Food & Drink

It’s not so easy to find the perfect Tokyo brunch

by Austin Freeman

Contributing Writer

Coming from the foggy-yet-posh city of San Francisco, brunch to me is simply a fact of life. There was never a lack of options to choose from when it came to satisfying my innate city-boy urge to spend above-average prices in order to have what is essentially a late breakfast.

Even on my least-inspired days in the city, I could begrudgingly go to an IHOP or Denny’s with friends and lament over the money we’d saved by patronizing an eatery devoid of a selection of ostentatious French dishes.

Given that San Francisco is arguably a drop in the bucket in terms of size and population compared to Tokyo, I didn’t give so much as a second thought to whether or not brunch would be popular, or even available, when I moved here.

American chains such as Denny’s can be found without too much effort in wards such as Shinjuku and Shibuya, but I quickly realized the similarities between Japanese Denny’s and its American counterpart begin and end with the name. Pancakes are reduced to a minimalistic dessert, and breakfast as a whole is seemingly absent. That wasn’t the first time a Denny’s had disappointed me, nor would it be the last.

Now a permanent resident of Tokyo with a group of like-minded melodramatic friends, I made it my personal mission to find some of the best brunch spots in the capital. Through trial and error, extensive internet research and helpful Japanese friends, I’ve managed to narrow down a selection of brunch spots that are well worth your time.

First on the list is Brentwood Terrace (Barbizon 11 1F, Sendagaya 1-20-3, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo), a relatively new spot nestled in Sendagaya. There’s indoor and outdoor seating available, in addition to free Wi-Fi. Food options range from fluffy acai bowls to heavier steaks. For drinks you can unwind with some chai or a mimosa. And, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, indulge in the seasonal tiramisu pancakes. It’s always a solid bet.

One for the give-it-a-miss list is Union Square Tokyo (B1 Tokyo Midtown Galleria, Akasaka 9-7-4, Minato-ku, Tokyo) in Tokyo Midtown. The only thing more disappointing than the food is the customer service.

Skip this and continue on down to Ginza to find Mercer Brunch Ginza Terrace (Kirarito Ginza 4F, Ginza 1-8-19, Chuo-ku, Tokyo), a well-established brunch chain from New York with two locations in Tokyo, the other being located in Roppongi. At Ginza Terrace you can help yourself to some French toast with grilled salmon while overlooking downtown Ginza; nothing quite complements French toast like watching tourists with too much disposable income buy out department stores. If you’re looking for an American brunch experience this is probably your best bet, just be sure to save room for champagne.

Last but certainly not least is M/House (Mercer Bldg., Ebisu 4-23-13 , Shibuya-ku, Tokyo) in Ebisu, a brunch spot that prides itself on its chic interior almost as much as its Nordic salmon, served with scrambled eggs. I found myself whisked back to the foggy hills of San Francisco upon entering, the resort-inspired interior acting as the security blanket I didn’t know I needed.

The only thing that could have possibly enhanced the experience further would be a nomihōdai (all you can drink) option. That said, M/House boasts an impressive roster of spirits to choose from, whether you enjoy mango Bellinis, lime mojitos or even hot sangria, you won’t be disappointed. For dessert you can partake in their caramel chiffon cake, or gluten-free chocolate cake if that’s your thing.

Keep these spots in mind and you’ll never have to end up at a Denny’s again.

Brentwood Terrace: brentwoodterrace.owst.jp
Union Square Tokyo: www.unionsquaretokyo.com
Mercer Brunch Ginza Terrace: www.merceroffice.com/shop/mercer-brunch-ginza
M/House: www.mhouse-cafe.com