Gokan: Tea and cake for modernist samurai

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Special To The Japan Times

In Kitahama, just north of Umeda, there are two rather stately teahouses within cake-throwing distance of each other. Kitahama Retro is where you’ll want to go if you like crustless cucumber sandwiches, afternoon tea and Edwardian cosplay. But don’t let the pretense fool you, it’s a great teahouse.

The other teahouse, Gokan, is located in an office building refurbished in the European style that flourished in the Meiji Era (1868-1912). It’s more roomy than Kitahama Retro and has a genteel doorman who wouldn’t be out of place outside a hotel on Fifth Avenue. It also refers to itself quaintly as “Patisserie de Samourai” — sadly there were no warriors sipping on green tea during my visit.

Check out the seasonal items in the bakery downstairs — most of which are not offered on the eat-in menu — before you’re escorted to one of the tea rooms upstairs. The freshly baked sweet potato and chestnut pastry dumplings were delicious.

Once upstairs, opt for the hotel lobby-like tearoom at the back, which is more comfortable than the table-and-chairs affair at the front.

Although there is a limited lunch menu, the cake set is the real draw. After ordering, a waitress appeared ferrying a silver tray with a dozen cakes to choose from. It was enough to make you coo. And I did.

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