Sarabeth’s is a popular New York bakery restaurant chain featuring a breakfast menu loved by the locals since 1981, and has become such a huge part of New York food culture that it has influenced movies, TV, and publishing. And now Sarabeth’s has finally arrived in Japan, opening a branch in Shinjuku at the beginning of this month.
Rocketnews24 correspondent/foodie extraordinaire Kuzo went to check it out!
Warning: The following review contains content that may be upsetting to New Yorkers
・Japanese people waited in line for 2 hours
On November 1st 2012, after much media coverage of this wonderful restaurant opening for the first time in Tokyo, people lined up for two hours with much anticipation for what New Yorkers are proud to call Sarabeth’s.
Now, Japanese people line up in many places in anticipation of many things, for lengths of time exceeding two hours. There is nothing novel in that. Anything new, particularly first time openings from abroad are extremly popular and taken up by mainstream media as something to get excited about, and people do get excited. But maybe Japanese people will find that what Sarabeth’s has to offer isn’t really that exciting after all.
・This is not the kind of food to spend time lining up for
The media’s praise for Sarabeth’s as ‘tasty’ is nothing more than a way for them to introduce a new restaurant. But I will be honest in saying that it doesn’t have the kind of food that is worth lining up for, at least not for any more than ten minutes. The food simply doesn’t leave a lasting impression. This is the way I, a Japanese man, felt about it.
・Elegant lightness trumps the richness of flavors at this restaurant
American breakfasts are full of rich heavy foods, which Sarabeth’s presents in an elegant light way. I can understand why it has gotten good reviews. If I were to live for a month in New York and eat Sarabeth’s French toast every morning for breakfast, it would be obvious that I would find it tasty. But that would be because I was in America. In Japan, people’s taste buds are different, and therefore the evaluation will be different.
・The French toast is toasted the right color to stimulate the appetite, but the sour taste leaves a bad after taste in your mouth
The Fluffy French Toast (1200 yen, about $15 US) was highly recommended by the staff. It was arranged artfully and presented beautifully on the plate. It looks very appetizing and is just the right shade of golden brown to get your mouth watering. It was light and fluffy like cotton candy, and not nearly as heavy as it looked. However, the taste doesn’t go along with the beauty and the fluffy texture of it. The bread had just a bit of sourness about it, which is usual, but with Sarabeth’s French toast it takes over and you are left with a bad aftertaste in your mouth.
・It is elegant yet tasteless
The high quality butter and maple syrup were agreeable, but my over-all evaluation of the French toast itself is “bland.” You could argue that that’s what the butter and syrup are for, but the bread shouldn’t be so reliant on other ingredient to bring out its flavor.
Other things on the menu like the omelets and pancakes were also bland. Maybe the idea is to be able to taste the main ingredients, but there doesn’t seem to be anything added to the ingredients for taste. Cooking involves using skills to pull out flavors from the ingredients not just leaving the ingredients untouched.
In general, I understand why Sarabeth’s is so popular in New York. It’s not that the cooking is bad, but if you pay 1200 yen (about $15 US) to 1400 yen ($17.50 US), you can get a lot more for your money in Japan.
Regardless, people will want to try Sarabeth’s for all the publicity it is getting, in which case I recommend the Eggs Benedict. This is your best bet at Sarabeth’s Shinjuku!
・Sarabeth’s could succeed as part of the tourist trade
I think that it would be extremely difficult for Sarabeth’s to succeed on its own unless it were to be a part of building up the tourist industry like ‘Bills’ (Bill Granger’s in Omotesando) or Eggs n’ Things (Harajuku). Being a part of the tourist industry would give it a chance to succeed.
Store Name: Sarabeth’s
Address: Lumine Shinjuku Branch, Lumine 2, seond floor, Shinjuku 3-38-2, Shinjuku Ward
Hours: 9:00～22:00, Open all year round
[ Read in Japanese ]