No Japanese tea ceremony would be complete without wagashi. These exceptionally pretty confections are an integral part of the tradition and balance out bitter matcha tea with their sugary sweet azuki bean paste. You might think that by buying one of those plastic-wrapped azuki bean sweets from the konbini and pairing it with a cup of green tea at home counts as experiencing this time-honoured combination (they are still pretty tasty, even the ones from 7-Eleven). But until you’ve visited a place like Yakumo Saryo's teahouse, where the setting epitomises zen aesthetics and the wagashi is designer, you cannot truly appreciate it with all five senses – which is one of the points of the tradition.
Yakumo Saryo consists of a restaurant and a tea room, Sabo, which sells wagashi by confectionery brand Baishinka. It was founded by the owners of popular tea salon Higashiya, but what sets it apart from the latter is its seclusion. It’s in a quiet neighbourhood, set back from the street, and it boasts a garden of Japanese plum trees, which you can gaze at through a perfectly placed window in the tea room. As you walk towards the entrance, you can already get a sense of the very contemporary interior design through glass walls. The friendly concierge, who is Japanese but speaks English as well as a little French and German, will greet you warmly and show you through to the tea room. It’s a quiet, dimly lit space featuring one large, square, wooden table and a counter at the back where you can watch your waitress expertly preparing your matcha tea.
The menu is in Japanese, but if you ask for wagashi, they’ll bring out a set of exquisite samples for you to choose from. All sweets are seasonal and prepared by a skilled wagashi chef, and they cost from ¥220 per sweet. The azuki bean sweet we chose was the smoothest, most delicious we’ve ever tasted, while the matcha tea was the most bitter we’ve ever had (we’re assuming this is a good sign). Afterwards, they brought out a complimentary cup of brown tea with a tiny block of kurobo (brown sugar stick). Before leaving, be sure to peek around the corner into the main restaurant. It’s apparently loved by locals and so exclusive that dinner is by invite only.
|Venue name:||Yakumo Saryo||Contact:|
3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro-ku
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 9am-5pm / Closed Sun & pub hols|
|Transport:||Toritsu-Daigaku Station (Tokyu Toyoko line)|