Straw Hat Café @ Ghibli Museum

During our visit to Japan, one of the top places we wanted to go was Ghibli Museum. We are a big fan of their animated films, and I heard such great things about this museum from my family. The admission ticket is not easy to get, so we were excited when we got everything scheduled and ready! It is located nearby the Mitaka train station, and from there, we found many mile (or I should say “meter”) markers along the way. It made our walk simple, we got to the museum without any trouble.

We walk alongside a large park, and at the end, we saw a large sign for the museum. There was an yellow-orange building behind it, with Totoro welcoming everyone in a ticket booth looking structure. This is NOT the main entrance, but more like a back exit. We walked a bit more towards the front of the building, where the main entrance is located. The tickets are set as timed entry, and we got one of the first entry tickets, 10am entry tickets. When we got there before 10am, we saw a line already forming, but maybe only around 20 or so people. About the time the 10am came around, the line behind us was really long!

 

The first thing I saw when we finally got inside was a beautiful painting on the ceiling. You can find characters from Ghibli movies there. Then, we were directed to a theater. Before going into the theater, our paper tickets were exchanged with a hard tickets. These tickets are made of pieces of the actual 35mm film prints that were used in theaters. How cool! We took our seat and watched a short film feature, we really enjoyed that.

Then, we went up to the roof to see a massive Robot Soldier (five meter tall) and a garden. Pretty impressive and a relaxing area, even though it is a small garden. It is best to go up there when there are not many people there yet.

On the way down back inside the museum, we got to see a beautiful stained glass windows with Ghibli characters, and a big, fluffy Cat Bus! The Cat Bus was for children only… How sad…

You might ask, how is this museum related to this “food” blog? Because they have a museum café called Straw Hat café, and also, we went there during their special exhibition, “Delicious! Animating Memorable Meals” which is a perfect exhibition for a foodie!

Here, they had all sorts of real-sized food that was featured in Ghibli movies, made with wax. I was planning to order this Kiki chocolate cake from the café later, so I was very excited! They also had art panels full of sketches, videos and even a life-size model of a kitchen from the movie My Neighbor Totoro, and a kitchen of Tiger Moth in Castle in the Sky. Super cool!!!

The museum café is located on a second level. You can go from the ground level, walk over, and take the stairs. Or, you could go to the second floor of the museum, and walk across a little bridge. It is a bright yellow building with red awning, door, and windows, you won’t miss it.

It was a bit rainy on that day, so they had a tent right outside the entrance so that the people waiting in line won’t get wet. It was a long line… We waited maybe one hour standing, before we could get to waiting area with chairs. We waited another half hour or so in the waiting area.

They have books for you to read and kill time while waiting, which was nice. Also, the staffs come our often to let everyone read the menu beforehand, so that once we are seated, we can order immediately. They had this cute little pig on in the wait area, which contains mosquito repelling incense. Since the museum and the café is sitting inside a large park, they had lots and lots of mosquitoes…and they love me! While we were standing in line, away from this little mosquito repelling incense, I got bitten by mosquitoes like crazy. I wish if they had more of these placed in many areas to cover the whole area. If you are loved by mosquitoes like me, bring a bug spray with you!

The closer we got to the entrance, our anticipation grew more and more. We knew the wait will be long, so we were prepared for it. When we got towards the front of the line, the staff came and started to ask if people are willing to sit at a communal table, or if they prefer to get their own table. The ones who said “yes” to seating with strangers got seats much quicker. We also said “yes” so we got in pretty quick after that.

 

And finally we were in! The inside was very spacious with high ceiling and lots of natural light coming in from everywhere. They had large space, with tables and chairs placed away from each other so that they are not crowded in there. If this restaurant was in NYC, they would have put maybe three times more tables and chairs in here… Even though less seating equals longer wait, but I really liked the peaceful atmosphere.

One of the coolest feature was the large windows on the ceiling that goes from one end to the other. Even though it was a cloudy, rainy day, it was still bright with the skylights. They had rather simple interior design, with just bright red window frames, and several straw hats as it is named Straw Hat Café. And one great thing to add about this café is that they get all of their ingredients from an organic farm.

Since they get visitors from all over the world, they have one menu in Japanese, and another menu in English and Chinese. I am not sure if the staffs here speak any language other than Japanese, but it helps to have English menu for foreign customers. For drink, I got a Coffee with Foamy Milk (500 yen). It had super cute drawing of straw hat, and was a pretty good cup of coffee. The foam was very fluffy and comforting. It came with a thin, crunchy, sweet rusk on the side.

My hubby went with Homemade Ginger Ale (600 yen). It was indicated as “a little adult” ginger ale. They make their own ginger syrup in-house, with sugar, lemon, and real ginger. They pour some syrup on the bottom of the glass, and then pour soda on top to create a nice gradation color. The flavor of ginger is quite strong, since the syrup is made with real ginger. It had a powerful kick to it, hence “a little adult” ginger ale. The spicy flavor of the ginger might be a bit too much for a child. We liked it, it had a good amount of sweetness that calmed down the strong flavor of the ginger. Very refreshing.

The most interesting part of this drink was the straw. It is made of REAL straw! How cool is that?

It was not easy deciding on what to eat. I wanted to try them all… They add and remove few items each season, which makes the visit even more fun even if you have been there before. I went with Breaded Pork Cutlet Sandwich (1,100 yen), in which I realized later it said “Bread Pork Cutlet Sandwich for the Hungry Stomach.” When The dish came to the table, I knew it to be true…it was pretty darn big portion! It was a good thing my husband and I were both hungry.

It has a high quality pork from a farm, fried into a big tonkatsu. It had fresh lettuce, special sauce and mayo. Great volume, very satisfying and filling. The pork cutlet was super juicy and packed with flavor. I must say, I did not have high expectation of their food, but they certainly proved me wrong. It was delicious!!!

My husband went with Bacon & Eggs with Toast at the Castle (1,500 yen). My hubby wanted this dish because for one, he enjoys a good, basic breakfast, and second, he thought it was cool that they recreated a breakfast from the movie, Howl’s Moving Castle.

It has two eggs, sunny-side up, two bacon strips, and two toasts. They also added a little side salad for extra refreshing flavor and of course, more nutritious. I was a good sized plate, nice fresh eggs cooked the way we like it.

The bacon strips are great, meaty and juicy, nice big strip. Had a sweetness to it, which was great. The eggs were nice and runny, gave us perfect egg porn…! It was delicious, good quality and a fun dish, imagining the little Markl from the movie eating this up with such enthusiasm.

After a nice filling breakfast, we decided to share one dessert. I had my heart set on The Madam’s Petite Chocolate Cake (800 yen). The cake that the sweet old lady from Kiki’s Delivery Service baked for Kiki, but in smaller version. The one from the movie has Kiki on a bloom, but this her face with red ribbon. Super adorable.

It was a good little chocolate cake. Moist and chocolate-y, sweet without being overly sweet. It had bits of nuts in the cake, which gave nice crunchy texture and nutty flavor to the chocolate cake. The fondant was smooth and thin, well done dessert! This was also better than I expected, they really do good food and desserts here.

They have many more desserts that we really wanted to try, but we were full… So, we came up with a brilliant idea. We walked around the museum for few hours after hour lunch, get the fullness to calm down, and then go back to Straw Hat Café for afternoon desserts. And guess what, we did just that! We again got on a loooong line, and waited for maybe another one hour and a half.

My hubby REALLY wanted to get one of their cold, sweet drink (which is kind of like a dessert) AND another dessert. Yes, he was going to push the sugar overload for this day… At least we were going to be walking around a lot afterwords. He got Blue Sky Ice Cream Soda (600 yen).

It was a beautiful blue, with a vanilla ice cream floating like a fluffy cloud floating in the bright blue sky. It was refreshing, sweet, and a perfect afternoon dessert drink. The straw is once again, made of real straw.

 

I ordered Strawberry Short Cake with Berries of All Sizes (800 yen). It was a nice size slice, and with lots of cute berries of, yes, all sizes.

One of the most common or traditional cake in Japan is the strawberry shortcake. I love Japanese strawberry shortcake… They do a really nice one here too. Very fluffy and airy, yet moist and dense. The sponge had soft sweetness to it, with very smooth, velvety cream. The strawberries were sweet and tart, well-balanced against the sweet cake.

The last dessert was the most glorious one, both in size and looks. Straw Hat’s Parfait (800 yen). I must say, the facial expression of our friendly waitress when he ordered this dessert with Cream Soda was priceless.

It had pieces of sponge cake, fruits, whipped cream, ice cream and chocolate syrup. It was topped with Konpeito. It is a very traditional candy that has been in the Japanese history since the 16th century. It is a sugar candy, and does not have any extra flavor, just added color. It was like a cherry on top, but instead, something more Japanese-y and very cute. It was filling, fresh, tasty, a big party for our tummy.

They have a bathroom at the back, one for each sex. There was a sink at the entrance, and then toilet, with half-height wall in between. It was spacious enough, and nicely lit.

Sink and the fixture was kind of antique-look, very cute and homey. In front o the sink, they had a cute, colorful floor light. Another little touch of fun element, even in the bathroom.

 

We had an awesome lunch and afternoon sweet snacks here. The food, dessert and drink were all great, more than I expected. The quality was high, presentation was good, and yes, all very tasty. The staffs were very nice, polite and efficient. It was relaxing, fun, and homey. I am so happy I got to visit the museum and the Straw Hat Café. If you get to visit the museum, check out the café, just be prepared for a long wait…it is worth the wait!

 

Straw Hat Café @ Ghibli Museum – 1-1-83 Simorenjaku, Mitaka-city, Tokyo Japan

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