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.

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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.

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Oops! I ate the tomato…

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

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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.

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Banana fritter with yogurt

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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.

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

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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).

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+ 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

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

Nene Goose Cafe…revisited

My friend and her sister wanted to meet for lunch, so we agreed to meet at Nene Goose Cafe again because it’s central to my friend’s house and to mine.  Today I decided to try something different to what I ordered last time.  I got the Korean Bibinbap-style casserole dish; my friend got the curried ground beef and vegetable casserole, and her sister got a seafood pasta casserole.

The casserole lunch sets were 1,100 Yen for the main dish, a side salad, and a drink.  Again, I opted for an iced tea since the tea I ordered on my last visit was really good.

Verdict: It was pretty darn good, and very filling.  The casserole had a rice base, and included cooked vegetables, sliced beef, a Korean-style sauce, a poached egg, topped with white sauce and cheese, and garnished with Japanese mizuna.  The salad was good, but the dressing didn’t have that “Wow!” factor that it did the first time we ate at Nene Goose; it definately needed more sesame oil and chili oil.  The tea also was so-so, and lacked the rich flavor that it did on the first visit.

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For dessert my friend and I got the roll cake, which came with a side of vanilla ice cream.  The dessert was an extra 200 Yen with the lunch set.

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The cake was very fresh: the sponge was soft and dense, the whipped cream and custard was fresh, and the fresh fruit (ruby grapefruit and orange) was really nice.  But it was really bland.  This cake looks very pretty but it needs a bit more sugar to bring out the flavors of the creams and the fruit.

Still, I really like the interior of this cafe, especially the flooring.  Here is a photo of the entrance area and the dessert case:

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As with the service on our first visit, the servers were really friendly and outgoing.

I guess it just goes to show that something that seems great maybe is just so-so, depending on the day that you visit.

Date revisited:  July 18, 2013

***For shop information, map, etc., please see the original post on this cafe (in June 2013 of the archives).

Go Blithely

Go Blithely is a popular cafe in the Tamano area;  it is technically a dog cafe in that the owner has her own dog (a huge Burmese mountain dog named “Heidi”) there, and allows customers to bring their dogs into the cafe as well.

Located on the coast in the Gokan area, the cafe offers a nice view from the garden.  The garden is small but tastefully laid out, with the path going around the cafe so that customers and their dogs can walk around.

The lunch menu consisted of 3 choices; my friend chose the grilled salmon lunch, and I chose the fried chicken plate.  Before the main plate arrived, we were served an appetizer plate, consisting of (left to right) simmered pumpkin, Japanese pickled cucumber, and fried lotus root.

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The appetizers were just one bite each.

We were also served a soup just before the main plate.  The soup was a clear broth with cabbage and mizuna in it.  A pretty basic soup that any housewife can make in her sleep.

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The main dish consisted of fried chicken served with Thai sweet chili sauce, a noodle (somen?) salad with mayonnaise and black pepper, a cabbage and carrot salad, a lettuce/cucumber/tomato salad, and a side of rice.  Everything on the main plate was actually very tasty.

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The dessert that came with the lunch was a strange concoction of yogurt with Japanese mochi in it, along with some really annoying chucks of ice; there was also some mango mousse-like stuff in the cup.  This was topped by fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and (wait for it!) a fried shrimp chip.

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Hmmm.  It wasn’t awful, but it WAS hard to eat–all these different and strange things shoved down into a narrow little cup.  My friend is allergic to mango, and since we didn’t get a choice of desserts, I got to eat her dessert as well.  Lucky me.

+  What I liked about this cafe:  The service was nice; I like the fact that customers can bring their dogs; I like the owner’s dog (great personality!), the food was presented well and tasted good; the salads were really fresh; the location is great; the garden is cute and well-maintained.

–  What  I didn’t like about this cafe: Strange combinations–is the menu Western or Japanese?  The appetizers were Japanese, but the main dishes were Western.  The interior is a bit cluttered looking (the owner sells small interior items as well, but they are poorly displayed and out of season.)

Lunch was 1,000 Yen and included the appetizers, main plate, soup, rice, dessert, and a drink (coffee, tea, or juice).  I found this to be a reasonable price for the meal.

Address: 〒706-0315 Tamano-shi Gokan1-141 (玉野市後閑1-141)

Hours: Lunch 11:00~14:00 / Teatime 14:00~  Closed on Mondays

Parking available

(Date visited: June 4, 2013) ➡ If I’d known I’d be starting a cafe review blog when I visited, I would have taken photos of the garden and the main seating area.  Perhaps next time….