Lucky-ones in Japan, NY, Asia, & Europe: enter Muji’s & become a fan. If you are near Muji’s Cafe & Meal, life is even sweeter. You have your own mod eatery amidst the glory of clean-design & organizational products. Martha Stewart would wet herself.
And now, fellow Japan-ites or those visiting, say you’re in Shibuya, or Hibiya…or Ueno, Shinjuku, or so on…you’re in window-shopping mode or perhaps taking advantage of after-holiday sales. Muji’s cafe is not a bad option. In fact, it’s a welcome rest filled with swaths of light & tons of meal-options. It’s also like a quieter Ikea (here in Japan anyway), minus Swedish meatballs and fun names like Bojne chairs, Vittsjo shelving, or Sockerkaka baking molds.
Muji’s, or Mujirushi Ryōhin, the name that means “no brand”, receives oodles of design-awards and fanfare for their ubercool minimalism. Dining in their cafe is a lifestyle move. It takes window-shopping to the next level, using their plates, chairs, serving jars, and the essence of Muji’s, their ingredients and recipes. In fact, the 2013 Muji’s cookbook can be plucked and bought from the very line in which you order renkon salad and mackerel. It is, for one meal, like living in their catalog. And if you like what you eat, you can buy some ingredients. It’s as brilliant a consumer-move as was the first restaurant in Disney World–merchandising down to what you eat. Thing is, Muji’s cafe feels so natural and so healthy–so Japanese, that it just makes sense to enter their line and order-away. In this bright, vaulted warehouse of a restaurant, Muji’s impresses with natural-cool.
Muji’s flagship store in Yurakcho is a quaint three-stories, with cafe on the second floor.
At the minimum: You can sit & stretch those legs for the price of a 280 yen small hot coffee, and/or go for one of their baked goods, like a sweet bean/anko-filled croissant, my salty/sweet go-to.
Microwaves and toasters sit available for your toasting, warming pleasure, like an upscale conbini. The service is also very friendly and they will take good care of you. I was greeted and shown-to my table all in English.
Really, I have so many metaphors for this space–it is upscale youth hostel meets Whole Foods, meets nicer university cafes–the ones they bring parents to during weekend college-tours. Your parents can rest-assured, knowing you will get seasonal, blooming veggies, whole grains, plenty of hot drinks and borsht. That, and your whole tuition won’t be spattered paying for overpriced omelettes. You won’t become lethargic on crappy, no-nurtition fluffernutter sandwiches on white bread with crusts cut-off. Or invariably…mac n cheese or ironically, ramen.
My plate: Because I don’t always eat chocolate croissants, I chose a rainbow of color. Cabbage salad with a spicy Thai tastse, a gobo burger with chicken, that chicken korage as seen above, a snappy tofu salad I loved best, with bursts of cilantro, yellow pepper, and mung bean sprouts; a fried, herbed salmon with dijon dressing, and another salad I loved–apparently containing lots of jellyfish (which I now know from the recipe page of Muji’s site). All were pretty fabulous, though after frying, the salmon was a bit dry, albeit flavorful.
Price-plans: If choosing from the deli/prepared foods line, the cheapest meal you can score is the 780 set. This buys you one hot item, two colds, and rice or bread.
Moving up, the 930 yen plan buys two hot, two cold, bread or rice. Additional hot items are 260 per dish, whereas cold items are 230 yen apiece. I got a bit excited and accidentally ordered an additional hot item which (like usual), gave me a super-sized meal. I also upgraded to ten-grain rice for the extra 100 yen . If you are eating a bowl of rice, better make it count.
Comparing: Listen, honey. I have accidentally dropped far-more, or just the same, on pizza-man (those unhealthy steamed bread pillows I love, that seem a bit like packing-peanuts and some tomato sauce), candy bars, osembei, & yoghurt drinks at the nearby Sunkus. Plus, the seasonal produce, dairy, poultry, & other sundry ingredients used by Muji’s are pretty great. Helps offset the Toblerone pastries…yummm.
Eggs are “raised in the wilderness”, which sounds like translation to say they are free-range, perhaps. All coffee is Fair Trade, & milk comes from Tokyo. Produce is listed by prefecture/farm. All allergens are listed, including shrimp, wheat, milk, eggs, & the like.
Beyond that, Muji’s sells the best annin dofu of my life, which I scraped, err, finished to the track of a very calm “Silent Night”. This could be utopia during the holidays. No Black Friday madness, no Christmas mayhem. Just Muji’s more quiet way of celebrating with traintrack gingerbread villages, yuzu drinks, natural lighting, and friendly service. Muji’s Cafe & Meal is my brand of no-brand food & drink.
Futakotamagawa, Hibiya, Kichijoji, Kinshicho, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno.