Le Pain Quotidien: A Taste of Belgium in Tokyo
On the first floor of Tokyo's Opera City is a delightful classy establishment perfect for those wanting to eat something light before or after concerts or theater performances. With more than 80 branches worldwide from London to Australia, Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgium-based cafe chain serving dishes that are organic and fresh with quality ingredients, treated with great respect by the cooks, bakers and pastry makers. Great attention to detail, excellent presentation and a warm friendly approach capture the style of this cafe concept.
Walking into Le Pain Quotidien feels like taking a step into a very European-style cafe. It has a cosy feeling, with small wooden tables and one large communal table, as well as the smell of baked goods that wafts through the room. Every age group is represented here too, including senior citizens enjoying each other’s company, lone customers engrossed in a book, and students catching up on some work.
Le Pain Quotidien literally means daily bread, and the loaves and baguettes (with crispy crusts and insides that are soft and warming) are just the start of a range of delightful dishes on offer. The cafe prides itself on its organic food, and there is a host of choices including salads, soups, quiche, tartines (open-faced sandwiches topped with ingredients such as prawns, avocado, dill, chicken and smoked salmon) and an assortment of cakes. During your meal you can also choose from an impressive selection of organic jams and spreads and if you’d like something more savory, like butter or olive oil, those are available too.
The drinks are pleasant and sweet, including the refreshing lemonade and raspberry beverage for ¥590. The coffee comes in bowls. It tastes mild and fresh, and for me the act of wrapping your hands around a warm bowl on a cool day is one of life’s pleasures! Le Pain Quotidien is also one of the very few places in Tokyo where you can get a decent breakfast. It’s served until 11 a.m. with the eggs benedict (¥890 for one egg, ¥1,390 for two) and smoked salmon breakfast (smoked salmon, soft boiled egg, ricotta and bread for ¥1,290) both particular delights. If you prefer breakfasts like granola, waffles or omelettes, well, you’re in luck.
A list of lunch specials is written on chalkboards propped outside the door. During the week there are lunch sets available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. These include salad, quiche or tartine depending on what you choose, and a choice of tea or coffee (hot or iced). If you’re after something healthy and filling, you can’t go wrong with the Chicken Cobb Salad for ¥1,390. With blue cheese, egg, avocado, bacon and strips of chicken, it’s a tasty combination of ingredients that isn’t too strong, and just the right amount with a slice of bread. I also tried the soup of the day (¥480), which had some distinct and sharp flavors including onion and tomato and tasted divine. The tartines, especially the smoked salmon option (¥1,190 with avocado, spring onions and chopped dill), are also recommended, as the bread is soft on the tongue, the fish is lightly seasoned with lemon juice and the greens that come with it are unmistakably fresh. To top it all off, there is also a counter where customers can purchase bread from the bakery as well as other organic products like tea, jam and orange juice.
Although the food is slightly pricey at Le Pain Quotidien, the comfortable atmosphere and delicious options make the eating experience thoroughly enjoyable. It’s very much a communal cafe with plenty of charm. Be sure to check out the other branch in Shiba Koen as well.
Address: 1F Tokyo Opera City Tower, 3-20-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 8 a.m.–9 p.m. (last order 8:30 p.m.)