Before I get into the food, allow me a minute just to talk about how oshare (fashionable) this place is. While the name doesn’t sound like it would be a restaurant, it just sounds like a high quality cafe or store placed in New York or California. Take a look at the storefront itself, and you see that its nameplate area is covered perfectly in tasteful ivy but not so much that you can’t see the letters spelling the restaurant name. On warm days, they open up the west lounge area to make an open-air sofa space. On that same side, just look past the restaurant, and you can see the top of Utsunomiya Castle (which serves as a nice decoration in the city, more than anything). At any point during core eating hours, tables are filled with customers on girls’ nights out and dates, and there are often lines forming outside. I’ve even seen them host a wedding reception.
And the oshare-ness doesn’t end at the front door. Upon walking inside, you find very California-esque decorations–hipster without breaking into tackiness (sorry hipsters)–and casual yet regal. They play a mix of modern popular music (some songs that were released within the past year, some within the past several years) and catchy oldies popular in the US decades ago–and yet somehow this combination just works. It’s hard to explain this through words alone, but it’s just one of those atmospheric places, which is probably why there’s always at least one or two token gaijin (foreigners) at a table on a date or reading a book on the sofa–add another plus one for oshare, because Japan says so.
Basically, you should just come here at least once because of the oshare-ness.
Did I mention that I think it’s oshare?
Now to the actual food.
One of their lunch/dinner specialties is “French toast.” No, it’s not what you think, unless you’re French, and in that case I don’t know what you think. It’s hard to explain what this is exactly, but imagine a semi-fancy savory lunch on top of Japanese thick white toast. Below is an image of what I ordered, the roast beef honey mustard French toast.
They also have a variety spanning from foie gras saute to spam and chicken toast to sea urchin to normal sweet French toast. Each one will put you back more or less 1,500 yen no matter if it’s lunch or dinner, so it’s not the cheapest lunch per say, but it’s quite worth what you get. If you go for dinner (which I still haven’t), the only main difference is that they have a tapas menu available and an alcohol menu.
The other main specialty that this restaurant provides is their “crash cake” (クラッシュケーキ）. These are basically cakes trying to be parfaits–roll cake with ice cream, whipped cream, sauces, and other toppings mashed into a Mason jar. I originally thought the katakana meant “crush cake,” since everything is crushed into the jar, and grammar was just ignored, but nope. The cake was not passive and crushed–it was active and crashed into the jar. They have pretty standard flavors here, like nutty chocolate banana, chocolate extreme, triple berry, and tropical mango-pineapple. As for me, I went for “Cheesecake Fantasy.” You just can’t turn down that name.
I’d say my main disappointment was the cheesecake factor, as, even though I know better, I keep hoping for cheesy, creamy American cheesecake, and instead am presented with Japanese cheesecake, which is much more cake than cheese. I can’t necessarily take points off for this, but they would totally get extra brownie (I mean cheesecake) points from me if they went a bit more American with their food like they did with their interior. In any case, it’s good and hearty, a lot, but still very Japanese with the level of sweetness and ingredients. These will put you back at about 800 yen a jar.
Finally, you probably were able to tell by the pictures, but there’s one more thing that reminds me of the US (specifically of a state I’ve never been to but pretend like I have like a Hoosier), and that is the portion sizes. Now I’m not saying they’re impossible, but I realized too late that they actually allow you to box your leftovers up and take them home–also very un-Japan-like. If you have a regular human being appetite, I recommend you go with a friend (or a sexy date), split an entree, and eat a crash cake jar by yourself, because we all know you don’t reaaaally want to share dessert.
Bottom line: the food is good. The prices are not the cheapest, but fine for the portion size you can get. Take some of it to go if you must. The atmosphere is awesome. Did I mention how oshare it is?
Edit: While the base prices do not change between lunch and dinner (5 pm and later), please be aware that there will be an automatic cover charge if you come in for dinner. They offer some prosciutto as well to make up for it, so it’s not too bad, but if you’re wanting to come in for dessert, unfortunately it’s best to do that in the afternoon.
South Ave. Store
Open 11am-12am daily.
[pw_map address=”〒320-0806 栃木県宇都宮市中央3-2-4“]
Featured image credit to here.