The search for New Delhi’s most instragammable and deliciously authentic cafe ends at Harajuku Tokyo Cafe at Select CITYWALK mall, where we stop by for a taste of Japan. Text and photographs by Bayar Jain
My sister and I have a penchant for bonding over quirky cafes, particularly those that come splattered with cute decor in every nook and cranny. On one such girls’ day out, we find ourselves surrounded by pastel pink walls, neon signs, an arcade game, and unmistakable Japanese street murals, seemingly from the colourful anime artworks signature to the country.
We’re at Harajuku Tokyo Cafe—founded by Gaurav Kanwar—at New Delhi’s Select CITYWALK mall where the cacophony of the surrounding bustling shops drowns in with the English pop tunes that sing through the corner store—possibly the only thing that reminds us that we aren’t in Japan. The whiffs of matcha and visuals of jiggly cheesecake dancing on a platter on the servers’ hands makes it seem otherwise. It’s only natural, then, that we order our first drink: iced matcha latte.
A green drink shines against the pale table, strong enough to wake our sleep-deprived senses while simultaneously fighting the summer heat. A few sips in, and the two of us are already fighting over the drink. The cafe’s restaurateur, Anshuman Malik, chimes in. “Why don’t you order a cappuccino as well? While it might not be the best-tasting coffee, it’s definitely the prettiest one you’ll ever see,” he exclaims. We give in.
Out comes a hot brew with flavours as expected: strong, caffeine-loaded, and soothing. However, before we dive straight in, we try to capture the cute cup from all angles. A biscotti shaped like a cat is leaning against the pale pink cup with a nugget-sized marshmallow mouse couched on the saucer which instantly becomes our muse. A cream foam swirl on the drink completes the adorable frame.
With our senses now wide awake, it’s time for some food. We place an order for asparagus lava maki rolls, waiting to unleash our inner sushi-loving monsters. As we wait, my anime-loving sister eyes the collection of manga stacked behind me. As for me, I parade up and down the restaurant marvelling at the decor. Street signs flashing the words ‘Konichiwa Delhi‘ blink over the bakery stand, past which sofas under cloud-shaped lights seat guests of different nationalities. “The fact that we have a lot of expat crowd—often waiting in hour-long queues—visiting us assures us that our food is authentic,” prides Malik.
And authentic it is! My sister and I dig into the flavour-loaded maki rolls with the in-house creamy lava sauce amping up the freshness of the sushi. A special mention to the wasabi paste which brings the ideal pungency to the dish. While we prefer our rolls without the crunch, the crispy asparagus tempura sprinkled on top is ideal for those who like it otherwise.
Devouring sushi, however, is just the beginning of our trip to Japan. We continue on to handpulled flat noodles in chilli oil, and a bowl of katsu curry rice with tofu. The noodles sing spice and freshness with every bite, courtesy the house-made chilli oil. Bits of finely diced vegetables add the right amount of crunch to the easy-on-the-teeth noodles. On the other hand, the katsu curry rice bowl is divine, to say the least. The tofu encased in a deep-fried coating is surprisingly soft to bite, while the sticky rice to accompany is as authentic as can be. The star, however, is the thick dark gravy swimming on the plate. The black bean curry is rich in flavours; a taste that sweeps over the palate with ease, compelling me to go back for multiple scoops.
By now, our stomachs are crying for respite. But having tasted a sample of Harajuku Tokyo Cafe’s melt-in-mouth Japanese cheesecake, we can’t give dessert a miss. My sister marvels at the countless sweet goodies on show, stopping every now and then to show me the countless cute treats on offer (think Kawaii cream puffs which look like chocolate pigs sandwiched in a cookie; macarons shaped like a cookie monster; banana caramel mousse shaped like minions, and more). Eventually, she settles with a Japanese whiskey cake—a great end, indeed! The soft booze-y cake takes me to heaven and back with every bite, while I notice my sister is already in food coma. Our quick date to Tokyo couldn’t have been better.
Address: First Floor, Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, New Delhi
Timings: 10 am to 10 pm
Reservations: +91 11 4510 2253
Cost for two: INR 800 (approx.)