I had a little ritual my first few days in Tokyo last spring. Each morning I’d go to the mom-and-pop coffee shop next door to my AirBNB rental and enjoy a cup of coffee, hardboiled egg and fluffy Japanese milk bread. Flossy, feathery, plumped and slightly sweet, the bread reminded me of Texas toast on steroids.
On one piece I’d spread strawberry jam, the other came with a slice of ham hugged to the bread by melted cheese. We left that neighborhood after a few days, but I continued to savor variations of the bread throughout my trip to Japan.
I have finally found the fix for my Japanese milk bread cravings. This piece of nori tama toast comes topped with crumbled egg spread across the bread’s ivory expanse, with a melted layer of mozzarella holding it in place. The creamy and irony mixture is spotted with green onions and the oceanic flavors of dried seaweed bits.
Who needs breakfast tacos when you can have this?
The all-day treat came from Sa-Tén Coffee and Eats at 916 Springdale Road, Bldg. 3, Ste. 101 in the Canopy arts building. Kome co-owner Kayo Asazu and East Side King co-founder Moto Utsunomiya opened the Japanese-inspired café in 2014. The sun-lit space inside the arts complex, fittingly colored in warm wood and industrial greys, is open daily for breakfast lunch and dinner.
The Japanese milk bread, made using a process called Tangzhong, is imported from Bakery Crescent in Chicago. No, it’s not local, but when it’s this good, I don’t quibble with geographic provenance.
At $10, the lunch plate, which includes two sides, is one of the best deals I’ve come across lately. One special featured crunchy fried chicken thigh breaded in Panko and drizzled with Worcestershire and tar-tar sauces. With it came a springy kale salad electrified by white balsamic vinegar and a satisfying Japanese curry, bursting with turmeric, coriander and cumin, studded with fukujinzuke, a crunchy mixture of daikon, radishes and other vegetables.
A peaceful retreat surrounded by artist’s studios, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, Sa-Tén is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.