Before avocado toast became the breakfast choice of health-conscious hipsters worldwide, self-taught Australian chef Bill Granger was preparing the fashionable dish in an uncharted corner cafe in Sydney. Twenty-six years later, Granger’s brand of lazy, yet sophisticated weekend dining has evolved into a global empire, with 19 restaurants in five countries — eight of which are located in Japan.
The Omotesando branch of bills overlooks the Harajuku skyline from the top floor of the Tokyu Plaza. Compared to the bustling streets below, the restaurant is a sunny oasis. Glass-paned walls allow plenty of natural light in, and the minimalist decor makes guests feel like they’re walking through a modern dining room. A massive, built-in bookshelf in one corner of the room adds to the charm.
Despite the restaurant’s homey ambiance, bills’ original menu features complex flavors and top-notch ingredients. Fluffy stacks of Granger’s signature ricotta hotcakes (¥1,500) permeate the room during lunchtime. Even in the middle of the week, there’s a line of people waiting at the entrance — undoubtedly eyeing the famous treat. Granger, an art school dropout with no formal culinary training, has been dubbed the “Godfather” of the global avocado-toast-phenomenon. His recipe calls for hefty avocado slices atop a piece of toasted sourdough with lime and coriander to brighten the palate (¥1,320).
Fresh flavors and Instagram-worthy plating seem to be bills’ secrets to success. Before taking a bite, guests are wooed by the colorful arrangement of herbs, spices and produce that compose much of the menu. For example, the chopped salad (¥1,420) evokes a basket of freshly-picked vegetables — topped with crunchy chickpeas and a subtly spicy citrus sesame dressing, every forkful delivers texture and punch. For meat-lovers, there’s a juicy wagyu burger layered with swiss cheese, dill pickles, bacon crumbs and a singular onion aioli (¥2,200).
A brown sugar pavlova is the star of the dessert menu. The traditional Australian treat consists of a meringue cake packed with pistachios, topped with rosewater cream and strawberries (¥1,100). In line with Granger’s other dishes, none of the ingredients overpowers another. While topped with loads of cream, the dessert remains light and fresh.
Japan first had a taste of Granger’s simple, delicious home-cooking in 2008, when he opened shop in a sunny beach town along the Shonan coast. Most of his restaurants are situated by the sea, in places that remind Granger of home. Atop a commercial tower in the teeming Shibuya ward, bills Omotesando seems to be an exception to the rule. Nonetheless, one step into the restaurant and the stress of urban life dissolves. Through laid-back vibes and quality food, the Aussie spirit lives on at bills.
7F Tokyu Plaza, 4-30-3 Jingumae Shibuya-ku