I had the best green curry of my life in a coffee shop last night. Weird, but true.
Matsugamine Coffee Building is a cozy, small cafe just a couple blocks west of the Utsunomiya city office. Passing by it last night, I was stopped in my tracks and reeled in by the wide, welcoming window through which you could peer in and see the entirety of the cafe. I was tired and a bit disgruntled, so I decided a tea and dessert would be a nice pick-me-up before I went to go make dinner at home.
Clearly, things didn’t go necessarily as I planned, and as soon as I walked in, I saw a waiter carrying a plate of delicious-looking curry to another customer. While cafe’s serving food-food no longer surprise me (it’s pretty standard in Japan), I had my doubts as to whether a place that looked so strictly coffee-shop-like (with cozy chairs, soft yellow-light lamps at each table and equally soft light bulbs dangling free and shade-free from the ceilings while soft music like Ingrid Michaelson’s “Open Hands” dissolves your stress away) could actually make good curry.
My waiter then came and placed on my table two slabs of wood–the drink and food menus, each pasted onto a lightweight wooden frame. Their drink menu was extensive with a long list of different coffees and teas as well as sodas, juices, and cocktails. Their food menus had several desserts and a la carte items as well as a few entrees; the latter included the curry, which they call “authentic from Thailand.” I had my severe doubts, but decided that was what I was now in the mood for, so I ordered that as a drink set with a soy chai latte.
A few minutes after ordering I was brought a simple green salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and decorated with almond slivers. It was a bit bitter, but kind of reminded me of a salad from home, so nice.
A bit later came the curry, the namesake main part in a tall bowl next to a mound of rice. The rice, which was what I first noticed, wasn’t quite brown, but it wasn’t quite fully white either–it was somewhere in the middle, and really pleasant. I took a half-spoonful of it and dipped it into the curry, scraping up a chunk of eggplant, and popped it into my mouth. Then I immediately spat out the eggplant because it was incredibly too hot; despite that lapse in judgment that my food may in fact be freshly made and therefore hot, I managed to get a taste of both the eggplant and the curry, and was blown away. The curry was spicy (and not Japan-[anti-]spicy–legitimately a perfect amount of heat, like 3-4/5), creamy, coconutty, herb-y, and incredibly rich–better than even what I had in Thailand (although to be fair, I only had green curry once in Thailand, and I’m sure I just went to a mediocre restaurant). The eggplant was also fantastically fresh, along with the chunks of bell pepper and a few shreds of chicken. I didn’t want any of it to end. (By the way I’ve since gone back again and had the yellow curry. Green curry wins.)
I was brought my chai after my meal as a nice wrap up. It was likewise fantastic, with a perfect amount of sweetness, and a nice relaxing way to end my day.
Because it tasted so good, the curry was fairly reasonably priced at roughly ￥1300 yen, but the drinks I find a bit pricey–￥630 for one medium-sized cup of chai, although with the drink set I did get ￥150 off. This is definitely going to be a place I can see myself frequenting, although potentially burning a hole in my pocket for dropping close to ￥2000 each time–the food is too good to not get, but the atmosphere makes you want a warm latte–so now I’ll just need to figure out how to strike a balance.
Upon checking the website for MCB, I learned they have special early-open summer hours, during which they sell pancakes. Naturally, I visited this place again, making it two times in one week (a half-week, actually…).
Best. Pancakes. Ever.
They’re fluffy yet flavorful, come with a side of cream cheese whipped topping and a bit of banana.
And since I started writing this post, I’ve gone back for pancakes twice.
Best. Pancakes. Ever.
Also be forewarned–these are probably the most exclusive pancakes you’ll ever have. You have to phone in and make a reservation in advance, and not just at any time you choose–they have limited slots for when Pancake Guy comes in to make them (last time I called 2 days before, I could choose something like 11 am, 12 pm, or 4:30 pm).
It seems they also on occasion have live music performances and host a summer beer garden on the roof of their building.
So just go–for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Or switch “or” to “and.”
Matsugamine Coffee Building
Hours of Operation: Mon. – Sat. 12-11, Sun. 12-6 (summer hours open at 9 am), but closed on Thursdays. (*Call in and check for times–often different from what’s listed. They’ve opened and closed on me earlier than what’s written.)