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May 23, Shimokitazawa
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The Kichijoji branch of the North American food-court favourite, sbarro, is the first branch to be opened in Japan. Conveniently located on the north side of Kichijoji Station, just off the Sun Road shopping street, this branch – like most other sbarro outlets – makes for quick and reliable meal stop during a busy day. The pizza is very much as advertised: a crispy, toothsome, thick crusted piece of New York-style pizza sprinkled with oregano (a key ingredient in NY pizza), with the pitch-perfect NY pizza parlour ratio of cheese to sauce (read: more cheese, but not less sauce). Pizzas come in several varieties (including a pineapple-and-ham-strewn Hawaiian version), topped with everything from vegetables to sausage and other meats. There are also specialty stuffed and Sicilian pizzas, and meat-and-cheese strombolis.
In keeping with the sbarro menu, pasta is also offered, though with a surprisingly Tokyo twist: diners get a choice of sauté pasta (penne or spaghetti) with up to three toppings and a variety of sauces to choose from. The pasta, though considered ‘fast food’, is sautéed to order and avoids the overcooking that so often happens for the sake of speed.
For a quick tour of the menu, the lunch sets are the way to go. The sbarro combo (¥1,280) includes your choice of pizza, pasta, a salad, garlic bread and a drink. Though some may find the garlic bread a touch too doughy, and non-meat-eaters will be surprised to find bacon already lurking in their salads, this set is an on-the-whole satisfying value, despite the soft croutons.
Though sbarro comes to Japan from abroad, the menu offers some Japan-only items such as pizzas featuring teriyaki chicken, mayonnaise potato and tuna-corn-and-mayonnaise toppings. Special-edition pastas include tarako cod-roe pasta. Another Tokyo-only feature is the sbarro morning combo, which includes customised combinations of a set of breakfast items like the ‘pinwheel’ (a small pizza-like breakfast bread), eggs, ham, sausage, hashed potatoes, yogurt and salad. Coffee is included, and diners can pick up to eight items for varying prices, between ¥280 (one item and coffee) and ¥980 (eight items and coffee).
sbarro Kichijoji features modern décor that is not your typical fast-food interior, with bright and relatively quiet seating areas on the 2nd (non-smoking) and 3rd (smoking) floors with window counter seats (with handy little hooks for your shopping bags), and tables for two and four people, and counter space on the ground floor.
sbarro plan to open more locations in the Tokyo area, with the next one opening its doors on March 21 in Shibuya.