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

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

Cannery Row

What’s up with all these all-you-can-eat luncheries in Japan at the moment?  This is another one of those places, but a very pleasant way to spend a lunch hour (or two).

My friend introduced this restaurant to me.  We went as a fairly large group consisting of 3 adults and 4 children; even without a reservation, we were seated promptly.  That being said, I think this place is probably really full during the proper lunch hour.  We went a little bit later than the lunch rush.

The restaurant is situated in the western portion of Okayama city.  It’s a fairly small, one-story building surrounded by tall buildings.

DSC_1825From the parking lot, it looks like a slightly weedy oasis.

Here is a shot of the entrance:

DSC_1827

You can barely see the entrance for all the olive trees, potted plants, and herbs and shrubs lining the path.

Once inside the door, you can’t help but notice the dessert case:

Cannery Row dessert case

Look at those gorgeous cakes and tarts!!!

The menu consists mostly of pastas and pizzas; the prices fall into the range of 1,350~1,450 Yen, and this includes the all-you-can-eat buffet, salad bar, and the drink bar.  I ordered a bacon, tomato, and basil pizza to share with my son, but I didn’t take a photo because it had been delivered to the table while I was a the buffet, and he ate a good portion of it before I got back.  The pizza was thin crust and was really good; it looked as if it had been baked in a proper pizza oven.  The buffet consists mostly of appetizers and various salads, but also included a curry pilaf, chilled corn potage, and really good focaccia bread.

DSC_1829The salad bar was incredibly basic: just salad greens, grated carrot, sliced onion, purple cabbage, two dressings, croutons & bacon bit toppings.  Those pretty yellow peppers and bottles of vinegar and oil are just for decoration.  The best part of the salad bar?–the HUGE wheel of cheese!  That cheese was awesome and would make anything taste great.  This was an instance of “simple is best”.

DSC_1830

After lunch, we chose to have dessert.  You can’t just order one dessert; you have to order three!  You get three small desserts for 280 Yen, which is a really good deal.  The waitress brings a dessert cart around and plates up your desserts as you order them.

DSC_1833

Here are a few close-ups of our desserts with descriptions:

DSC_1834

(Left to right) My son ordered a slice of mango tart, a slice of white peach tart, and a slice of cheesecake.

DSC_1838

(Front to back) I also ordered a slice of mango tart, a slice of zuccotto, and a red berry triffle.

All I can say is YUM!!!  Thank goodness, my son couldn’t eat all of his dessert so I got to try to cheesecake and the white peach tart as well.  Everything was outrageously good.  The zuccotto was especially good–it was filled with fresh whipped cream blended with flaked chocolate, walnuts, and rum.

I couldn’t really get a good photo of the seating area because there were just too many people in the restaurant, but it was done in an “Italian country” theme: stucco walls, calico tablecloths, and Italian foodstuffs decorating the plate racks that went around the restaurant.  Even the bathrooms were tastefully done; I love the combination of pink walls, turquoise blue trim, and terra cotta tiles.

Cannery Row bathroomOn the way out, I spotted another huge wheel of cheese:   DSC_1841It turns out that this was a fake one used for display, but I asked the waitress how much the wheel on the salad bar cost; she said it cost upwards of 200,000 Yen (that’s over $2,000 U.S. dollars, folks!)!

I asked her if the desserts were made on-site, which she confirmed.  The desserts were so pretty that I couldn’t resist taking another shot of them.

DSC_1840

+ What I liked about this restaurant:  Excellent desserts; good service; good food; cute interior; good children’s menu (the children’s menu consisted of the buffett and drink bar for 500 Yen, but they can also share an entree with an adult) .

What I didn’t like about this restaurant:  Somewhat cramped seating (tables were too close to the wall, making it hard to get in and out); narrow paths around the buffet areas; really loud music that made conversation difficult.

Address: キャナリィ・ロウ岡山西店  岡山県岡山市問屋町4丁目102 Cannery Row West Japan, Okayama-ken, Okayama-shi, Toiyacho 4-chome 102

Tel:  086-243-0708

Website:  http://www.canneryrow.co.jp/ (in Japanese, but includes no information about this franchaise of restaurants or the menus)

Date visited:  July 25, 2013