October 25, 2007
Yaffa Organic Cafe
Slow down with slow food in Harajuku
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2007
Tokyo has a long way to go until there’s an organic store on every street corner. Yet the LOHAS boom is undoubtedly here to stay. Organic Café Yaffa, located on Harajuku’s trendy “Cat Street,” actually predates Tokyo’s slow food trend, and offers a full lineup of tasty health food in a sedate atmosphere.
A set of narrow stairs on the side of an apparel shop took us to the third-floor restaurant, which features a wooden deck with plastic tables and chairs surrounded by flower pots of withering plants. Full-length glass windows allowed us to observe the interior, a typical Japanese café with white and yellow walls, furnished with neon orange and blue plastic chairs. Great try, but the attempt at ’70s retro decor just reminded us of our high school cafeteria. On the other hand, the simple, low-cost interior did correspond to the eco-friendly concept.
The two cooks behind the small kitchen counter and the two friendly waiters in T-shirts were enough staff for this slow-paced Saturday night. The service was casual but attentive, the short menu list made choosing easy, and the waiters were quick with the orders.
As we made a toast with organic grapefruit vodka gin and tonics (¥530) and began to enjoy our tofu-cheese canapés (¥780), we already felt like health freaks. The appetizer was smooth, light and quite tasty—but not for those who enjoy rich and dense European cheese. Yaffa uses cream cheese instead, and we found the combination to be the perfect partner for alcohol. Our delightful, petite quiche (¥630) wasn’t French, hefty, or buttery, but we wouldn’t expect it to be at an organic eatery. The soft and fluffy egg with sweet grilled onions filled the lightly crusted pie tart, and a layer of cheese melted out on to the plate.
Our second round began with a glass of red wine (¥630), a seasonal all-organic pasta with tomato sauce (¥1,050), and the Yaffa specialty, omu-raisu with basil and tomato sauce (¥1,050). Disappointing as café pastas can be, this one wasn’t, with chunks of fried eggplant to liven up the fresh sauce. As for the omu-raisu, the bright yellow egg (which was undercooked—just as we Japanese like it) encases the round clump of hearty brown rice, with zesty pesto adding flavor and color to the dish. As we savored each spoonful, the image we had of bland-tasting organic food had slipped out of our minds—and, being carnivores, we even realized we had gone all-veggie.
We could have wrapped up our evening over a soy latte (¥700), but it was still too early to call it a night. This was Saturday, after all, which gave us the perfect excuse to skip the whole-grain scone (¥630) and black sesame soy parfait (¥780) in favor of a mojito and martini at a classy bar along Omotesando Dori.
As an urban getaway, Yaffa encourages Tokyoites to enjoy true LOHAS style in the middle of the busy city. The café even offers occasional evening yoga classes on their patio for ¥3,300, which includes a healthy bento to enjoy after your lesson.