Tag Archives: Casual

Rock-Paper-Potatoes

Gyros Hero

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Located less than five minutes from Takadanobaba station, Gyros Hero is the ideal spot for a study date, and yet I rarely find it full of students, or full of anyone for that matter. Inspired by the Greek islands, the white and blue motif of this casual sidewalk café/restaurant is clean without feeling sterile. With wireless internet, and even an in house computer, provided, I head over here when I want to focus and get some work done. It doesn’t hurt of course, that I hardly have to spend money to do so.

With gyros costing only ¥390 (¥580 for a gyros set), I can eat a great hot lunch here, for less than a coffee at Starbucks, and, unlike Starbucks, they don’t kick you out after an hour. My favorite is the classic tzatziki gyro, the cool yogurt flavor mixes well with the ground meat, fresh tomatoes, and soft bread. The last time I went they also had a tasty lamb gyro special for the day, which was a treat. Vegetarians can try the mozzarella and tomato gyros, Greek salad (unfortunately short on the feta cheese I found), or falafel and fries, which is great, albeit small.

At such low prices, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of service. Recently deciding to brave the outdoor patio, my friend and I were still a bit chilly, even with the provided blankets. Without our even having to ask, the cheerful manager/owner(?), who remembers the customers’ names, came outside to make sure we were alright, and set up a space heater by our table.

So what are the downsides? Well, there is only one. Part of the charm of this place for me has always been the “jyan-ken potato”. Every customer used to play “rock, paper, scissors” with the manager for a free small order of French fries. On my last two visits, however, this game has been noticeably absent. I’ve been too shy to ask why, but on your next visit, see what happens and let us know…

http://www.gyros-hero.com/

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Girly desserts with a view

LOHB

I hate to say it, but this is the girliest restaurant I have ever been to. I have more than once noted that all the patrons are groups of young women, with the exception of the occasional couple on a date. Why is this, are women more susceptible to the promise of healthy dining? Perhaps. Case in point: the last time I dined with so many women was at a “detox tabehodai” (all you can eat). An oxymoron of course, made only more ridiculous by the fact that it included hearty beef curry amongst its buffet.

But back to Lohb, a restaurant with the so-called “Natural&Healthy[sic]&Beauty” theme: in addition to be generally populated by women customers, there is a true sense of pretty in the décor, which incorporates water, crystal, plants, and lush, cushiony seating. The upstairs couches (pictured above) seem like they’d be ideal for a date, although I have not tried them out. Seated by the window downstairs on my visit, I recognize immediately at least one feature that should be attractive to any visitor. The full glass walls of both floors of this restaurant look directly out onto Shibuya Station crossing. My tourist friend was delighted, however, when she immediately began snapping pictures on one visit, we were told—both in English and Japanese—that photos were not allowed. When we pressed the matter (after all, we were not taking photos of the restaurant’s interior), we were told that the buildings across the street would make the restaurant pay money if they allowed visitors to take photos of the very public and often photographed square.

With a good fifteen photos already in the can, we shrugged off this odd rule and checked out the menu. There did seem to be some genuinely healthy dishes, as well as a great selection of unusual cocktails, many boasting high vitamin content. The most interesting and healthy choices came from the changing seasonal menu, which featured a few different dishes using wild rice, and we enjoyed a smooth risotto. Off of the year-round menu we liked the beef carpaccio, although how it would benefit our beauty, I’m not quite sure. We also had a light, albeit unremarkable proscuitto and rucola pizza, and some nama harumaki (fresh spring roll), which fit the healthy bill, but did not wow us .

We finished off with the dessert plate (pictured above), which was definitely the highlight. Everything on it was just as it should be: sweet, rich, and probably pushing us on the road towards heart-attacks. So do not come to Lohb for the healthy food. Do not come for the photo opportunities. Come when you want a great view, food of a solid quality with some seasonal stand-outs, décor done all the way, and maybe when you want to impress a girly-girl.
LOHB

渋谷区道玄坂2-3-1 LikesBldg 4・5F
TEL 03-3464-1919

Jamaican me hungry

Aalawi

This is serious comfort food. Comfort for when you’re sitting collapsed on a sidewalk corner crying because you’ve been lost in the Tokyo streets for three hours and missed two appointments. I’m serious. This is exactly how I first enjoyed one of Aalawi’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwiches, just after I first moved to Japan.

I had gotten takeout from this small restaurant in Ebisu, and while I left it sitting in its brown paper bag far longer than I’d planned, it still did the trick. The flavorful barbecued jerk chicken was heaped into a large sandwich of wheat bread, with fries and coleslaw on the side. Not a dainty sandwich, and certainly not a polite one to be eating on the street, but delicious.

I’m relieved to say that other than that first encounter, I have always eaten in at Aalawai’s. The exterior seems to be an elaborate diorama of a barbecue where I might prefer some real, usable outdoor seating, but inside, the bright muraled wall really punches up the casual décor at what is a fairly small restaurant. The constant reggae music in the background as well as heat from the open kitchen also add to the atmosphere (if you’re sitting at the bar on a summer day, the heat adds perhaps a little too much).

The jerk chicken or pork I’ve ordered has continued to be savory and satisfying, either in sandwich form, or next to rice. The restaurant uses its own original seasonings for the meat, and the result is a flavor that I’ll admit has stopped me from exploring other parts of the menu. On my list for future visits, however, are the stews and fish dishes on the menu, as well as the hard to find vegetable dishes, like collard greens.

Aalawi Ebisu 1-26-13. Tel: 03-5793-5027.

Let’s go to my house

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Apres Midi Cafe

Living in Tokyo, one of the things I miss most is the ease of hanging out at friends’ houses; in my hometown, friends were close-by, and cars made last-train considerations irrelevant. Apres Midi Café in Shibuya is like the home of a very cool friend, that is, if your very cool friend has DJ’s come over to spin regularly.

A little bit difficult to find for the first-time visitor, the café is located on the fifth floor of a rather non-descript shabby white building. Inside the atmosphere is very casual, with mismatched chairs and worn-down couches. The food is minimal, but tasty. A very light, albeit small, crunchy gorgonzola pizza makes a good snack, as does the salad, but the drinks are really what this café does best. My pick is the soda and tea-mixed apricot cocktail, my favorite summer drink. Desserts here are French-inspired and reasonably good.

On a hot day, there doesn’t seem to be air-conditioning, but the windows are opened, people are relaxing and grooving, and I almost start looking for my cool friend to compliment her on this great house party.
http://www.apres-midi.biz/

What were we drinking?

Joumon

While most restaurants in Roppongi polarize into the super posh or decidedly not ( China Café 8, anyone?), somehow the Joumon vibe has avoided ending up on either end of the trashy-flashy spectrum. Right in the middle, the inspired design of Joumon is cool, while somehow still earthy and warm. This a laid back yet impeccably decorated joint would seem more part of the scene somewhere quirky and hip, and yet here it is, just down the street from Asahi Television headquarters.

Specializing in kushiyaki, all the traditional favorites were delicious and taken off the grill at the exact right moment. We loved the hearts, pork calbi, and tsukune, and the lotus root wrapped in bacon was good enough that we ordered seconds. Happily puzzled to find a cheese section in the kushiyaki menu, we enjoyed the skewered smoked cheese and camembert.

There were also some unexpected treats to change up the rhythm of our meal. A stewed pork dish was smooth and light, and an enormous croquette bomb, sitting in tartar sauce with a soft-boiled egg in center was rich and crunchy. We also sample the foie gras liver pate, which while irreproachable, would have been better as part of a different meal, with wine perhaps, which we were not drinking.

What were we drinking? Oh boy. Here is where Joumon really shines. The selection of shochu is the speciality, although the variety of choices is matched in pretty much any other drink category. Our friendly and genuine waiter led some of us to the “Kureha Royal” Umeshu, a unique plum wine made using Earl Grey tea, which was truly a revelation.

The only weakness to this otherwise strong menu was the dessert. While the brownie, creme brulee, and quickly forgotten third dessert that we ate were tasty, even the ones I can remember clearly didn’t leave much of an impression.

Sometimes a place can be impressive simply by being solid in all areas. Joumon is definitely worth a second visit, although after this first one, we are already planning to become regulars.

Joumon

5-9-17 Roppongi

Minato-ku, Tokyo

03-3405-2585