I’m back in Japan ! :)
But let’s rewind a bit, a couple of weeks ago I caught an advertisement for a Japanese TV show on Netflix, “Kantaro The Sweet Tooth Salaryman”.
- IMDB page (not much info) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6983520/
- TV Tokyo page (but in Japanese) http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/kantarou/
The show is about a salaryman who likes to sneak away from work for an hour or so to eat deserts / cakes, or ‘sweets’ as they are sometimes referred to in Japan.
It’s kind of a mix between ‘educational about deserts’ and ‘slice of life comedy’. The humour will come through clearly if you are familiar with ‘salaryman’ role in Japanese society and the typical structure of Japanese anime / drama. Some clear tropes are present:
- Overweight boss (部長), – mean at first, but then likeable.
- Cool vs. geeky characters.
- The main character has a secret (love of sweets), one colleague figure it out and tries to prove it every episode.
- Anime / character style clips where the deserts become characters.
I really learnt a lot about Japanese deserts watching this show, and I also learnt a little about some areas of Tokyo I wasn’t familiar with.
There is a bit of cringe though. Kantaro is normally cool, but when he thinks about / eats delicious cakes he has ‘orgasmic’ reactions – very audible / visual. Honestly, sometimes I can’t tell if Japan knows it’s being a bit weird with the sex theme content in non sex situations.. Anyway, the cringe is quite funny..
So, on to Coffee Tengoku. In each episode Kantaro sneaks off to eat some sweets. He visits over 12 places. I decided I want to visit some / all of these places!
Luckily via a quick search I found a post by danny_ds on reddit listing all the restaurants:
First up, I wanted to start with something a bit more western and I was in the mood for pancakes so this afternoon I went to try the hotcakes (ホットケーキ) aka pancakes at Coffee Tengoku (天国) .
Tengoku is ‘heaven’ in Japanese. It’s a fitting start as one of kantaro’s catchphrases is, “Only sweets heaven knows!”
I found a decent article about Tengoku – https://matcha-jp.com/en/1532 with some notes from an interview with the owner.
I saw the owner; Ms Ueno, today. It was definitely the same lady that served Kantaro in the TV show. She is very polite and smiley and speaks a little English. The cafe is smaller and cuter than it looks on TV. It was quite busy, but no queue and one small table was free when I arrived around 3pm.
With zero hesitation I ordered the Hotcake set – 2 hotcakes and a coffee for 1000 yen – I think it’s a good price considering the cafe is right in the busy tourist area of Asakusa.
The pancakes were good. They are light and fluffy inside with a firmer surface (I wouldn’t quite say crispy). A big plus from my perspective is that they were not too buttery or fatty. They come served with a little square of butter and pot of syrup.
I ate them ‘Kantaro style’ – four ways! First bite just the pancake, second pancake and butter, third pancake and syrup, fourth pancake and butter + syrup.
I definitely enjoyed them and as they were light and not too big I felt fine afterwards. A serving of American style pancakes always leaves me feeling awful.
I think if you like healthy, light, delicate – you will love them. If you like huge serving of buttery pancakes, maybe not for you.
On a second note the coffee was great. I think she makes hand. I could smell the coffee brewing as I waited.
The cafe has a nice vibe, I am pretty sure the other customers travelled there specifically with the exception of locals.
I think I will go ahead and give this a ‘thumbs up’ – recommended to visit if you are in Asakusa. Especially as it’s right in amongst some of the pretties streets to walk around with lot’s of artisan shops and restaurants.
Stay tuned for more sweets related posts and remember, “Only sweet heaven knows!”