Created with the intent of becoming an integral member of a “sustainable community,” the Royal Garden Cafe in Aoyama isn’t your average trendy Tokyo hot spot. Their aspiration seems to permeate much of what the cafe/restaurant does, as great care is taken in providing food that not only looks and tastes good—but also does good for the community and the environment.

Seafood bouillabaisse

Seafood bouillabaisse
(Photo by Nina Janezic)

Located around 15 minutes on foot from Omotesando, where trudging through throngs of eager shoppers can leave you feeling drained, the Royal Garden Cafe and its surrounding area offers a refreshing change of pace, as time here seems to quietly recede into oblivion. The surrounding greenery adds to the calm atmosphere: The famous 300-meter-long Icho Namiki (ginkgo-lined avenue) leading to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery begins here. The restaurant’s outdoor terrace seating is the perfect spot for people- and scenery-watching, made even better when the colors of ginkgo leaves vivify towards mid- to late November.

The Cafe’s interior is cozy and lodge-like, made so by the dark, woody furnishing. The open kitchen adheres to the eatery’s aim of providing “visible food,” or food with a transparent process of preparation and sourcing: The day’s freshly picked vegetables, for example, are listed on a blackboard along with their original location.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée(Photo by Nina Janezic)

The menu spans a wide range of Eastern and Western dishes, with mains from¥1,200-1,700. The vegetables are mainly organic, and, while not a wide range, some vegan options are also available. Starters include the rich and creamy gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese sauce (¥650), and the grilled prawn with cilantro sauce (¥1,150). Mains include the seafood bouillabaisse with seasonal vegetables and baguette (¥1,700) starring scallops, clams and mussels; and the basil sauce penne (¥1,200). Although the latter is a bit bland, the bouillabaisse is hearty and flavorful. For dessert, the crème brûlée (¥780) hits the sweet spot just right, with the bottom layer of rich chocolate cake perfectly balanced by the tart berry sauce.

The bread is baked in-store using French wheat, and is available for purchase at the bakery with pastries and focaccia, among others.

Definitely a hip location with a great, comfortable vibe—but what truly stands out is the care visible in the Cafe’s service towards customers, the community and the environment. A feel-good visit.

Open every day, 11am-11pm. 2-1-19 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Nearest station: Gaienmae or Aoyama-itchome. Branches in Shibuya and Tama Plaza.