Eating out / Bakery offers authentic taste of Belgian bread in central Tokyo

The Japan News

Various types of tartine are offered, such as Spanish ham with ricotta cheese, front, and smoked salmon with avocado, back.

By Rie Tagawa / Japan News Staff WriterLe Pain Quotidien, a bakery restaurant from Belgium, opened its Japanese flagship store at a high-end commercial complex in Roppongi, Tokyo, on June 1. The name of the restaurant means “daily bread” in French.

Although the restaurant has more than 250 outlets around the globe, including in Paris, New York and Hong Kong, it has stuck to a traditional and time-consuming baking method since founder Alain Coumont opened his first bakery in Brussels in 1990. The ingredients for their whole wheat breads are simply organic flour, salt, water and levain, a natural yeast. Using levain — also called sourdough starter — requires more time for fermentation than using commercial yeast, but it can add a uniquely developed taste. The breads produced using this method have a crusty outer layer and a nice, dense texture.

“We don’t intentionally localize the food, so our customers can enjoy the authentic European taste,” said Anna Maruyama, who is responsible for public relations at the restaurant operator. “For example, Japanese people tend to prefer soft breads like pain de mie [French sandwich bread], but we mainly offer hard breads, which are popular in Europe.”

The restaurant’s signature item is tartine, a traditional Belgian food similar to an open sandwich, which comes on a whole wheat bread. One bite of the Smoked Salmon and Avocado tartine (¥1,430 excluding tax) gives you the bread’s slightly sour and robust flavors, which bring out the mild texture of the avocado and cream cheese spread over the bread instead of butter.

What distinguishes this flagship store from the company’s other outlets, including two in Japan, is being the world’s first Le Pain Quotidien to offer a dinner menu, such as 270-gram U.S. Prime Beef Rib Steak (¥6,790 before tax). Eighteen different wines are offered, as well as cocktails made using organic ingredients.

“We serve food that can also satisfy diners who drink alcohol,” said store manager Keigo Uchino. The main customers of the bakery’s other branches in Minato and Shinjuku wards in Tokyo are women, he said, but he believes the new menu will attract men, too.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is neither too casual nor too luxurious, thanks to the warm lighting, abundant use of wood and spacious seating arrangement. The interior is a re-creation of houses typical in Belgian provincial areas, Maruyama said. Of course, you can also buy bread to go at a bakery section housed in the restaurant. Prices start at ¥300, excluding tax.

Le Pain Quotidien Tokyo Midtown

Open: 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (L.O. 10 p.m.)

Closed: Irregular (Closed when Tokyo Midtown closes)

Address: Tokyo Midtown’s West Plaza 1F, Akasaka 9-7-3, Minato Ward, Tokyo

Tel: (03) 6804-5879

English menu available. Staffers who can speak English available at all times.

Credit cards accepted

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