One of the best parts about traveling is trying hidden local eateries.
Ohsu is full of them- from a cafe themed as an old 70s garage, to the general fare of wax katsu and udon displays, to seedy 'relaxation maid cafes' on the upper levels of buildings. (Where I hear the maids will let you rest your head in their lap, and they'll clean out your ears. I think it's an urban legend. Or, I hope so.)
While wandering with my friend, we found a place called "Traditional House Cafe". The store front is dark, wooden, and the entrance is a heavy sliding door, so the only thing giving its presence away is the bulletin board outside.
We admired the menu and decided it was worth a try. We pulled open the door hesitantly, and to our pleasant surprise, found a tenant waiting at the counter as two girls chatted away at a table. She asked us if we'd like to sit on the second floor, and we went for it.
We ascended a wooden stair case, into rooms with mixed tatami mats and velvet upholstered couches. The color palette was a mix of traditional and modern: cherry wood, matcha green, accented with gold and violet.
We picked our seats in front of a window looking out into the shopping alley.
We sat for a few minutes watching the people below, as unaware of the quiet cafe as we were. When our orders came, we were at a loss for words.
I ordered a Matcha parfait, and received:
This. Thick green tea mousse over vanilla ice cream, with green tea cake and rich whipped cream. It was huge too, I tried to get my friend to split with me!
But she was pretty occupied...
... with her matcha hot cocoa (her photo).
We left, eager to walk off all the calories, but completely content.
Of course, when you're wandering around in a new area where people don't speak your native language, how are you supposed to know about the reputation of restaurants and cafes? For those in Japan or who want to visit Japan, and have at least intermediate Japanese, I recommend Tabelog. （食べログ）The name is written with the kanji for "food" or "to eat", and "Log" in katakana. Nice and simple, right?
Similar to Yelp!, Tabelog provides detailed reviews of restaurants in your area, from corner cafes to gourmet dining rooms. You can narrow search results by prefectures and cities, then by categories, down to menu items. For example, even if you narrow your search to "Cafe", options like "Coffee" and "Tea" appear.
The reviews are based on a five-star system, with customer-provided photos and comments. If you click on a venue it provides all contact information, the address on Google Maps, and usually coupons too.
You can find the Tabelog top page here, and begin by selecting your prefecture or main city.
Go forth with confidence and an appetite!