mt cafe x Miyake Shoten @ Ojigadake

The mt cafe was a limited time, pop-up cafe that I found out about on a Facebook page for tourism in our area. I saw the notice well after the term had started, but knew I wanted to go. I asked my business partner to go with me, and he said yes, but the final days were approaching and he wasn’t around. So I decided to ask a girlfriend who lives in the area to go, only to find out that she was spending the weekend out of town. I asked my son to go; he is usually up for doing something, but he was tired from working late the night before. So I ended up going by myself. This was a good thing and I’ll tell you why in a bit.

The weather had been horrible up until Sunday–torrential rains that were causing massive flooding and landslides throughout western Japan. There were only 2 days left until the cafe would close, and I was really debating on whether to even go or not, because the location is along some bluffs that overlook the Seto Inland Sea; I would have to drive though low mountains to get there, and I was afraid that small landslides or falling rocks might be blocking the road. But, on Sunday morning, the rains stopped and the sky was cloudy with big patches of blue, and there was sunlight!–something we hadn’t seen in a few days. So, off I went….

mt cafe x Miyake Shoten: a temporary, pop-up cafe at a bluff-top rest house

So, the building is usually an abandoned rest house on top of the Ojigadake Bluffs, which straddle Tamano City and Kurashiki City in southern Okayama Prefecture. The structure is usually bland, uninteresting ferroconcrete, but the Kamoi Company in Kojima, which is famous for making some of the cutest washi masking tape, covered the entire building inside and out. I was expecting some sort of masking tape but actually it was printed vinyl strips. The menu was planned and executed by Miyake Shoten, a very well-known cafe in Kurashiki City.

Even the stairs were covered in designed vinyl and looked inviting. I went up.

Cafe on the 1st level, observation deck on the 2nd level

Here is photo of the observation deck on top of the building used for PR on the Facebook page (photo used without permission):

EXPECTATION

And here is what is actually looked like:

REALITY

Sorry to show my face, and it’s hard to tell from this silly photo, but the deck is indeed NOT covered in that cute vinyl. It turns out that it blew off in the typhoon that passed by a few days ago 😥

Here is the fantastic view from the top, which wasn’t affected by the lack of cute vinyl:

View from the deck

There were a few people on “jet skis” (a.k.a, personal water craft) in the bay below; you can see them leaving trails in the water. I didn’t realize how high up I was until I noticed how small their cars looked in the parking lot! There even a few paragliders out, since the weather was decent. This bluff is a very popular spot for paragliders.

View from the deck: a paraglider

Ok, so, into the cafe. I was kind of dreading it because I saw so many people inside. Again, here is the PR photo (used without permission):

PR photo of the mt cafe / EXPECTATION

And here’s what it really looked like. Not too far off, except that I couldn’t really see the pattern in full because there were SO MANY PEOPLE.

mt cafe / REALITY

The actual cafe part was jammed back into a corner and had only about 5 small counter seats. The main space was used for selling masking tape. It seemed like most of the tables were occupied by families with small children. So many small children, and so many crying babies. As a parent myself, I still don’t understand why people want to take babies to cafe and then let them cry; it can’t be fun for the parents and trust me, it’s not fun for the rest of us either.

So, I said I was glad that I ended up going alone, and this is why–too many people packed into a narrow counter area. It wasn’t the sort of cafe that you can sit in leisurely and enjoy a nice conversation.

The menu was simple but nice. In addition to basic drinks, this is what was on offer:

Menu

Summer vegetable curry, Okayama peach shaved ice, and a special Okayama peach parfait. Naturally, I went for the parfait. I even got a free roll of specially-themed masking tape with my order, yay. There were so many ingredients in the parfait that there was even a diagram at the order counter.

Parfair diagram

Starting at the bottom, the parfait was made up of crushed salted cookies (so yummy!), raspberry jam, butterfly pea and lemongrass jelly, pistachio gelato, peach compote, more crushed salted cookies, more butterfly pea and lemongrass jelly, peach ice cream, mascapone and honey mousse, whipped cream, more peach compote, and then topped with passion fruit sauce, a sprig of mint, a blueberry and some crushed raspberries, and a mini macaron. It was simply fabulous.

The Okayama Peach Special Miyake Shoten Partfait 2021

The parfait in better light–sorry about the “background”!

It tasted just as great as it looked. I do like parfaits, and while this one was fussy and had a lot in it, it was beautifully presented and used high quality ingredients. No corn flakes or canned fruit here, thank goodness. I love the glass it was served it too–it suited the parfait very well.

The woman next to me, who was also alone, ordered the shaved ice; I didn’t really want to start up a conversation with her, so I just snapped a quick photo of her ice while she was fiddling with something. Sorry, lady….

Okayama Peach Shaved Ice sneaky photo

For only 500 yen, I feel like this was a steal because another place in town sells the same thing for a lot more.

After enjoying my parfait, I went over to see what the sales area had to offer. There were several kinds of limited edition masking tape on sale, and the designs were all super cute. They also had some plain colored tape. I was tempted to buy some of the new designs, but I already have *a lot* of masking tape and really didn’t need any more. I decided to just enjoy the selection with my eyes.

Cute masking tape!

The view was so fantastic, and actually the space inside was quite large. The building even had a proper kitchen. It made me wonder why there isn’t a cafe here all the time….

+Things I liked about this cafe: the temporary / pop-up aspect made it into a event which was fun, nice concept for a local pop-up (2 local businesses working together), limited but really well done menu–everything was “real” (not instant or frozen) and attractively presented, fabulous view, loads of free parking

_ What I didn’t like about this cafe: too many people (not the cafe’s fault, and I *did* go on the last Sunday possible so that’s on me), service was somewhat rude (I didn’t mention it in the article but the clerk automatically assumed that I don’t speak Japanese *even though* I ordered in fluent Japanese; she didn’t give me information that I heard her giving other customers. This sort of thing really rubs me the wrong way)

I won’t give business details as I usually do because this was a pop-up cafe that has already finished.

Date visited: August 15, 2021

Merci Moncher

Merci Moncher–hmmmm, there’s something about this name that bothers me. It’s obviously “fake French”, a style of naming places and things with foreign languages that the Japanese do to make something seems more cosmopolitan and cool that it actually might be.

Still, my friend recommends this cafe, and I heard from several other people that their cake is excellent. My friend and I decide to go together; she is vegetarian, and there are very few cafes serving lunch that cater to vegetarians in our city.

I’m skeptical of stylish-looking places that are staffed only by super young women, but here we are. The customers are also mostly of the younger crowd, which also gets my suspicions up.

Merci Moncher: cafe front

However, the menu is clear and easy to understand, and everything was titled in English (not that I need that, but it’s nice for those who do). The menu was posted at the entrance so that we could consider what we wanted before we went in. I usually don’t need a lot of time to decide, so if we can waste less time pre-order, I’m happy.

There were only two vegan / vegetarian options but they both looked excellent. My friend had the falafel salad plate, and I had the tofu burger salad plate which is not vegetarian. I’m pretty sure my burger had a bit of chicken in it so I couldn’t offer her a bite, but she gave me a bite of her falafel–it was fabulous! Our plates looked exactly the same except for the main item. Here is my tofu burger but I’m getting the falafel next time:

Tofu burger salad lunch set: 1,210 Yen

The salad lunch sets are made up of the main item, plus ‘genmai’ brown rice, green salad, grilled seasonal vegetables (lotus root, bamboo shoot, eggplant), purple cabbage salad with a vinagrete, grated carrot & raisin salad, a little bit of hummus, and red beans. Plus a mug of soup, which was just normal–not outstanding, but it’s a simple clear soup so there’s not much you can do with that. Everything on the main plate was really, really good, much to my surprise, and all of the vegetables were super fresh.

We sat towards the back of the cafe, which looks out onto the main road. We could “people watch” and chat while we enjoyed lunch together.

Street view

In the end, we were too full to try dessert, and honestly speaking we are both trying to lose a little weight, so we skipped it. But look at this cake display!!

Cakes on display

I probably *could* have squeezed one in, but I didn’t want to pressure my friend. I swear, the next time I go back to this cafe, I WILL try a dessert! Apparently, the shop is well-known for their rolled cakes, which you can buy whole or by-the-slice, and they are filled with fresh whipped cream and seasonal fruit. Okayama grows some of the best fruit in Japan, so whatever is in the cake is bound to be great.

The cafe is clean, and stylish in a contemporary way. The service is very good but not outstandingly friendly, but that’s not really a problem as long as the staff get the orders correct and don’t bother us too much during the meal.

Cafe interior and cake display

+ What I liked about this shop: Nice interior design, easy-to-understand menu with photos and English labels, big windows on both sides of the cafe, beautifully plated entrees, beautiful and plentiful dessert selection, super fresh vegetables. Staff are also very good. The cafe is located just in front of the main station, JR Okayama Station. No smoking throughout the cafe.

_ What I didn’t like: Almost nothing. Maybe the pricing?–the non-special items were reasonably priced but if you want to add on a drink and/or dessert, it gets pricey. Still, the quality is there so it’s not a bad value.

Address: Merci Moncher, located in Icot Nicot on the 1st floor
Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Ekimae-cho 1-chome 8-18

Telephone: 086-201-0130

Business Hours: Daily 10:00am~7:00pm

Website: https://tabelog.com/okayama/A3301/A330101/33015821/

Social Media (Instagram): https://www.instagram.com/merci._.moncher/?hl=en

Map Link: https://www.google.com/maps/dir//merci+moncher+okayama/@34.6657293,133.9166699,16.98z/data=!4m8!4m7!1m0!1m5!1m1!1s0x3554077894f8d943:0xdc29ad7c14e2d47!2m2!1d133.9211605!2d34.6658689

Date visited: July 18, 2021

Unomachi Coffee, Okayama Shop

The original Unomachi Coffee shop is in Uno, which is the downtown area of Tamano City. Tamano City is a small coastal city edging the Seto Inland Sea, and is known for its ferry port and shipbuilding factory. The main shop, however, is on the 2nd floor of a shopping center and doesn’t overlook the sea or the port area, but rather the street running in front of city hall.

The Okayama branch shop also is on the 2F of a small shopping mall in city center. You’d expect the bustle and noise of the city to bleed into the cafe, but it doesn’t: Unomachi Coffee is a quiet haven in the middle of the city. The entrance to the cafe is tucked back in a corner of the 2nd floor, across from a large book store, and since the design is somewhat minimalistic, it doesn’t stand out right away.

Unomachi Coffee, entrance and order counter

Unomachi is known for their Instagram-worthy parfaits and soda floats, but my business partner and I were just stopping in for a quick lunch before work. He was hungry and got a curry lunch set (which I failed to photograph, my bad), but I wasn’t very hungry and so decided to order a cheese toast & coffee set. Also, a friend had told me that when she’d recently visited Unomachi, her toast hadn’t been toasted at all–that it was served to her raw. So naturally, I wanted to see the toast for myself.

Cheese toast set

Cute, right? While not raw, my toast was definitely undercooked. I mean, the bread was just regular cheap sandwich toast and the cheese was processed sliced cheese, so nothing special at all, but the toast wasn’t crispy at all. I snapped this photo and showed my friend, but she said hers wasn’t even this cooked, so I can only imagine how…not delicious hers was. Instead of making cute pictures on the toast with veggie pieces, I’d actually have preferred to have well-toasted, crispy and bubbling hot cheese toast. But no….

My business partner said his curry was very good, and the coffee that came with my set was also very good. Maybe next time I’ll just stick with coffee and a dessert.

I suspect that people don’t go to Unomachi for the food. Maybe for the coffee, and probably for the atmosphere. There are loads of great books and magazines in both Japanese and English that customers can peruse while there.

Lots of books!

The great thing about the books and magazines is that they’re all really interesting and well-chosen items. I’ve been to several shops that just have random stuff on the shelves just because it’s in English, but the books and magazines here actually seem curated. The furniture is also an eclectic mix of contemporary, custom, and retro pieces, but somehow everything works well together and the effect is a quiet, cozy space that you want to stay in for a few hours.

The other side of the cafe is made up of a series of large windows, so even though the cafe feels calm and quiet, it’s not gloomy.

Large windows letting in lots of light

+ What I like about this cafe: The interior feels sleek yet cozy; lots and lots of great books and magazines; good coffee and pretty dessert drinks

_ What I don’t like about this cafe: Undercooked toast, very limited lunch/meal menu.

Service was friendly but not especially notable.

Address: 〒700-0821 岡山市北区中山下1 丁目 8-45, CRED Okayama 2F / Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Nakasange 1-chome 8-45, CRED Okayama 2F


TEL: 086-230-3922

Homepage: https://www.cred-okayama.com/news/shop_list/unomachi-coffee

Hours: 10:00am~8:00pm

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/RYLwhMrhWwT6e1gC8

Date visited: March 25, 2021

Cody-no-Isu

This place is listed as a cafe, but technically it is not–it’s a dog & cat cafe. Most animal cafes that I’ve been to offer some sort of drink or food, but this place doesn’t. It is strictly dogs and cats only, no food or drink whatsoever. And in fact, there are no tables or chairs.

A friend told me about this place, and I decided to visit with my son, who really, really wants a big dog. Since we can’t get a big dog in the foreseeable future, we are relinquished to enjoying OPDs (Other People’s Dogs). There are a couple of dog cafes in our area that specialize in miniature shiba-inu dogs, but I hadn’t heard of any place that has large dogs. Until I heard about this place.

Even though this business is listed on Google Maps, it was still just a little hard to find. I was expecting a street-level store, but Cody-no-Isu is on the second floor. We knew we were nearby because we could hear the dogs barking, but it took me a few minutes to notice the dog statue at the entrance (my bad!).

Cody-no-Isu entrance

The stairway was a bit narrow and there were safety gates at the bottom and top of the stairs, just for extra fun with obstacles (but I understand why they’re necessary, of course). We were asked to remove our shoes and pay before entering. The entrance fee is 1,300 yen for the first hour, and you can add on time for a small extra fee if an hour isn’t enough for you.

As I mentioned, there are no tables or chairs, so guests have to sit on the floor. As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by the animals, most of whom were not shy at all. At other animal cafes I’ve been to, the animals are often very shy and/or tired of people. But the animals at Cody-no-Isu are the friendliest I’ve met, and they all seemed to want lots of attention.

Greeters

Even though the building is somewhat old, the cafe room was clean. The animal “staff” are rotated so that they don’t get too tired of being handled by people, and you can see their photos on the back wall. There seem to be more cats than dogs, but since my son and I both like cats and dogs equally, that was fine with us. All the animals seem to get along well–we didn’t see any fighting, other than a cat or two hissing because they didn’t want someone else on our laps.

CUTIES!

We will probably go back again during my son’s next long school holiday, because the owner had only one large dog on duty when we visited, but she said that she would be getting a Borzoi pup in the near future.

Labrador pup

In general, the animals seem very happy, and they have a penned-off area to retire to if they get tired or need a break, and the cats have large cages and climbing towers with beds and perches. And after following the shop’s Instagram account, it looks like the owner has a rooftop dog run where the dogs (especially the large ones) can get exercise and de-stress.

Separate “break” area for animal staff
Black cat who I wanted to meet…

Some extra information: Plan to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Since you’ll be sitting on the floor and the animals will be sitting on you, expect to get dirty. Expect to leave with a lot of hair on your clothing (the owner does have tape rollers at the exit so you can roll off some of the hair, but still….). Also, children under 10 years of age aren’t allowed, even with parental guidance.

+ What I liked about this cafe: FUN! Animals are friendly, healthy, and seem happy / unstressed; reasonable price; LOTS of animals and unusual breeds of dogs to interact with; clean shop.

_ What I didn’t like about this cafe: It’s not a problem, but technically not a cafe.

Homepage: https://codynoisu.wixsite.com/codynoisu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/codynoisu

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/codynoisu/

Address: 〒700-0822 岡山市北区表町 3丁目 7-15 ファミリービル 2F / Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Omotecho 3 Chome 7-15, Family Bldg. 2F

Tel: 080-9675-9599

Hours: 1:00pm~6:00pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday~Sunday / 2:00pm~8:00pm Monday / Closed Thursday

Access: https://goo.gl/maps/8y2Rtv6nb4McW9yB8

Date visited: April 6, 2021

Ears ❤

Koe Pizza

Outdoor dining is WONDERFUL. Period. And since it’s hard to find cafes and restaurants that offer outdoor dining, it’s one of the things I miss about my hometown. Well, Koe Pizza has filled this niche and they’ve done it extremely well.

Set it Okayama City’s Ishiyama Park, Koe Pizza is right near all the attractions in what the city calls the “Culture Zone”. The shop is semi-temporary and has a “food truck” vibe, but also has nice tables and canopied seating that overlooks the Asahi River near Korakuen Garden. You place your order at the converted truck/counter, and then your pizza is made in the prefab building behind the truck.

Order counter & prefab kitchen

The menu offers a few different kinds of pizza; the thing that I like is that all ingredients are locally sourced and very high quality. The pizzas are not cheap–if you’re looking for volume + cheap prizes, go to Domino’s instead. These are hand-made, high quality pizzas and you’ll pay accordingly.

Lunch comes with a side salad and a regular drink (coffee or tea), or you can add on a premium drink. On this day, my business partner had invited me out for lunch and we were being a bit cheapo, and anyway I do like coffee and tea just fine. That said, the iced tea was excellent and was extremely flavorful.

The staff always say that we’ll have a semi-long wait while they make our pizzas, but the service is actually surprisingly quick. We sat down at a table near the sidewalk and enjoyed the view and conversing with each other, and the server brought out table settings, drinks, and salads right away. The pizzas were maybe another 10 minutes or so.

The pizzas were freshly baked and piping hot.

Spicy Bacon Margherita 1,800 Yen
Okayama “Shinrin-dori” Teriyaki Chicken Pizza (seasonal special) 1,800 Yen

Both pizzas were absolutely delicious. I know a lot of non-Japanese people turn their noses up at corn and ‘nori’ seaweed on pizza, but honestly it was tasty if you can get past the “this isn’t authentic!” boxed-in mindset.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the table settings. The place mats, napkins, and cups are disposable, and the plates, salad bowls, and cutlery are reusable, it’s all designed so very well and everything is so stylish. If you want to see the design sense of the shop, you can check out their Facebook page (link below).

While we were eating, this gentleman and his BMD (Bernese Mountain Dog) passed by, and he let me pet his dog. Besides cafe hopping etc, another “hobby” of mine is enjoying OPD (Other People’s Dogs), haha.

A beautiful BMD
A very good boi!

After lunch, we went to work and passed through the park. The trees were beautiful and there were lots of seasonal flowers planted in the flower beds. Koe Pizza makes a nice addition to a very nice public park.

Park Path
Seasonal flowers in the park

+What I like about this cafe: outdoor dining, great location with nice scenery, actually very good food that is made with locally sourced ingredients, fast and good service, really stylish design in all elements

_ What I don’t like about this cafe: almost nothing. I honestly can’t think of how it could be made better.

Homepage: https://www.koe.com/koepizza/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Koe%20pizza./100630735050511/

Address: 〒700-0813 岡山市北区石関町 7、石山公園内 / Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Ishizeki-cho 7, inside Ishiyama Park

Tel: 086-201-1331

Access: https://www.google.com/maps/place/koe+pizza+okayama/@34.6659008,133.9325387,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0xae2fd5bfa4e67aa9!8m2!3d34.6659008!4d133.9325387

Hours: 10:00am~5:00pm, closed Wednesdays and Thursdays

Date visited: May 9, 2021 and several times previously

Nodaya-cho Cafe

My friend Jennifer invited me to join her for lunch at a cafe she found. It turns out that the young lady working at the cafe is Jennifer’s student, and she spoke English very well.

The cafe looks like a pretty normal cafe, and is located just one street off of the main road in Okayama City and just a few blocks from JR Okayama Station. The name of the cafe isn’t on the signboard but it’s obviously a cafe, and they advertise their daily specials on a white board near the entrance.

Nodaya-cho Cafe: entrance
Daily specials board in Japanese

The interior of the cafe was clean–super clean–but also it looked a bit “crafty” or “homemade”. There’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact it was charming, but the cafe lacks a professional look and feel. The interior items, dishes, and other things lacked a coordinated feel.

I was debating on what to order; daily specials are generally good deals, but I didn’t really feel like having Japanese-style food. The sets looked like semi-Japanese fusion-style food.

A sample page from the menu

Jennifer and I ended up getting BLT sandwiches, which was a good choice, albeit maybe not the best value. The sandwiches came with a small salad and a drink; I chose hot coffee, of course. I don’t remember how much the sandwich set was, but I think it was around 980 yen.

BLT set with side salad and a drink

The sandwiches were delicious! The bacon wasn’t American-style crispy bacon–it was thick-cut Japanese-style bacon, which is softer than American-style–but it was still excellent. The vegetables were super fresh and the toast was toasted to perfection. The salad and coffee were really good too, and the cups and saucers were very pretty (every set is different; you can see the set Jennifer got with her hot tea in the photo).

+ What I liked about this cafe: cozy atmosphere, good sandwiches, pretty coffee & tea cups & saucers, friendly staff

_ What I didn’t like about this cafe: strange fusion menu, the waffles were expensive but all other dessert options were Japanese items.

Homepage: http://n.cafe.oit-sv.jp/

Facebook: %E3%82%AB%E3%83%95%E3%82%A7/570738020069233/

Access: https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1PDZP_jaJP912JP913&tbs=lf:1,lf_ui:9&tbm=lcl&sxsrf=ALeKk02eeFyP1EnriIQwbQeuLTFSX7MRLQ:1623511506986&q=%E9%87%8E%E7%94%B0%E5%B1%8B%E3%82%AB%E3%83%95%E3%82%A7&rflfq=1&num=10&ved=2ahUKEwiIkabVs5LxAhXSyIsBHT3qAKcQtgN6BAgEEAQ#rlfi=hd:;si:6361036937992916425,l,ChLph47nlLDlsYvjgqvjg5XjgqdaGiIU6YeO55SwIOWxiyDjgqvjg5XjgqcqAggDkgEEY2FmZaoBHAoJL20vMDIwZmIyEAEqDSIJ44Kr44OV44KnKAg,y,8sEZhLKFWgc;mv:[[34.66967637876594,133.9293454447357],[34.6632346960208,133.91089184671324],null,[34.6664556,133.92011864572447],16]

Address: 〒700-0815 岡山市北区野田屋町1丁目1-11, 101号室 / Okayama City, Kita-ku, Nodaya-cho 1-11-11, Room 101

Hours: Weekdays & Saturdays 11:30~17:30 / Closed Sundays and possibly Thursdays

TEL: 090-1356-8139

Date visited: May 28, 2021

Chaiya

I vaguely remember visiting this little curry restaurant when I first came to Okayama, and I remember that the food was good and the atmosphere pleasant. Nearly 20 years later and nothing has changed; it’s still one of the best curry restaurants in town.

Chaiya’s signature dishes are Indian-style curry and Indonesian-style fried rice, and chai and lassi drinks. You can also get a wide variety of side dishes, salads, and desserts; the menu is a full three pages. My favorite entree is the Coconut Shrimp Curry.

DSC_0951

Coconut & Shrimp Curry / Mango Lassi

All entrees come with a serving of yellow rice and a small side salad. The salad vegetables are super-fresh lettuce, a slice of tomato, sliced cucumber, parboiled carrot, and saffron-boiled potato; the dressing is a plain yogurt, which I admit sounds strange, but it actually very good in its simplicity.

DSC_2712

Oops! I ate the tomato…

The Indonesian-style Nasi Goreng (friend rice) looks like this:

DSC_2713

This dish is my friend’s favorite; I am in love with the Coconut Shrimp Curry, but I will have to try the Nasi Goreng sometime, because it does look really delicious.

For dessert we had a banana fritter and coconut pies, which we shared. Both were good but we agreed that the banana fritter was better.

DSC_2716

Banana fritter with yogurt

 DSC_2717

Coconut pies

The restaurant is located on a backstreet near Okayama University; the interior is natural and cozy, and the wood floors and furniture give it a very welcoming feel. There is a good selection of magazines (in Japanese), which is nice for people who want to relax for a while. It was great to rediscover this place (thanks to my friend!) after so many years.

DSC_2718

 DSC_2720

In addition to having lunch / coffee ・chai / dessert, etc, Chaiya offers a small selection of teas, breads, and spices for sale.

DSC_2724

Chaiya was recently featured in this local publication, which highlights area restaurants and cafes that have been in business and have been popular / well-loved for more than 30 years (Chaiya has been in business for 36 years, since 1979, in case you were wondering).

DSC_1175

+ What I like about this place: Great food, inviting atmosphere, has a “hidey-hole” feel, loads of free parking, loads of menu selections–this makes me want to come back again and try something different next time.

What I don’t like about this place: no separate areas for smokers & non-smokers, staff could be a bit friendlier.

Homepage: n/a

Facebook: n/a

Address: 岡山市北区津島南1-6-17  /  Okayama-shi, Kita-ku Tsushima Minami 1-6-17

Tel: 086-255-1915

Hours: 9:00am~10:30pm; closed Fridays

Map:

https://goo.gl/maps/pfZyR

Dates visited: September 19, 2013 & February 16, 2015

Yuichiro’s Coffee Roastary

DSC_0978

Fresh.

That is the one word, the only word you need to know about this place.

Technically, this place, like many others, is not a cafe. It is a coffee roastery and tasting room. It’s unusual in that the owner keeps no stock of roasted coffee ready to sell: all coffee is roasted in small batches and upon order only.

DSC_0994

Centerpiece of unroasted coffee beans

On the day that we went, my friends made reservations for us to try several coffees and to learn how to make a good cup of coffee using the cone drip method.

DSC_0987 DSC_0989

We were taught how to calculate and measure out the beans, how to grind them, and how to fit the filter into the cone so that no gap remains between the cone and filter. Then we learned how to steam the grounds and pour hot water over them to yield a delicious cup of coffee. The freshness of the ground beans resulted in a heady aroma, and the grounds looked fluffy and light in the paper cone, something which I’d never seen before.

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I usually take my coffee with a bit of cream or milk to dull the acidity, but Yuichiro’s coffee is best enjoyed plain. Pictured above right is a cup of his house blend, Tsubaki. Mild and delicious.

Along with the coffee workshop, my friends ordered a small lunch for us. We were served salad with slices of French bread toast (to be dipped in olive oil), and a wonderful dish of Chicken Cacciatore.

DSC_1000  Fresh green salad with French bread toasts

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Chicken Cacciatore: mild flavors of virgin olive oil and red wine

Our meal wrapped up with a sampling of Geisha coffee from Panama. It was served in tall champagne flutes, for a touch of elegance. At 2,800 Yen per cup, and served with handmade fudge and freshly roasted almonds and cashews, it was quite a treat and the perfect end to a meal. It had a rich, fruity taste that paired well with the chocolate and nuts.

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We not only had a great time, but also learned a lot about something we drink everyday but actually don’t know much about. This is a really elegant little place hidden in the backstreets of Tamano. The building is the family’s antique home that has been renovated in a modern, comfortable space, and the owner is friendly, personable, and really knows his stuff. He loves what he does and it shows. I will definitely be going back to learn more.

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Services include sales (including special gift boxes), tastings, and workshops. Everything is by reservation only. Workshops are taught in Japanese.

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Coffees available for roasting include selections from Indonesia, Panama, the U.S.A., Jamaica, Ethiopia, Brazil, El Salvador, Peru, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

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Roast almonds & cashews

+ What I liked about this place: Emphasis on superior quality. Excellent product and friendly, excellent service. The beautiful interior is a mix of contemporary with antique accessories, East and West.

– What I didn’t like about this place: Nothing. A bit pricey but absolutely worth it!

Homepage: http://yuichiroscoffee.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YUiCHiROSCOFFEEROASTARY

Address: 〒706-0011  岡山県玉野市宇野4丁目13-11 /  706-0011 Okayama Prefecture, Tamano-shi, Uno 4 Chome 13-11

Tel:  090-5267-2136     Fax: 0863-31-5789

Email: yuichiroscofee@icloud.com

Hours: 12:00 ~ evening. (no set holidays).  Tastings 3x/day: 13:00~, 15:00~, 18:00~ (on days when no workshops are held); please call or email for reservations.

Map: 

 Date visited: February 19, 2015

Balloom

If you know me, you know that I really love donuts.  My business partner & I had a meeting today at a cafe that specializes in tofu donuts, and I confess that I was thinking, “Ah, tofu donuts…probably not so good.”  WRONG. These are the best tofu donuts I have ever had. In fact, they are some of the best donuts I’ve had.  Period.

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Balloom is a small cafe on the west side of JR Okayama station; it’s owned & run by two entrepreneuring sisters who grew up in a tofu-making family (hence the tofu-rich menu).  The cafe is small but elegantly stylish 2-storey building that is decorated with a SoHo feel: dark-wood antique furniture mixed with a few newer, artsy pieces, glittery lights, and rich jewel-toned walls make for a stimulating yet very relaxed atmosphere.

I absolutely adore this light fixture, which hangs in the stairwell between the first and second floors. It’s a wire fixture adorned with little colorful birds.

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As we were there at tea time, we just had a cup of tea and a donut each. What a treat! The tea was served in generously-sized footed cups. The tofu donuts look plain, but were oh-so-fabulous. Even though the donuts are made with no sugar, eggs, or milk, they were remarkably sweet, soft, and fluffy. I also ordered a few for take-out, because I knew my family would also enjoy them (they did!).

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The dishware is all from New York; it’s probably difficult to see in the photo, but the donut plate is adorned with a New York-themed design.

The lunch menu features selections such as a specially-made curry with rice, seasonal quiche, tofu ‘donburi’, tofu lasagna, a green smoothie made with soy milk from the family tofu shop, a fruit tart, and a few other select items. The cafe turns into a bar with a completely different menu at 6:00pm.

Next time I visit, I’m going to have the quiche lunch! With a tofu donut or two for dessert, of course.

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+ What I like about this cafe:   Elegant decor, menu featuring a few well-thought out & high quality items, friendly staff, owners that take pride in their product and enjoy sharing it with customers, easy access from the station.

What I don’t like about this cafe:   Not much! No dedicated parking but it’s in the city center so that can’t really be expected.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/balloom.NY/timeline

Address:  〒700-0024 岡山市北区駅元町21-13 /  Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Ekimoto-cho 21-13

Tel: 086-250-7363 / Mobile: 080-6263-7377

E-mail: yamamoto@otoufu.com

Date visited: January 15, 2015

Tereya Cafe

If you like antiques, great food, and arts & crafts, Tereya Cafe is the place for you. Located on the main road in Ushimado, Okayama, this cafe is exactly the kind of place I’d choose to open if I ever get my own cafe.

Tereya Cafe is operated by American-born Teresa Stockwell, and her Japanese husband.  The building is actually an antique Japanese house; the house has not been renoved, so it has a very homey, warm feel to it.

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The menu features curry and baked desserts.

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Note, the curry is really great handmade curry (not Japanese curry, but more authentic Thai-style curry).  Being a freak (yes, that’s right) for anything coconut, I opted for the Coconut Curry despite Teresa’s having warned me that it is quite spicy.

DSC_4248The portions were large; the curry was served accompanied with a fragrant, saffron rice. And yes, it was spicy. As the day was really chilly, spicy curry really hit the spot. My colleagues order the vegetable curry, which was probably considerably less spicy.

The curry was also served with a side salad.

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I confess, this looks like “just a salad”. But, the vegetables were super-fresh; the tomato was excellently sweet despite it currently being winter; and the potato salad was perfect. The whole thing was drizzled in olive oil with a sprinkling of sea salt–so very Ushimado.

After our meal, we couldn’t resist dessert–after all, it was Teresa’s baked goods that greeted us when we first arrived:

DSC_4254It’s hard to see from my poorly-taken photograph, but an array of handmade cakes and pies are lined up on the kitchen counter. The only problem was deciding what to get, because frankly, everything looked equally delicious.

In the end, I got the Apple Cinnamon cake:

DSC_4249Yum. Soft cake filled with chunks of cinnamoned apple, and topped with a light sugar glaze and sliced almonds.

My friend Judith got the Apple Pie with a dollop of whipped cream on the side:

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You just can’t go wrong with good ol’ apple pie.

Our colleague Kaz got the Ushimado Honey Cake:

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Even though the honey cake looks the plainest, it was my favorite (yes, we traded bites!). It had an earthly, whole-grain goodness that the honey accented nicely.

Teresa and her husband also display and sell an array of arts & crafts in their cafe, including handmade greeting cards and postcards, accessories, hand-blown glass, and pottery.  Additionally, they also host live music performances. For more information / updates on events, check out the Tereya Cafe blog and /or Facebook page (links below).

If you’re driving through Ushimado and need a great meal or just a place to relax, look for the Tereya Cafe signboard.

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Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to a) bring more money to buy crafts; and b) plan to spend more time there!

+ What I liked about this cafe:  Great food and desserts; large portions; eclectic mix of arts, crafts, antique / vintage Japanese and Western furniture make for a great atmosphere.

What I didn’t like about this cafe:  Nothing, absolutely nothing. My only regrets are that we didn’t have more time to enjoy coffee and conversation with the proprietors and that I didn’t bring more money to buy craft items.

Blog link: http://tere-ya.at.webry.info/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tereyacafe

Address:  〒701-4302  岡山県瀬戸内市牛窓町牛窓4178   /   Okayama-ken, Setouchi-shi, Ushimado-cho, Ushimado 4178

Tel: 0869-34-5397
Hours: 11:30~18:00 (Sat. & Sun. until 20:00); Closed on Tuesdays
E-mail address:  teresa@amethyst.memail.jp

Map: http://yahoo.jp/cfxNz7

Date visited: February 13, 2014