Mr. Sato says you have to try this…and everything else at wagashi café Tsumugi!

Café-bar chain Pronto may not be as famous a coffee shop as Starbucks, but it’s got its own niche in the coffee chain market. With about 350 branches throughout the country, Pronto is known as a comfortable café by day, and a casual bar by night. But what many may not know about Pronto is that they also manage 10 Japanese-style cafes in the Tokyo area known as Tsumugi, including one at Tsukiji Honkan Temple that serves a delicious, 18-dish breakfast set.

The Tsumugi our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato visited today is in the Tokyo neighborhood of Yurakucho, just one train stop away from the hub of Tokyo Station. There he ate a dessert that was so unbelievably good that he almost wanted to keep it a secret!

As opposed to Pronto’s western-style cafes, which serve mostly coffee drinks and western dishes like pasta and salads, Tsumugi’s menu is entirely inspired by Japanese flavors. The drink menu includes various hot teas as well as lattes of matcha and houjicha (roasted green tea), which often come in sets with desserts like kakigori, or traditional shaved ice, and zenzai, sweet red bean soup with mochi. For a proper meal, you can order set menus that feature popular Japanese dishes like Japanese-style steak, mackerel boiled in miso, and ochazuke, the rice dish over which you pour green tea.

As you can tell, their menu is full of delicious-sounding fare.

What Mr. Sato ordered is the Tsumugi Set (1,660 yen/US$15.54), a dessert set that comes with four small sweets, a dessert of your choice, and a drink. Mr. Sato chose for his dessert the “Sweet Potato Jelly and Refined Sugar Brulee”, and ordered a coffee as his drink.

Shortly after placing his order, his coffee arrived. He was surprised to see that Tsumugi serves its coffee in a fancy French press, which allows you to extract the flavor of the ground coffee beans yourself. Mr. Sato thought this to be an extraordinarily stylish touch.

Mr. Sato thought that the coffee made in the French press tasted much more refreshing than the regular drip coffee he usually drinks. It felt especially smooth as it went down his throat, and he could almost feel it permeating his organs with its roasted goodness. It made him feel a deep appreciation for Tsumugi; not many places serve you coffee in a French press.

Just as he thought his appreciation was reaching peak levels, his sweets set arrived. The basket was way bigger than it looked on the menu!

The sweets in the basket were famous delights from different places in Kansai, like roasted mochi balls with black soybeans and kinako (roasted soybean flour), which hails from Kyoto, and konpeito (sugar candy) from Osaka.

Mr. Sato, of course, tasted each dish, and each one was exquisite down to the finest detail. The more he sampled, the more he began to regret that he’d ordered coffee instead of green tea. What left the biggest impression on him was the matcha ice cream, which is sold by the revered Osaka tea shop Tafu Honshun-en, and which is flavored with actual tea leaves.

Mr. Sato actually hates matcha ice cream, having never liked the mixture of sweet and bitter that it tends to have. But this particular soft-serve matcha ice cream earned his stamp of approval! There was no biting bitterness to it, making it light and delicious.

The set also came with two grilled, miso-flavored potato skewers, which were meant to be used as palate cleansers. Mr. Sato felt a bit dubious about the ability of miso, a very pungent flavor, to actually clear one’s taste buds, but, as you know, he’s willing to try anything. After taking a bite of one, he blinked in confusion. The strong flavor of the matcha ice cream, the sweetness of the konpeito, the nuttiness of kinako all disappeared from his tongue, just because of some potato and miso! Simply amazing.

But that’s not what Mr. Sato wanted to tell you about. Those were simply the appetizers. Here is what he really wanted to share with you: The Sweet Potato Jelly and Refined Sugar Brulee was quite possibly the most delicious thing that Mr. Sato may have ever put in his mouth.

I know, I know. Mr. Sato eats a lot of stuff, so that’s a lofty claim. But hear him out. For starters, just look at it! On top of the warm, toasted sweet potato jelly was a sizeable chunk of melting butter, and beside it waited a tantalizing dollop of whipped cream. Even without tasting it, Mr. Sato knew this dish was going to be delicious.

The crispy, toasted sugar top, the soft butter, which was already becoming one with the sweet potato…This is ephemeral beauty in edible form. It’s perfect for your Instagram feed, for your phone background, for you to tuck away in your memories as an example of culinary art. Who among us would denounce the undeniable exquisiteness of this confectionary perfection?

And the taste! The flavor was enough to match the view. No, it surpassed it, proving once and for all that what’s on the inside does matter more than what’s on the outside. It was marvelously soft, literally melting in Mr. Sato’s mouth just by the heat of his body. With each taste, the sweetness of the sweet potato gradually permeated from his tongue all through each and every tiny cell in his body. This was a flavor that becomes one with you, with your body, with your soul.

Needless to say, it was one of the best desserts Mr. Sato had ever eaten. To think that a dish as good as this was being served at a Pronto cafe…Why aren’t they marketing it more?! They need to open more Tsumugi cafés too, because everyone needs to have a taste of this Sweet Potato Jelly and Refined Sugar Brulee. But even if he were to (very begrudgingly) set aside the jelly, Mr. Sato would have to admit that everything else they serve was fantastic too. The French press coffee, the Kansai sweets…If you like Japanese confectionaries, or even just cafes in general, Tsumugi is most definitely a place you should stop by.

Restaurant Information:
Café Solare Tsumugi / カフェソラーレ Tsumugi(ツムギ)
Tokyo-to Chiyoda-ku Yurakucho 2-7-1 Yurakucho Marui 8F
東京都千代田区有楽町2-7-1 有楽町マルイ8F
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays)
No holidays (depending on the closures of the Marui shopping mall)

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