Just when you think you’ve had every type of Japanese food imaginable, along comes Cafe de Japon. The new Chinatown joint is a kissaten—or Japanese-style coffeehouse—serving strangely familiar comfort food.
At first glance, the menu isn’t terribly exciting; Hamburg steak and tomato sauce pasta are among the offerings. But looks can be deceiving. Even these traditional dishes—whose origins actually date to Japan’s post-WW2 American occupation—are afforded special care by former Sushi Roku chef Kiichi Okabe.
The Japanese-style Hamburg steak ($13) is particularly interesting. It’s topped with ground daikon and shiso, so the initial acidic/vinegary onslaught quickly mellows into an amazingly balanced dish. Your mother’s hamburger steak this is not. The demi-glace version ($12), which abounds with panko breadcrumbs, is also memorable. Both steak options are served with a surprisingly tasty potatoes gratin (I say surprising since this, again, is a Japanese joint).
- Cafe de Japon
- 5300 Spring Mountain Road, 341-8038.
- Monday-Thursday, noon-midnight; Friday-Saturday, noon-2 a.m.
Equally unexpected is the Neapolitan ($10)—pasta with tomato sauce. The sauce itself, a light mixture of homemade ketchup and tomatoes, is mixed with green peppers and onions that provide both textural and flavor contrasts.
Still, Cafe de Japon is a kissaten, so don’t overlook the coffee. They serve two types, hot siphon ($5) and iced drip ($6). Both are somewhat laborious—the made-to-order siphon takes 10 minutes, while the drip runs for six hours during the day—but the preparations result in less-acidic versions than you’ll encounter most anywhere else. Both pair wonderfully with the housemade desserts ($5-$8), including what might be the Valley’s best flan. Who knew Japanese desserts could be this good? Yet one more surprise from Cafe de Japon.