Some killer tofu
Updated: Apr 16
Aside from being clean and hospitable, many shops and cafes in Tokyo are “cozy.”
This is a very-popular descriptor, and I think it’s because whatever word is being translated to “cozy’ in English, also means “quaint” or “with cute, minimal decor.”
So on Sunday Dan and I went to another cozy coffee shop, this one literally called “Precious Coffee Moments.” I ordered a black coffee (per usual, which is the typical Japanese way, after all), and Dan ordered his with a new kind of latte milk...
Sesame milk for all?
Indeed, this liquid made from sesame seeds (and no doubt plenty of sugar) seemed “authentic.” It turns out it probably wasn’t, but it was good and sweet like sesame brittle. It was so tasty, in fact, that we decided that sesame milk would become the next hot new non-dairy “milk,” and like the oat milk purveyor Oatly, Dan and I would start a huge international coffee creamer operation. Call it something like, “Whosays” or “Says-A-ME!” Sesame Milk, or Drink, because the FDA doesn't like when non-dairy products call themselves milk.
This sesame latte was enjoyed in its Japanese to-go cup. What makes it different from an American to-go cup? It’s the lid that perfectly snaps open and shut, and the sip-stoppers that double as mixing spoons.
It’s a good thing we had some tasty caffeine before our least-delicious meal of the trip. Yep. that’s right. We had one bad meal during our time in Japan.
Well it wasn’t, bad, exactly. Just not good.
Our one lame Japanese meal
We got ramen at Ippudo in Roppingi, I think? There are many locations. There is even one location in Santa Monica that is QUITE GOOD! But this one? This was flavorless and filled with hungover New Zealanders who were sad that their team had lost in rugby the night before, but were nonetheless too noisy for our quiet Japan-tuned ears.
After leaving Ippudo and not tipping (Because you don’t tip in Japan!), we went shopping in the bougie Aoyama. That is, until we realized that everything from the vintage Celine shirts to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-toed boots (big toe separate from the 4 toes) were upwards of $450 USD. But we did enjoy some peculiar store soundscapes including one of very aggressive birds, and some rich-people watching from a perch at a darling (cozy) shop called Coffee Shozo.
And then, one of our BEST dinners
In the evening, we had our most lavish and beautifully-set dinner of the trip. The location, Tofuya Ukai, kept getting an impressed nod from locals when we told them we were going there. (Dan got a tip to make a reservation from his colleague’s Japanese wife.) When we arrived, we could see why the place got a seal of approval.
There was the location, set so you could see the glowing orange Tokyo Tower off in the distance. And the huge property, which included paths lined with lanterns and trees that guided you from a red bench and wooden sign at the entrance, to the place where a chef makes his signature fried tofu, and then to our shoe-free dining room.
Fortunately, Dan and I had worn socks for our upscale dinner. But we had worn embarrassing ones: a pizza-patterned pair for him and a Vegas-themed set (thanks, Melissa’s Bachelorette party) for me. But the super-polite servers in their traditional kimonos and wide sleeves didn’t seem to notice.
After all, attention was on the food, which was brought out in ornate, beautiful serving after ornate, beautiful serving. We ate scallops that tasted like fancy chicken tenders, tofu in a soy soup, hot tea in an octagonal glass that perfectly fit my lips, roasted chestnuts (they're THE seasonal food here), savory wagyu beef that I must stop thinking about now because I am actually salivating, and the fried tofu that totally deserves to be what this place is famous for. I didn’t know tofu could taste that good.
When our server noticed the I was cold, she out a velvet blanket on my legs. She also covered my purse on the chair with napkins, presumably so no food would fall on it.
We chewed and smiled and watched the family having a party in the building across from the courtyard, in a building that’s also part of the Tofuya Ukai property. They looked like figurines in a dollhouse, which I suppose we must’ve looked like to them, too. They started eating and drinking before we got there, and wrapped up right before we did. It looked like a lovely reunion.
There was a couple sitting near us who may have been celebrating an anniversary. She was in a traditional kimono with her hair all done up. Her skin was distractingly flawless, with her hair in an updo.
I don’t know if anyone saw us as we explored the many textures of food we were presented, and figured out which chopsticks to use with which dish. But if they did, they would’ve seen a couple enjoying calm, quiet bliss.