossible to eat without a little bit of splatter (don't wear white).

I ordered the 'Ladies Set', which allowed for the choice of any pasta, plus soup, salad, and drink (I had iced Oolong tea) for 1350 yen.

The colors in Goemon are deep green, light brown, and a bright orange. It is very clean and clutter-free. There is an 'L' shaped counter facing an open kitchen. The kitchen is very organized and there is lots of stainless steel. There are also about 16 tables for two (that can be converted into larger tables if necessary). All chairs are high-backed, dark green and black. Jazz plays in the background.

Seats at the bar counter are a little warm due to spotlights located overhead. They are also considered part of the smoking area.

The menu is all in Japanese, but there are pictures of every dish and many descriptions are in katakana. Ordering ala carte, most pastas cost about 1000 yen. There is a 'Men's Set' (I think the portion is larger), and a set that includes a dessert. There is also a large display of 'fake' food at the entrance. Although the Italian/Japanese combo seemed a little odd to me, I felt the set was a lot healthier than the equivalent at a purely Italian restaurant. No tempting garlic bread on the menu. So, I guess I would recommend Goemon if you want a 'healthy choice' pasta lunch.

Goemon is located out the south exit of Shimokitazawa, just a little ways down from Starbucks, on the right side of the street, 2nd floor (across from ABC Shoes).

Thursday, August 9, 2007

58. Chain Restaurant Review: Tsukiji Sushiko

Tsukiji Sushiko is your standard sushi shop. There is a long counter with chairs facing the sushi chefs, plus a number of regular tables. Order piece by piece, or from a number of sets. Individual pieces fall into price categories of: 50, 110, 160, 210, 270, 320, 370, and 400 yen.

There is no English on the menu, but almost everything is written in hiragana and katakana. If you know your sushi, it won't be a problem.

There are a handful of cooked items on the menu, although we didn't order anything except miso soup (of which there are some choices).

The chef who waited on us was very friendly and professional. My husband and I will eat here again.

Address: Kitazawa 2-3-12. Located on the left side of Chazawa Street, if you are heading toward the town hall. (*There are also over 20 other locations around the city)
Phone: 03-5486-0505