Nothing spells fall like a pile of leaves just waiting to be jumped in, especially for children or those who are still kids at heart. Add to that a steaming hot beverage and some scrumptious eats, and a perfect fall afternoon is born.
Fulfilling that fantasy is Shared Terrace Gaien Ichonamiki, our destination for a late lunch on a crisp November afternoon. As my daughter and her little friends ran ahead of us down a sun-dappled sidewalk that was lined with gingko trees in various shades from light green to yellow, I realized it was a picture-perfect moment.
With a 94-seat outdoor terrace equipped with heaters and blankets as well as ample indoor seating, Shared Terrace provides the perfect vantage point for taking in the autumn colors.
The restaurant does not have a kid’s menu, so we shared the monthly lunch plate with soup and sweets (¥1,880). The contents of the lunch plate change regularly, but the selection we enjoyed included a lightly spiced meatloaf served on a bed of lentils, a creamy flan with dried tomatoes, scallops, spinach, a sweet potato, apple and raisin salad, and buttered rice with mixed whole grains. This came with an assortment of freshly baked breads, including a black charcoal focaccia that the children went for first.
In spite of its daunting appearance, the focaccia made with bamboo charcoal is pleasantly salty and moist and has a depth of flavor without the oiliness that often plagues the flat bread. Another favorite with the children was a savory version of an egg-based flan.
For less adventurous eaters, there is also the Chef’s Special Pasta (¥1,404), which was a kid-friendly Bolognese spaghetti on the day we were there.
Located a quick walk from Niko Niko Park, Shared Terrace is the perfect spot for a leisurely bite after a romp in the park. Gingko Festa is also being held just down the street from the establishment until Dec. 8, and features various food and produce stalls.
In search of more fall colors, we left Aoyama and ventured off the beaten path to Kiyosumi Shirakawa in the capital’s Koto Ward. The area is home to the beautifully landscaped Kiyosumi Teien Japanese garden. Just across the street from Kiba Park and down the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art is Mamma Cafe 151A.
Going in, I braced myself for ball pools, slides, and screaming children, but was pleasantly surprised to find a cozy, light-filled cafe with dark wood accents. The name 151A reads as “ichigo-ichie” in Japanese, a phrase which means treasuring each and every encounter, while Mamma Cafe evokes images of a mother’s home-cooked meals.
Run by Koji and Maki Tanabe, with some help from their 3-year-old daughter, Yuzu, Mamma Cafe 151A is a true “mom and pop” establishment.
In the back of the cafe is a small area with tatami seating and plenty of toys for young babies and toddlers.
“When our daughter was small, we found that when we went out, we had to hold the baby and eat with one hand. We made this tatami area to allow parents to enjoy their meal while keeping baby safe,” Maki says.
The kids’ menu features three offerings: a hamburger steak made without eggs or dairy to accommodate common allergies, soboro gohan (minced chicken with lotus root and beans over rice) and hayashi rice.
The soboro gohan comes with Yuzu’s wholesale recommendation, but we opted for the hayashi rice (¥730), which is a stew with daikon, lotus root, carrots, shimeji mushrooms and beef on a bed of gobutsukimai (half-milled rice). The red miso used in the hayashi stew gave it a depth of flavor that is unusual for a kids’ offering, and made it enjoyable even as an adult.
“I was tired of going to family-friendly restaurants and coming out disappointed. They might be organic or all natural, but the taste just wasn’t there. I wanted to change that,” Koji says. Wherever possible, the cafe makes it a point to use organic or pesticide-free vegetables and ingredients, and the cooking, while simple, is healthy and packed with flavor.
I was surprised to learn that Maki mills the rice every morning in the cafe’s own rice mill. This makes the rice used in the dishes at Mamma Cafe 151A healthier than white rice, but keeps it easier on the palate than brown rice. She even uses the rice bran left after milling as an ingredient in the cafe’s cheesecake (¥430) and furikake (rice seasoning).
After enjoying the nearby parks and museums, this family-friendly establishment is the perfect spot for a healthy bite and a beautiful autumn view.
Shared Terrace Gaien Ichonamiki is located at 2-1-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo (open 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays). Reservations can be made at 03-5772-1585, but are accepted for indoor seating only. English is spoken, some English is on the menu. Highchairs and children’s cutlery is available. Mamma Cafe 151A is located at 3-4-6 Hirano, Koto-ku, Tokyo (open 8 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Mondays [Tuesdays if Monday is a national holiday]). Reservations can be made at 03-6458-8715. English is spoken, but there is no English menu. Highchairs, children’s cutlery and a changing table are available.
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