You can also tack on all-you-can-drink soft drinks for a total of less than 500 yen at this cafe in Tokyo!

Buffets in Japan are not like your average buffets in the United States. Rarely will you find cold and soggy egg rolls, slimy pizza, or fried chicken of dubious quality sitting under a fading heat lamp out in the open for all to touch and cough on. Instead, restaurants in Japan will offer up as much quantities of freshly made food as you like for fabulous prices, including fan favorites like Kentucky Fried Chicken, pie, and ramen.

You can even get all-you-can-eat sandwiches Our Japanese-language correspondent Ahiruneko happened to find that out by accident when he stumbled upon a cafe called “Misty Ipanema” while walking in Asagaya in Tokyo. The sign on the door caught his eye: “All-you-can-eat sandwiches for 300 yen!” Hmph. 1,300 yen huh?, he thought to himself. That’s nothing–huh?! When it clicked that the price was actually just 300 yen (US$2.80), he had to do a double-take to make sure. It was so cheap that he wondered if the owner was right in the head.

You see, he himself is a fan of sandwiches, but every morning when perusing the well-stocked shelves of his favorite convenience store for breakfast, he, sadly, usually passes them up for a rice ball, since they’re usually about half the price of a sandwich. But now he has the chance to eat as many sandwiches as he likes for what he would pay for two rice balls–and that was a deal he just couldn’t pass up, so he had to go inside.

It turns out that Misty Ipanema is actually a small jazz cafe. There are lots of jazz analog boards decorating the walls, and jazz music was playing the background when Ahiruneko visited. The atmosphere was really nice, but as the tenor saxophone sang its tender tune, he couldn’t help but be unsure whether the sign posted outside on the door was true or not.

▼ Could it be real? Sandwich-lover Ahiruneko was afraid to get his hopes up.

Mustering up all of his courage, he asked the cafe’s owner, “Do you have all-you-can-eat sandwiches?”, but when the owner initially replied, “huh?” he felt his heart stop, and thought that it might be the end for him and his relationship with sandwiches. But the owner just hadn’t heard him correctly, and to Ahiruneko’s utter relief he said that they regularly offer all-you-can-eat sandwiches.

The way it works is this: You can have three sandwiches to start, which you can choose from the menu, and once you finish those, you can get two more at a time. Unfortunately, it isn’t actually all-you-can-eat, since you’re limited to seven sandwiches in total. Still, that’s a lot of sandwiches for just 300 yen, and if you’re still hungry, you could probably ask for a second session if you want.

Drinks are self-service; you can order one for 100 yen ($0.93) or unlimited drinks for 150 yen ($1.40), so of course Ahiruneko picked all-you-can drink. He poured himself a coffee from the coffee machine near the entrance while waiting for his first three sandwiches: chicken cutlet, egg salad, and ham with mixed veggies.

Now it’s important to note here that throughout this experience, Ahiruneko was experiencing a rising sense of bewilderment. First, because he’d unexpectedly found himself in a jazz cafe. Second, that a nice, mature jazz cafe like Misty Ipanema would offer so many sandwiches for just 300 yen. Third, that all-you-can-drink is only 50 yen more than ordering one drink. And fourth, that the sandwich options include rather luxurious choices like chicken cutlet, that the sandwiches are made with original ingredients, and that the lettuce is actually organically grown in water, without soil.

But even though the part of him that loves sandwiches was screaming internally, he was careful to keep his outward appearance calm, despite his burst of glee at seeing his first plate.

Pleased as he was that chicken cutlet sandwiches were part of the menu, Ahiruneko had been expecting a sad, thin piece of fried chicken, in keeping with the cheap price. Imagine his surprise when the plate that was put before him hosted two substantial chunks of tasty poultry nestled between soft, fluffy white bread. After his first bite, he was further baffled to find it to be actually really tasty.

Delighted, he wolfed down his first three sandwiches and ordered his second round, which included a teriyaki chicken sandwich on rye bread, another surprisingly high-class choice.

After his fifth sandwich he was feeling a little full, but they had a fruit sandwich on the menu, and he just could not pass up the opportunity to have dessert included in his 500 yen meal, so he ordered it.

But now that it was time to pay the bill, Ahiruneko was starting to get nervous. It can’t really be this cheap, he thought. There must be a cover charge…It is a jazz cafe after all. He was fully prepared to pay an extra fee…but if it was over 1,000 yen, he thought he just might lose all faith in sandwiches. Gritting his teeth, with his heart thumping in his chest, he asked for the bill…and to his amazement, it was only 486 yen ($4.63). Letting out the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding in, he handed over his 500 yen coin with a grin.

To further increase Ahiruneko’s sense of having entered a strange alternate universe, he learned after he left the cafe that the sandwiches are also available for takeout, typically for about 210 yen or more for two. “THEN HOW CAN YOU OFFER ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT FOR JUST 300 YEN?!” he wanted to scream, but thankfully his sensibilities, at least, were more or less still intact.

Although it’s not actually all-you-can-eat sandwiches, Ahiruneko really recommends Misty Ipanema to fans of Japan’s triangle-cut sandwiches. It’s located about five minutes walking from Asagaya Station on the Chuo/Sobu line, and is open daily. They offer the sandwich deal every day, including weekends and holidays, but the cafe is mostly manned by the owner, so make sure you have time to slowly enjoy your sandwich smorgasboard when you go.

Cafe Information
Misty Ipanema / ミスティ イパネマ
Address: Tokyo-to, Suginami-ku, Asagaya Minami 1-35-23
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (may be subject to change without notice)
[ Read in Japanese ]