Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Bricolage Bread & Co.: Sourdough bread and tartines on the terrace

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

It’s the smell that greets you first as you walk through the door at Bricolage Bread & Co.; the warm aroma of baking intermingled with the heady whiff of good coffee. It could hardly feel more alluring — that is, until you see the array of baked goods.

There are golden, feathery croissants and tempting, fluffy pains au chocolat. Next to them are at least four kinds of rolls — pro tip: go for the citron version, studded with morsels of confit lemon peel. And don’t skip over the Danish pastries, comfortingly substantial but not overly sweet, in exotic goma (sesame) and yomogi (mugwort) flavors.

But what really makes Bricolage special is its bread. You won’t find any of the usual anemic, puffed-up shokupan (feather-light white bread). More remarkably, nor does Bricolage bother with baguettes, flutes or any other of those elongated French breads. Instead, its calling card is its large, semispherical loaves of rugged, rustic pain de campagne.

All are made from sweetly fragrant sourdough starter, using Japanese-grown wheat and/or spelt. All are baked till the crusts are dark and wholesome, with that appetizing undertone of light scorching that elevates the finest pizza crusts. Even at this early juncture — the bakery has only been open to the public for a week to date — it’s clear these are some of the most satisfying loaves in the city.

And there’s more. Behind the bakery is a small coffee counter with a massive espresso machine. Further back yet is a spacious dining room — beautifully done out with wood salvaged from old Japanese houses — that offers all-day dining from breakfast to early evening.

It’s highly impressive. Which is exactly what you’d expect from the people involved. Chef Shinobu Namae of L’Effervescence, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant in nearby Nishiazabu, is the chief instigator. He’s been working on this project for two years, inspired by the bakeries he has visited, the farmers he has met, and the bread he has eaten in his travels both inside Japan and abroad.

To oversee the baking operations, he turned to Ayumu Iwanaga, whose Le Sucre-Coeur bakery on the fringe of Osaka has led the field in Japan for years now. And to make sure the coffee is exactly right, he’s brought in the Nordic roasting specialists of Fuglen Tokyo in Shibuya.

There are other, less obvious influences at play, too. Just about all the dishes on the menu in that dining room are constructed in tartine style — open-faced sandwiches, made with the signature Bricolage bread (or, alternatively, a lighter, whiter pain de mie) topped with a choice of meat, fish, cheese or veggies. There’s also an egg version, based on a preparation now indelibly associated with Alice Waters, of the legendary California restaurant Chez Panisse. Namae has done his homework impeccably.

To top it all, he has a great location. Bricolage occupies the space that was previously Lauderdale, on the edge of Roppongi Hills, and boasts plenty of outside tables shaded by cherry trees. Kudos to all involved.

Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka Terrace, Roppongi 6-15-1 , Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032; 03-6804-3350; open daily 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (L.O.), bakery 11 a.m.- 7 p.m.; sandwiches from ¥1,200, main dishes from ¥1,500; nearest station Roppongi; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; English menu; English spoken