It’s not hard for a restaurant to generate buzz. All it takes is a strong design, cool music — on vinyl, of course — and some hot PR. But to maintain that level of vibrancy, it needs to be good. It also helps if it’s a bit special, and Path qualifies on all counts.
Open for just over a year now, its sleek glass frontage sets it apart on the low-rise, old-school shopping street leading to Yoyogi-Hachiman Station. From the outside it’s not clear what lies inside. Is it a cafe, an eatery, a bar? In fact, Path is all of those and more.
For the locals, it’s a breakfast pit stop, a place to gear up for the day with good coffee and even better pastries, while catching up on social media. Others drop by on their way to work, to pick up Americanos and grab take-out croissants or pains au chocolat for munching at their desks.
Those with less pressing schedules know it as one of the best brunch options in the area, whether for the home-made granola or the baked Dutch pancakes topped with prosciutto and creamy burrata cheese. As fortification for a stroll in nearby Yoyogi Park, or as a leisurely reward afterward, Path has few rivals.
Then, without a break or change in menu, it segues into lunch. This is the time when the crew in the narrow open kitchen picks up the pace, preparing more substantial dishes: salsiccia (Italian sausage) simmered in a cream sauce and served with biscuits; rich chicken curry-rice; or pita sandwiches stuffed with tuna, potato and buckwheat groats.
But it is at night that Path really comes into its own, transforming into a proper sit-down, spend-the-evening restaurant with a multicourse tasting menu of surprising sophistication. There’s also an a la carte menu, but only for the lucky few who arrive in time to score counter seats or are happy to stand — essentially turning it into a hip neighborhood wine bar.
From the pains au raisin fresh out of the oven in the morning to the carpaccio, risotto and braised meats that punctuate dinner, the food is accomplished and assured. So it comes as no surprise to find that the kitchen has a very strong pedigree.
Chef Taichi Hara first came to attention with his excellent Bistro Rojiura, on the edge of Shibuya, which has garnered a Bib Gourmand in the Tokyo Michelin guide. But before that he was preparing high-end French gastronomy at Cuisine Michel Troisgros in Shinjuku. Pastry chef Yuichi Goto also worked there and his sumptuous madeleines and financiers testify to his classical training.
As co-owners, they have put together a place that would be the envy of any neighborhood. The fact that it lies on the edge of newly fashionable Tomigaya means it is getting more popular all the time. Be sure to book well ahead, as this Path is certainly well beaten.
Closed Mon. and occasional Sun.; breakfast from ¥700; lunch from ¥1,000; set dinner ¥5,800, also a la carte; English menu; some English spoken. Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.