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Marunouchi/Tokyo Station area--early lunch (esp. Brick Square)

I'm headed to Tokyo just one day, a Sunday at that. My plan is to go early so I can go to Echire at Marunouchi Brick Square, then have an early lunch so I can get to Ueno Gaguen by noon. I think that means being on a train leaving Tokyo Station by 11:45 which means my lunch will need to be quick.

I wanted dim sum, and Sense is sort of close, but it doesn't open until 11:30, so that's out.

Are any of the restaurants in Brick Square worth eating at? I have no particular preference for any kind of food (Japanese, Italian, whatever), but it has to be fast and solo-diner friendly. And close to Tokyo Station, so I can get to Ueno quickly. And I'd prefer a restaurant that doesn't have a branch in Kansai.

Any recommendations?

Another question--the Dean & Deluca's espresso bar at Tokyo Station have tables and chairs or stools, or is it just take-out?

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  1. Just avoid the pizza A16, the pizza is expensive for just a sauce large pizza, even the sauce is home made. The desert with pannacotta, biscuit and griotte was nice on the terrace on late evening.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ninisix

      For what it's worth I found their waitresses cute and especially attentive - even for Marunouchi standards. Pizza was expensive but generic, wine a disaster. Sitting outside on the terrace for sweets and coffee sure is nice, but eating there i -too- would not recommend.

      As for take-out food the sandwiches from Viron are fantastic. (Marunouchi 2-7-3, Tokyo Bldg Tokia 1F, 50 meters from brick square)

    2. Have you thought about Brasserie L'Ecrin in Ueno Atre? Being inside a train station I would assume that they'd be fast, efficient and friendly to single diners.
      http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g281702/menu1.htm

      1. ps: could you let us know if Echire was worth it?

        17 Replies
        1. re: Scharn

          Yes, yes, and yes. Best croissants, financiers, and madeleines, period. It is an all-butter all-the-time fest. Expensive, and the wait can be atrocious, but worth as a splurge. Get there before 11:00 AM if you want any croissants.

          As for restaurants in Brick Square, I guess the only quick spot would be the Robuchon cafe. For lunch, I've been to Mikuni, which I thought was OK, and the Ukai Grill, which I thought was excellent. They have a 3,500 yen course that is more than plentiful and very tasty. Service is very good.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            If I get there before they open, will I have to run to the shop with a hoard of others and stand in line to get my goods?

            That happened to me at a pizza place in Roppongi Midtown. I was the first one to arrive at the mall (I had nothing else to do), but there was a gate separating the mall from the restaurants, so everyone was equalized. And then I ended up being maybe 10th in line at the restaurant because I didn't think they'd be a stampede, and I didn't run. Very annoying, it was.

            Is there stuff laid out for you to pick yourself, or is it behind a counter or in a display case so you have to tell a clerk what you want?

            Sorry for the all the questions--I'm formulating my game plan!

            1. re: prasantrin

              Yes, you will have to stand in line, but it is well organized, as opposed to Napule. The only time there isn't a line is when they've run out of things. Everything is behind a counter.

              1. re: Uncle Yabai

                Another quick question. . .

                Do they have limits on any of their other goods? I see croissant are limited at 6 per person. How about financier? Or salted butter caramel tarts if they have any?

                And I think I also read that they do not allow reservations of goods. Is that correct? Or is that only for reservations for shipping (i.e. telephone orders sent by takkyubin)?

                If I can, I'd rather call and reserve my precious croissant, just to be sure I get some. I'll be very annoyed if they sell out by the time I get to the front of the line!

                1. re: prasantrin

                  Here's the current set of rules.

                  For the record, I waited in line there for half an hour, then when it was finally my turn they were sold out. Quite surprising cause it was 11:30 and quite annoying cause my freetime is rather valuable. Next time I will send an intern...

                   
                  1. re: Scharn

                    Was that today? You must have stood in line with Auntie Yabai. She sent me a nasty e-mail fuming that she stood in line and by the time she got to the front, they were out of the croissants. Her riposte is "why should these idiots keep their store open all day when they have no croissants to sell? Weird people."

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      yup, that was today =)

                      to be fair, their bouncer girl warned everybody that there was a chance that they would be sold out soon. at least that's what she told every single other person, i only got a scared look and a "welcome..?".

                      i am really amazed by this shop. it seems like a krispy kreme for grown-ups. krispy actually PAID people to stand in line. their shinjuku locations feels like a theme park: They have a dedicated, built area for people to wait. so it was all planned.

                      echire might have the same strategy. i think baking croissants can't be that hard, so they could easily do it in the shop (like they're doing it with the madeleines and financiers) but if they let them deliberately run out they create demand. your wife will probably tell a couple of people today how crazy popular that shop is. as i will. in fact i told that to half of my coworkers. so when i finally have the chance to get some, i will be extra happy for the great chance to spend 400yen on a croissant.

                      ps: as you are the only one i know who was successful on buying these croissants could you pls elaborate on the differences? all i remember is that it was 3 types of croissants: a cheaper "original" version and two others. i think the only difference is the type of butter used. could you _taste_ a difference?

                      1. re: Scharn

                        Actually, the difference is the butter percentage, from what I heard when I was there. And yes, the higher butter content ones are definitely memorable. Very memorable. They also run out of them first, as you can imagine.

                        1. re: Scharn

                          On the Krispy Kreme in Japan phenomenon, it was all planned that way, designed by a company called Revamp, founded by two friends of mine after helping Uniqlo take off and knock it out of the ballpark. The huge lines for the first year or two were managed by building hype and scarcity, and by giving out free donuts to people waiting in line. An element of that was that once you got a free donut, you would be "obligated" to stick around and buy a dozen. Me, I would just line up, get my free donut and then have to "take a phone call". Really, one hot fresh donut is more than enough.

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            "designed by a company called Revamp, founded by two friends of mine after helping Uniqlo take off and knock it out of the ballpark."

                            I'd certainly argue this point with you over a drink someday :)

                            1. re: gkanai

                              Got some facts I don't have? Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.

                          2. re: Scharn

                            Auntie Yabai said that there was a tallish ferner who spoke some Japanese two people behind her in line, so it sounds like that was you.

                      2. re: prasantrin

                        I don't think they have a limit on the other goods. Only the croissants appear to be in very high demand.

                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                          If you get there by 9:30 or 9:45, or at least by 10, do you think you'd have to wait as long as half an hour?

                          I'll have to leave the area by about 10:45, so I don't think I can wait longer than that. . .

                          1. re: prasantrin

                            well, if you are there later at 10:45 they will be sold out anyway =). I would recommend being there before 10. Also next doors is a Sbux.

                            1. re: Scharn

                              In Brick Square? I had planned to hang out at Starbucks, but the one in Brick Square (really in the Park Bldg--B1F) doesn't open till 8, and I'll be arriving around 7. The closest one on the same side of Tokyo Station that also opened early was at the ShinMaru Bldg.

                            2. re: prasantrin

                              Don't know, but a 30 minute wait wouldn't surprise me.

                2. Thanks, all!

                  I was actually thinking of A16 for pizza, so now I'll strike that off my list. I'd love to have lunch at Viron (the frites look great!), but they don't begin lunch service until 11:30. :-( Maybe I can go back before departing for Osaka to pick up a sandwich for the train ride back.

                  I made a reservation at Brasserie L'Ecrin--thanks Robb! It looks fine--not terribly high tabelog ratings, but not low, either. And it's good that it's in Ueno, so I won't have to rush to catch a train, and it's on the side I need to be on, to boot! My reservation is at 11, so I should have enough time to eat and still get to the school by noon.

                  I will definitely report back on Echire. Hopefully there won't be a line when I get there, because I won't have that much time to wait around. There are always lines at popular places in Japan!

                  I think someone (Uncle Yabai?) already reported a little on Echire, and he highly recommended it.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: prasantrin

                    L`Ecrin Ueno… I have tried, and tried it 3 times…have each time a wait. The restaurant, especially the older room with its seiling tries to have the ‘’bistrot’’spirit, but the meal is “”just”” low average !

                    1. re: Ninisix

                      Did you make reservations? I have reservations for 11, the time they open. I hope they don't make me wait, but I'm sure if I tell them my schedule, they'll accommodate it.

                      Low average is better than bad! I'm OK with that. It's cheap, after all, so I don't expect a Michelin-starred meal. As long as it's pleasant and gets me where I need to be on time, I'll be OK with it.

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        1:00 AM, will be open hour and open service… Went once with a reservation for diner and a lunch without any, nothing to remember of, and I think that is a reason enough to annoy me.

                  2. I arrived at L'Ecrin just before 11, and there were already a few people waiting. I went up to the staff at the front and said I had a reservation, but he said they didn't take reservations. I showed him the confirmation I got on my cell phone, and he got the most confused look on his face. . . I wanted to mention that someone had also called me to confirm, but since there weren't that many people waiting, I just asked if they would have room for me right away, and they did so no problem.

                    Food--well, it's pretty much what I would have expected from a train station restaurant. I did like the service, but the food was just so-so. Plus I'm fairly certain I ordered the chicken, but I received the fish. I didn't want to wait around, and I was fine with the fish, so I didn't say anything about it. I was able to finish with enough time to find my way to Ueno Gakuen.

                    If I am ever in the area again, I think I'll just go to Afternoon Tea. Not great food, either, but homely and fine for what it is.

                    L'Ecrin was quite busy, and they were more or less full the entire time I was there (only 45 minutes), plus there were people waiting outside.

                    ETA: I wrote about Echire in the French Pastry Shops thread. Short answer--higher butter croissants are great; regular croissants, madeleine, financier, and palmier aren't all that.