Personally, as much as I adore the delicate craft and high quality of Japanese food, when I roll out of bed in the morning all I want is for someone to just give me my usual pancakes, eggs, bacon, and a cup of coffee.
Back home in California, I could easily satisfy my breakfast cravings with a quick stop at the local diner; unfortunately in Japan, finding the perfect restaurant that specializes in Western breakfasts (and Western portions) is not as easy as it seems. Most places serve excellent pancakes and waffles, but the Japanese adaptation transforms these traditionally simple and straightforward breakfast meals into fancy desserts.
A friend who knew of my breakfast woes recommended me to Bills, an insanely popular Australian breakfast place that has been working the Tokyo foodie scene since its two most recent openings in Japan: Odaiba and Omotesando, respectively. Dubbed by many in the media as the “best breakfast ever,” my friend and I had to see for ourselves, choosing the Omotesando branch as our target.
Prior to our “best breakfast ever” adventure, I did a quick web search, which revealed that Bills is named after its creator, Bill Granger—a smiley, scruffy, beach-blonde Australian who has apparently had a thing for Japan ever since he first visited as a wide-eyed 19-year-old. This, consequently, is the reason he choose Japan for his first international Bills restaurant. Although he was dubbed “the egg master” by The New York Times, his ricotta hotcakes are apparently to die for.
Despite arriving early on a Thursday morning, Bills was already packed. We had to put our names down on a long waiting list and were told that our table would be ready in four hours. Four hours! Luckily Bills is located on the top floor of Tokyu Plaza right at the center of Omotesando and Harajuku. We had a slow, relaxing coffee and then window-shopped the rest of the time through the many Omotesando boutiques.
By the time our table was ready the sun was well up in the sky and our stomachs were growling impatiently. I ordered the famous ricotta pancakes, topped with honeycomb butter and a fresh banana, and my friend ordered the full Aussie breakfast—scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, mushrooms—the works. We could not have been more excited for food at that moment.
The Aussie breakfast came reasonably quickly and I watched as my friend dove in, smoky smells of herbs and meat striking my empty stomach like an arrow. Five minutes passed…then ten…I asked a waitress of the whereabouts of my risotto hotcakes, and she gave me a cold I’m-too-busy-to-know reply that reminded me of home. My friend was now pacing herself, but her plate was already almost empty. I implored another waiter; again, the same uninterested, coldly polite response. Finally, just as the last sausage disappeared from the Aussie breakfast plate, my ricotta pancakes arrived. One bite told me everything the reviews and praises I’ve read on the internet were all true; this was fluffy heaven on a fork. But at this point I was so ravenous that just about anything would have tasted good. In fact, I became so engrossed in quieting my growling stomach that I mistook that special slab of honeycomb butter for a piece of banana and stupidly ate it in one hurried mouthful.
Overall, if it weren’t for the regrettable customer service and horrible timing, Bills would be the answer to my breakfast dilemma. Having to put your name down on a waiting list for a table is one thing, but once an order has been placed, there is no reason it should take so long to be prepared, and I would have at least expected the staff to be apologetic about it. The prices (¥1,400 for the ricotta hotcakes and ¥1,800 the Aussie breakfast), while high compared to what I was used to, are not bad by Tokyo standards. Still, I can’t help but feel disappointed—I found the best breakfast ever, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.
Address: 7F, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (last order 10 p.m.)
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