Fave Eats: French Crêpes

In a city that is forever changing and growing, it’s almost laughable to think about going to the same restaurant twice! Really, why return to one place when there are thousands of others to choose from? I don’t think anyone could ever know exactly how many restaurants there are in Tokyo. The number 160,000 has been thrown around recently to describe the amount of registered establishments, but I’m sure the true number is much higher! Basically, even if you went to a different restaurant for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper, every day of your life, there would still be thousands you didn’t get a chance to step foot in. Overwhelming is an understatement.

So why return to one place? Because eating out is not just about scoffing down some food! It’s also about the feeling you get as you walk through the doors, the way the waiters interact with you, how the food is presented, and even what kind of people the other customers are. This is where some restaurants stand out more than others and actually deserve to be visited more than once, or even, dare I say, numerous times.

I often get asked by friends who are visiting what is my favourite restaurant. That’s such a hard question! It’s like a process of elimination. After 2.5 years in Tokyo, I know at least 100 places that are probably NOT worth recommending! But seriously, I have dined at many nice places, some very cheap and some that blew the budget. Off the top of my head, the most memorable dining experiences have been yakiniku in a Shinjuku basement, dumplings at Din Tai Fung, fine dining 345m above Tokyo, teppanyaki in Roppongi, and Joël Robuchon’s L’Atelier!

But there’s one restaurant in particular that just won’t escape my mind. It’s one that is not particularly cheap nor expensive, and probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve found myself going back here again and again. Some of you may recognise it as I’ve mentioned it once or twice before, but I thought it was about time I dedicated a blog post to: Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne!

Le Bretagne claims to be Japan’s first creperie, brought to Japan from France by a specialist crepe chef by the name of Bertrand Larcher. Le Bretagne is a branch of Breizh Café, who have 18 locations across France and Japan. The buckwheat galettes that are prepared here are a specialty from the Brittany region of France, and are very different to other ‘crêpes’ you find in Japan.

So there are lots of reasons I call Le Bretagne one of my favourite eats in Tokyo. Back in May 2014, I was exploring the streets of a place I’d read about known as Tokyo’s “Little France” when I stumbled across a quaint and cozy restaurant hidden down a cobblestone alley. There were a couple of free tables on the terrace so decided to try it out. The friendly waiter welcomed me with a cheery “Bonjour” and handed me a menu as I sat down. There were two pages of crepes and galettes and they all sounded amazing, so I just picked one randomly!

As I waited, I looked around, admiring the pictures and postcards of Brittany on the walls and quirky features of the restaurant, like clog-shaped handles on the doors! A book shelf sat outside on the terrace so I grabbed one of the travel magazines and flicked through the pages, transporting myself to the shores of beautiful Brittany! When the galette arrived, it was everything I’d hoped and more: crispy around the edges, and filled with tasty ham, fresh button mushrooms, creamy cheese, and all things delicious! I paired my galette with a cup of traditional cider, and that was that; I was hooked.

That was my first encounter with Le Bretagne. Since then, I’ve been about 6 or 7 times! I’ve taken different friends, and even had my birthday dinner there last year. The menu changes depending on the season, so it’s a little hard to recommend any galette in particular, but I can safely say that I’ve never been disappointed with any choice. As for dessert, a personal favourite of mine is the crêpe suzette served flambé!

If you’re looking for a great place to dine in Tokyo, Le Bretagne is worth it!


Summer Festivals: Kagurazaka Awa Odori

This festival should really be called the ‘cute kids festival’. Little elementary school children packed the main street stretching between Iidabashi Station and Kagurazaka Station. Awa Odori is a dance festival, originally from Tokushima prefecture, with groups of traditional dancers and musicians. This year’s Kagurazaka Awa Odori was held over four days: July 23, 24, 25, and 26.

At 6pm, the festivities kicked off. The children, in different ‘teams’, chanted and danced (wildly waving their arms in the air) as they made their way up the congested street.

As night drew near, the ‘professionals’ showed us all how it’s done. The Awa Odori dance is quite unique and eye-catching. The girls twist their body, knees high, arms out. Those sandals can’t be easy to dance in!

Up Next: Fuji Rock music festival

Inside the Megacity: Kagurazaka

Let me first say that of all the countries in the world, there are TWO which I’m obsessed with.

One is Japan, of course.

The other is… France.

Since I was about 13 or 14 years old, I have been fascinated with everything French. I don’t know where or how it started, but as a high school kid, I tried to teach myself French with an audio cassette and textbook, I watched movies set in France, I collected magazine pictures of southern France’s quaint countryside, I bought books on France and other random French-related things like my Eiffel Tower bookends! I wanted to study fashion design in France and so I studied French at university in the hopes of moving there with some ability to communicate. However, that’s as far as my dream got. Somewhere along the way, while studying French and Japanese at university, my focus shifted to Japan, and well, here we are.

My French obsession has stayed alive all these years, although I’m yet to actually visit the country. If anything, I love having it as a ‘dream’; it’s something I can look forward to in the future. And every now and then, I experience something that re-boosts this dream.

The most recent re-boost came after a wonderful discovery… I learnt that Japan + France = Kagurazaka. A pocket of Europe in the middle of Tokyo!! As if I didn’t have enough reason before, now I truly will never want to leave this great megacity I have found myself living in.

Kagurazaka actually used to be the ‘geisha district’, and there are still some old traditional buildings around. But the area has steadily grown into a French community due to a couple of French schools. The main street which stretches between Kagurazaka Station and Iidabashi Station, and its cobblestone side streets, are filled with French restaurants, patisseries and bakeries. And these are not Japanese-run, wannabe-French places. They are genuine, French-owned restaurants.

Possibly my new favourite place is a crêpe restaurant called Café Crêperie La Bretagne. All the way from France’s Northwest, it makes original, buckwheat flour ‘galettes’ as well as dessert crêpes. Can’t go past a scrumptious flambéed crêpe suzette! The staff can all speak French, and even sung Joyeux Anniversaire (Happy Birthday) to a diner. I noticed plenty of French customers here, so it must be a good sign!

>> http://www.le-bretagne.com/e/top.html

Another cool hangout spot is the Canal Cafe near Iidabashi Station. It’s a boat club restaurant that sits on the water! The canal actually used to the be outer moat of the Imperial Palace, but now just serves as an attraction. You can even rent a canoe and go for a paddle! The menu is not cheap and the place is full of non-Japanese, but it reminds me of the cafe culture back home, where people sit outside and drink and eat and chat. I love the relaxed and sophisticated vibe they have.

>> http://www.canalcafe.jp

The charming back streets of Kagurazaka. Great place to stroll around and get lost in!

Pâtisseries and boulangeries

Hangout spots: Le Café Crêperie and Canal Café