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.

DSC_0576-1

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.

DSC_0582

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!).

   DSC_0577

  20150115_220803

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.

DSC_0587-1

+ 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

Neighbor Coffee Company

“Cool!” and “Yum!” sum up my experience at Neighbor Coffee Company, a sweet little cafe located just at the entrance to the up-and-coming “Jeans Street” designer shopping area of Kojima, Kurashiki-shi.

I first learned of Neighbor Coffee Company from Luc Gougeon’s blog.  You can read his review here: http://foodietopography.net/neighbor-coffee-company/   As a prelude, Luc’s photos of the shop are really nice–much nicer than mine, in fact, and he obviously knows much more about coffee than I do.

Neighbor Coffee Company is located in central Kojima, on the north side of the Shimin Koryu Center (which used to be the Seto Ohashi Bridge Museum).  It’s on the second floor of a corner building and is accessed by a really narrow circular staircase.  The cafe doesn’t really stand out when you’re looking at it from the street.

DSC_1962

Once you’re inside the cafe, it looks totally different.

DSC_1964

The cafe is bright, spacious, and modern but feels very relaxing and inviting.  I love the mix of concrete, glass, metal, and wood; the simple lines of everything blend well to great effect.  The concrete flooring has a “reclaimed” feel that is inviting.  The two main walls are made mostly of glass, and even though the view isn’t especially great, the effect still has that “wow” factor.

At the counter, I was greeted with this sight:

DSC_1963Look at those gorgeous doughnuts, arranged “just so” in their individual paper cups and sparkling like gems in the showcase.  I was visiting with a friend, who ordered a Wild Blueberry doughnut and a Mango juice.  I chose an Organic Sugar doughnut and a White Chocolate Iced Latte.

DSC_1970

I am a freak for white chocolate and forgot that I don’t really like sweetened coffee, and this was pretty sweet.  However, it was still really good because the underlying coffee was good–rich and smooth.  It had obviously been properly made.  The Mason jar-esque mugs were pretty cute too.

The doughnuts were AWESOME.  Yes, they were more expensive than the 100 Yen donuts from Mr. Donut or Krispy Kreme but they were really worth their price.  My friend and I traded bites, and even though the Organic Sugar doughnut was really great, the Wild Blueberry was even better!  If you go to Neighbor, you should definitely try the Wild Blueberry doughnut.

Here’s a photo of the full counter:

DSC_1968Unfortunately, the really cute guy who made my coffee was bending down when I snapped this shot.

Even though Neighbor Coffee Company markets their own coffee, they told me that they buy their beans already roasted from their supplier, who they did not want to reveal.

Even though we were in the cafe for a couple of hours, there was only one other customer on a late Sunday morning.  I’m surprised that such a great place isn’t busy all the time.

Outdoor seating is also available (see Luc’s blog, above, for a photo).

+ What I liked about this shop:  Awesome interior, nice service, fabulous doughnuts and coffee.

– What I didn’t like about this shop:  Not much.  No dedicated parking available, but there are two pay parking lots across the street.

Neighbor Coffee Company also offers sandwiches as well as a wide array of coffee and juice beverages, but it was impossible to get a shot of the menu without glare from the glass frame.  For menu information, etc. see the website and / or Facebook page, both listed below.  The website is minimal, but the Facebook page has nice some photos.

Website:  http://neighbor-coffee.com/index.html

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

Address:  岡山県倉敷市児島味野2-2-39 2F  Okayama-ken, Kurashiki-shi, Kojima, Ajino 2-2-39  2F

Tel:  086-472-5183

Hours:  8:00 – 20:00  Closed on Thursdays

Map:

(*NOTE* : This map shows that the coffee shop is mid-block, but actually it is on the corner)

Date visited:  July 28, 2013