On a recent afternoon, my 3-year-old taste tester and I headed off to the ANA InterContinental Tokyo for a taste of its brand new Planet Trekkers children’s menu, touted as a healthily balanced selection of dishes for kids.
Arriving at the Cascade Cafe on the second floor of the hotel, we were seated at one of the elegant tables, where we sank into the plush cushions of the banquette. Seated around us and in the lobby lounge were ladies who lunch and business gatherings, and I wondered just how my at times rambunctious little one would do in such subdued and sophisticated environs.
My fears were put to rest upon seeing the menu, available in English and Japanese, and featuring activities, puzzles and riddles to entertain children as they wait for their food. Each item on the menu comes with a description of the dish as well as a fun fact about the ingredients. Also on the menu is a handy legend explaining the symbols for common allergens and dietary restrictions that accompany each item, such as gluten, eggs, seafood and nuts.
Planet Trekkers is the name given to the kids’ club at InterContinental hotels around the world, and although the ANA InterContinental Tokyo does not have a kids’ club, it has started to offer the Planet Trekkers menu. The name conjures up images of adventurous globetrotters, and the diverse selection of items offered on the menu certainly seems to invite children on a culinary adventure.
The surprisingly extensive menu is divided into small plates (¥850), big plates (¥1,850), sides (¥700), desserts (¥900) and drinks (¥500), giving children the option of creating their own full-course meal, as opposed to the usual preset one-plate offerings.
With its wide range of dishes, from Smiley Tomato Soup to Wok & Roll Pad Thai and Yummy Mini Beef Burgers, the menu has something for every child, from the adventurous to the fussy eater.
I was surprised how far the menu seemed to venture in offering innovative alternatives in addition to the usual kid-friendly options of chicken fingers and French fries. This is thanks to the creators of the Planet Trekkers menu: award-winning British celebrity chef Theo Randall and prominent children’s food and nutrition expert and best-selling food author Annabel Karmel.
“Children are naturally inquisitive, and grown-ups are often surprised by the flavors they enjoy,” says Karmel in a press release announcing the menu. “We’ve created a menu filled with diverse flavors and tastes whilst offering the nutritional balance InterContinental travelers with young families are looking for.”
On the Randall-Karmel duo, InterContinental exec Simon Scoot says, “This partnership is based on the principle of ‘food exploration,’ which is all about creating food experiences children will find intriguing and exciting. At the same time we want to reassure parents that our children’s menus are nutritionally balanced.”
We decided on the Crunchy Veggies and Hummus Dip, the Krispie Fish Fingers, Lychee “Frogurt” and a Tropical Smoothie. After downing the smoothie — a luscious, not-too-sweet blend of mangos and bananas with a hint of peach — I lost my taste tester to her afternoon nap, and continued on alone.
Most striking in the dishes that followed was their sleek and sophisticated presentation. Had I not known that these were ordered from the children’s menu, I might have assumed that they were a part of the restaurant’s light-meal offerings, a deliberate choice on the part of the establishment.
“We chose not to make the food and presentation too ‘cutesy,’ ” spokesperson Takako Ushio told me.
The Crunchy Veggies and Hummus Dip featured fresh vegetables paired with a lightly spiced chickpea hummus, while the Krispie Fish Fingers were strips of moist white flounder coated in puffed-rice cereal for an unexpected crunch. Served with a side of cherry tomatoes, fresh celery and carrot sticks, the fish fingers, like the chicken fingers and French fries on the menu, were given a healthy twist, an aspect any parent is sure to appreciate. Even dessert, in all of its creamy goodness, was a healthy ending to the meal, relying on the natural sweetness of lychees and tangy yogurt for its enticing flavor. My sleeping daughter didn’t know what she was missing.
Launched in June, the menu is also available at five other InterContinental hotels in Japan: The Strings by InterContinental Tokyo, Hotel InterContinental Tokyo Bay, InterContinental Osaka and Okinawa’s ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort and ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort.
Cascade Cafe, 2F ANA InterContinental Tokyo, 1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-3505-1185; www.anaintercontinental-tokyo.jp/rest/cascade.html; Planet Trekkers menu available 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; high chairs and changing areas available. Anna-Marie Farrier is a freelance writer and pastry chef based in Tokyo.