Today marked my second visit to Blu Jam Cafe, having been invited to for brunch, an institution which I still feel Tokyo is lagging behind in. Blu Jam has two locations and I headed both times to the Daikanyama location.
Daikanyama is known as a trendy, slightly upscale place with its Western-style cafes, beckoning fashionable Japanese and homesick foreigners. It’s T-site is legendary – a large, beautifully designed Tsutaya bookstore, harbouring Starbucks and popular hangout of trendy kids, casual readers and the freelance, mobile working crowd.
It was after my first visit to Blu Jam in which I called into Tsutaya to browse some of the magazines. There, staring me in the face, was a Dancyu – popular food magazine, with a serious of great recipe books. Within the first few pages, it promised to reveal true Italian food, and led with a paragraph about the true nature of carbonara.
Tracing carbonara’s roots to Rome, it diplomatically started that it would not be inaccurate to describe adding cream to the dish as a heresy. I was delighted, not least because I learned the word ‘heresy’ in Japanese.
But today, I stared at the carbonara in front of me on my plate. Look away now, Italians.
Yes, this is “brunch carbonara” and, no, it does not contain pasta. I am sorry, Italians, I truly am, but it was far too hilarious for me not to order it. Arborio rice, crispy bacon, green peas, two poached eggs, and “herb pistou”, which sounded and looked suspiciously like pesto, but tasted suspiciously like nothing much.
The bacon-pea combo was pretty moreish, and the whole dish was comforting in an uncomplicated way – which sums up pretty much most of the food on offer. Solid ingredients, solid recipes, and solidly simple.
With a solid portions. “Welcome to America” said a friend, followed by, “This feels like California.”
Indeed, the vibe is relaxed with predominantly foreign staff dishing out American-style service. The menu has ample vegan, gluten-free and health-conscious options. Although these are hilariously advertised as alternatives to “normal”….
Either way, I guess in California carbonara is made of rice?
As for other dishes, the Eggs Benedict are appropriately runny, but the homemade hollandaise sauce is unmemorable.
Kamil’s Brunch – named after the owner/chef who originally launch Blue Jam in LA – is macaroni scrambled with egg, garlic, ham, bacon and cheddar. Despite the wealth of ingredients, it lacks oomph; it slides down easily making me longing to add a dash of sweet chilli sauce.
The popular French toast indeed has an intriguing crispy, crunchy coating and manages not to stay on the right side of sweet.
The real standout dish for me was the California omelette – avocado, tomatoes, bacon, cheddar, sour cream, served with toast and rosemary potatoes. I was reluctant to order an omelette but the gooey richness with tang of sour cream playing off soft eggs made this a winner, and sadly better than any omelette I’ve ever whipped up at home.
The only issue – the rosemary potatoes. They are astoundingly bland and stodgy given they’re dumped on the side of most dishes at Blu Jam. There’s an option to swap them out for a side salad, but it’ll cost you 200 yen for the privilege. However, I highly recommend you do.
Overall, as a casual brunch place that doesn’t break the bank, Blu Jam ticks the boxes. Get your Cali brunch dreams here.