One thing that we don’t have enough of in Tokyo are cafés with outdoor seating. On a nice sunny day, you just want to sit outside, catch some rays, relax and watch people pass by. How many times have we been disappointed by the so-called “terrace seating” that a cool looking spot or review boasts only to end up cramped outside in the smoking section or directly facing a loud street with cars zooming by, defeating the whole purpose? Miss P does not take exhaust in her coffee, thank you very much.
So I was excited to try this café that I’ve been hearing good things about — the Ballower Terrace — that is supposed to have nice patio-like seating, as the name implies. It’s a few minutes walk from Sendagaya or Kokuritsu-kyogijo station, right across from the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium with lush greenery, on a quiet street. Immediately drawn to the wide, open facade, it actually looked like a café where you could breathe — and it was.
They have a handful of lunch set menu choices ranging from ¥950 to ¥1,600 — sandwiches, curries and pastas, as well as big salads and deli plates. Each comes with bottomless coffee or tea and other drinks that are only ¥200 during lunch hours. You can even have a beer or a glass of wine for ¥350. Treat yourself to a sweet from a full list of seasonal fruit tarts, cakes, pancakes and parfaits. Miss P almost got a sugar high just from looking at the photos when choosing…
To be honest, the food was not that impressive. Didn’t see or taste much pâté in the banh mi sandwich (¥1,200 set) — it was more like a ham and takuan (Japanese pickled daikon with a strong radish taste) sandwich. It just didn’t have enough of that kick or sweet tang that makes banh mi so good. But, of course, this is not a Vietnamese restaurant so one can forgive Miss P for having too high expectations. The banana cake for dessert (¥600) was surprisingly good, however. Perfectly dense and moist with cinnamon, spices, walnuts, raisins and vanilla ice cream on the sid, making it a nice recovery from the banh mi disappointment.
The restaurant also has a full dinner menu and wine list, as well.
The café is airy — as a terrace should be — with lots of greenery. Large rustic furniture, sofas and cushions make for cozy seating. It is divided into three large sections: the front with open window walls, a communal table and tables for two; a back room with a long banquette and plenty of group seating; and then a spacious wooden deck terrace — open air or covered depending on the weather. All the sections are free-flowing and open and with the terrace in the middle, a nice amount of natural light flows into each space.
When Miss P visited, there was a mix of people and everybody was happily going about their own business. Some were dining solo with a book, most seemed to be having a ladies lunch (or more so: a girls lunch) and there were also businessmen having a meeting at the large table. It’s spacious enough to accommodate many occasions.
The menu is in both Japanese and English. Friendly staff. The self-serve coffee and tea that they offer until 3 p.m. for the lunch sets shows that the staff won’t be trying to push you out the minute you finish your meal.
The Reason Miss P Visits…
… is the openness and terrace seating. The café has a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere where you won’t feel guilty chatting away with your friends — not the best place for lunch if you want to be satisfied but maybe for afternoon tea with a sweet treat. Miss P is suspicious of the ¥350 wine, but she’s tempted to take a closer look at the wine list next time — perhaps a casual glass on a Saturday afternoon would be nice. Then maybe a nice stroll through Meiji Jingu Gaien to Aoyama. There may only be a few more weekends to enjoy the terrace before it’s blanket and hot chocolate season — but that might be a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon, too.
Tastefully yours, Miss P♡
1-20-3 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open Mon-Thu, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri, 11 a.m.-midnight, Sat & Sun, 10a.m.-midnight
A 3-minute walk from either Sendagaya or Kokuritsu-Kyogijo stations.