Breakfast at Sarabeth’s, Daikanyama
If you're on the lookout for a quick and easy breakfast, look elsewhere. A relatively new addition to the growing list of pancake and brunch restaurants to take over Tokyo, Sarabeth's serves a selection of culinary treats that wouldn't go amiss on menus worldwide. It even has a small selection of appetizers, served between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Founder Sarabeth Levine—pastry chef, restauranteur, and cookbook author—has been hailed as the “breakfast queen of New York.” High praise indeed. Levine opened her first store in New York’s Manhattan in 1981, from which her jam, pancakes, and French toast have found a special place in Americans’ hearts (and stomachs). The brand came to Tokyo in 2012 with its first branch in Lumine Shinjuku, which was closely followed by the Daikanyama branch.
On a somewhat rainy Sunday (mid-)morning, I lured the boyfriend out of bed with the promise of a delicious brunch—guaranteed to be better than what he usually gets, at any rate.
Although no reservations can be made, the apologetic staff assured us that a table can be kept if you turn up on the day and, after putting your name down, return to the restaurant at an allotted time. This may be a good option for those with kids, or those who don’t have a lazy Sunday morning at their disposal. Because of the inevitable waiting time—45 minutes for us—each table is limited to 90 minutes of dining time.
After all that waiting, I was struck by the pleasant atmosphere as soon as we walked through the door. Large windows allowed sunlight—or what there was of it—to stream through the windows, while the decor was lively and modern with unusual touches, such as cookbooks, lining the shelves. This made us feel like we were actually sitting in a big American-style kitchen—a homey feeling. A variety of seating arrangements are available: table seating, communal counter seating, as well as bar seating. We were allocated the latter.
Spoilt for choice of all things breakfasty, we eventually settled on Sarabeth’s morning crunch and a croissant to stop the stomachs’ rumblings. The croissant was a bit stale and cold, and wasn’t served with butter. Off to a disappointing start. But then came the morning crunch, and all was right with the world once again.
The presentation of this dish got my taste buds tingling: fresh strawberries and banana piled high on granola and acai yogurt, with manuka honey on the side. A generous portion, I reluctantly shared the bowl with the boyfriend. The granola had just the right amount of crunch, while the yogurt and honey gave a shot of sweetness.
We hit the menus for round two. I chose the lemon and ricotta pancakes, while my boyfriend went for the smoked salmon eggs Benedict, both recommended by our English-speaking waitress. While we waited for our food, we sipped on our drinks: a four flower cocktail and a lemonade. Although both non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions of the cocktail are available, I chose the latter. The cocktail was fruity and refreshing with a very slight alcoholic kick, while the homemade lemonade was refreshingly tart.
Annoyingly, our dishes arrived at completely different times, so my boyfriend had finished his by the time mine arrived. While the staff were trying their best to ensure all customers were happy, the restaurant was full to capacity—with a small army waiting in line—and we didn’t feel there were enough waiters and waitresses to deal with the demand.
Not a big eater of eggs Benedict myself, the boyfriend assured me they were distinctly “average.” I thought the salmon was nice and fresh, the bread spongy, and the holandaise sauce had a light and tangy flavor. The dish came with a generous side salad, coated in a delicious balsamic vinegar-based dressing. The eggs were cooked to perfection, with a slightly runny yolk and firm whites.
If you enjoy a sweeter breakfast, then the pancakes are for you. Light and fluffy, they had quite a strong, but wholly pleasant, lemon flavor. Served with a side of blueberries and raspberries, as well as manuka honey and thick, fresh butter, the presentation was very appealing. These got the gold star for, possibly, the best pancakes I have tasted thus far in Tokyo.
Most customers were ordering the fat and fluffy French toast and the classic eggs Benedict—something to note for next time.
A selection of Sarabeth’s best-selling jams and granola, as well as freshly baked scones and cookies, are sold at the restaurant entrance. For those who are looking for a lighter breakfast, you could easily pop into the restaurant without queuing and pick up something to take out.
All in all, a visit to Sarabeth’s is a pleasant morning treat, albeit if you have some time to spare.
Address: 2F T-Site Station, 1-35-17 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–10 p.m.