Monday, March 26, 2012

Cafe De Japon

Cafe de Japon.....can't miss it....
Amongst Chinatown's hustle and bustle, there's a bourgeoning enclave of Japanese culinary gems: Ichiza, Monta, Ramen Sora and Raku where one can find really authentic Japanese fare from the humble and home cooked, to the higher end dining establishments.  And so when we got got wind of  Cafe de Japon, we were excited to make our way over to Desert Inn Road.

Cafe de Japon is a little different than your regular, run of the mill Japanese restaurant; in fact, it's more like Japanese Coffeehouse that you would find in Japan that serves casual comfort food, (it's not fusion-I HATE that WORD)! 

Click below to

As you can see by the front facade, this place's got a little humor, (if you can't figure out where you are... look up...directionally challenged)!  As we're edging closer to the entrance, I can't help but wonder, what kind of drunken clientele do they get that needs to know where the exits are right as they walk in?

Take a deep breath and end scene......To our relief, the restaurant interior is a normal looking cafe, with an inordinate amount of Japanese customers, (always a good sign)!  We got seated and started looking at the items on the menu.

And there was a lot, including the specials board. Reading about their menu online, there was a lot of buzz about their Hamburg Steak, their Pasta with Mentaiko (fish egg) Sauce and Hayashi Rice.

Yuzu Soda

To start off the meal, we ordered the Yuzu Soda- a refreshing drink of Yuzu (japanese citrus fruit) syrup and bits of Yuzu rind, soda and a secret ingredient that the waitress wouldn't reveal.  In any case, it was the first time I've ever had this drink and boy, it was GOOD!  In a Kerr Mason jar, the portion was great!  I would come back just for that drink!

For Lunch, there was a set course menu for $15 which included a small salad, entree and the dessert with Siphon Coffee.  We were psyched that they served this style of coffee and since the waiter said the dessert was Tiramisu, it was a no brainer!!!

Smallest salad ever.......

Pork Belly Tapas

We added a small Tapas style appetizer to our set lunch- the Pork Belly, served with Cresson and Ginger, it was sandwiched in a flakey pie crust- definitely a french touch.

It was an ok Pork Belly, not bad but I would try something else the next time.....

Tororin Omelet with Rice

For our main entrees, I ordered the Tororin (melt in our mouth) Omelet with Rice; a tomato based fried rice with chicken and fresh,  house made Tomato Sauce on top of an soft runny Omelet.

This is an absolute comfort food dish that whipped me back into my childhood....And I don't remember it being this good!  The tomato in the fried rice was sweet and tart at the same time, combined with the chicken and omelet, you couldn't satisfy your senses more than with this dish!

Hamburg Steak with Daikon and Shiso

The other entrees that we ordered was the Hamburg Steak Japanese Style- with created Daikon (Radish) and Shiso (Japanese Sarsaparilla), served with potato wedges on a sizzling plate.

To be totally honest, this was not my favorite dish.  My recollection of hamburg steak is closer to a meatloaf-like soft consistency with the grated daikon added to the mushy texture.   This however, was overcooked and tough to cut, much less chew.  The Potato Wedges were fabulous tho, but alas, couldn't make up for the two boulders of ground cow that lay dead before time, I'll hop on over to Red Rock and gnaw on gravel..

Tiramisu and Siphon Coffee

Alas, one dish was a thumbs up, and one not so up..  But with the end of the meal coming to a close, the finale approached with promise and renewed hope.   The tiramisu came, and although the portion was tiny, it was an incredibly creamy and delicious dessert.  The siphon coffee came and I disappointed to see that the coffee already came in the mug, (I thought that it would be prepared at the table).  But looking back at the coffee bar, I realized that everything was made there.  Albeit my disappointment, it was a great cup of coffee- I enjoyed the aroma and taste and would most likely come back here for an afternoon pick me up!

Overall, it's a place worth trying a couple of times to explore all their dishes; not all of them hit it out of the ballpark, but when you get that one dish that does, boy, are you gonna chase that dragon!!!!

Rating (Out of Five Stars)

Food           3
Ambience   1.5
Service        3

(BTW- the ambience was 1.5, because there was no ambience.  Not a bad thing, just nonexistent....But it got the .5 because of the dishware, like the Kerr Mason Jar and Siphon Contraption at the Bar).

Cafe de Japon on Urbanspoon