I was looking for a place to eat in Akasaka, really hungry from a morning of traveling to various places when I stumbled upon Genmai Shokudou Smile Kitchen. It was right next to Akasaka Station and in the midst of Akasaka Sacas, in the B1 floor of Akasaka Biz Tower. The brightly-lit and colorful interior and the interesting name were what first caught my eye. The menu options also looked really healthy and the cost fit my budget of ¥1,000, perfect for my wallet and stomach.
It was long past peak lunch hours, but people, mostly women, were still there. What was nice was that it was easy for me, a female eating by myself, to walk in and eat alone. Even though I was sitting at my own table, the homey atmosphere of the place made me feel comfortable. The interior decoration, with both the colors and a variety of hangers, pictures and mirrors on the wall, was a mix of cute and elegant. The one room eatery seated about twenty guests at small wooden tables with mismatched colorful chairs.
Looking around, I saw that other women also looked comfortable eating alone. The woman next to me was reading a book, and the woman next to her was using her tablet. Some women came in pairs with their friends, and a group of four friends sat and chat for the majority of the time I was there. It was not only a place to eat, but also a nice place to just sit and relax.
But of course the food itself was amazing. Genmai, which is brown rice, comes with every meal. In addition to the genmai rice, the meal came with a lot of other healthy choices, such as furikake (seasoning) to put on the rice.
My meal, the lightly grilled bonito adorned with fresh veggies, was really tasty. It was flavorful, but also light. The natural flavors of the fish and the vegetables filled my mouth with every bite. The meal came with miso soup, hijiki (a simmered sea vegetable dish), salad, and of course, genmai rice. The food was satisfying and not too heavy, which was perfect for me, as I had more traveling to do afterwards.
An added benefit is that each meal comes with access to a small drink bar, stocked with iced genmai tea (green tea with roasted brown rice), and coffee. You are free to drink as much as you’d like, in a serve-yourself fashion. It added some excitement to the experience, as you got to walk around the cutely designed interior of the small restaurant. There were handwritten menus on chalkboards up on the wall for those unsure of what to order, adding to the charm of Smile Kitchen.
So whether you are simply looking for a healthy option, or if you need something to fill your belly without inducing food coma in the middle of your travels, or if you want a fun dining experience in a welcoming atmosphere, stop by Genmai Shokudou Smile Kitchen. It certainly lived up to its name, as I walked away feeling happy and healthy.