Food & Drink | THE KIDS' TABLE

Organic meals and fine art are a panacea for parental guilt

by Anna-marie Farrier

Special To The Japan Times

In search of respite from the stifling heat and a place to burn off some overabundant preschooler energy, this month we headed to the charming Organic Cafe LuLu in Tokyo’s Kiba neighborhood.

This excursion was really about assuaging my ever-present uncertainty and motherly guilt about the food I feed my child (trust me, it is not all organic). It was also about exposing her to the fine arts in the form of a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.

Located just a short walk from the museum, Organic Cafe LuLu is airy and bright, its high ceilings dotted with fans and modern ambient lighting. Upon leaving my shoes at the door, I entered a wide-open space covered in AstroTurf, of all things.

Once my feet grew accustomed to the prickly yet cushy surroundings, I could concentrate on the space, which is dominated by a wooden hut housing a foosball table. Roughly half of the cafe is dedicated to eating and half to play, with several hundred picture books, many in English, lining the walls.

Organic Cafe LuLu has plenty to keep your child occupied, including wooden train sets, a play kitchen, comfy chairs and nooks for reading.

“Kids today spend a lot of time playing on gaming devices and playing on phones when eating out with their parents,” says Fumi Masaki, the owner of the cafe and president of Growing-Trees, Inc., a company that also runs three international preschools and kindergartens in the area.

“I created this cafe as an alternative that encourages communication between parents, children and friends through good food, reading and play. No games are allowed here — except board games,” she adds, with a laugh.

It was her experience running her schools that inspired Masaki was inspired to open a cafe after she started running the schools. As she began serving organic lunches to the children who attended she became concerned about the use of preservatives, additives and artificial colorings in the food.

“I wanted to expose children to real food that tastes good and is good for you,” she says.

We tried the Kid’s Omelet Rice (¥1,000 if ordered alone, ¥500 yen if ordered with an adult meal), which consisted of brown rice, finely chopped bell peppers and carrots topped with an egg-free, gluten-free and dairy-free omelet made with naga-imo (a sticky yam), tofu and corn for an egg-like color. On first glance, I would have sworn it was made with eggs, and it even had the texture of an omelet, although it had a definite tofu flavor.

Everything on the menu at Organic Cafe LuLu is made with organic ingredients, even the strawberries topping the kakigōri (shaved ice) dessert (¥400).

No food from outside is allowed, including baby food as the cafe also serves organic baby food suitable for children of various ages.

You could easily while away an afternoon here, and there is food and entertainment suitable for babies to early elementary-age children.

Top it all off with a trip to the museum and it’s a great kid-friendly summer offering — and lay to rest that parental anxiety, at least for a day.