By Peter Sidell
Looking for lunch one day in the middle of Shizuoka City, I headed up to the dining floor of the Cenova shopping center, hoping to find something tasty, filling and inexpensive. My eye was caught by the display outside Atari Cafe, advertising their array of lunches, so I decided to give it a try, and was glad I did.
The interior was very appealing, very relaxing; the cushioned couches and seats were nice and comfortable, the fittings done out in wood colours and earthtones, livened up with colourful artworks and murals, and cushions bearing uplifting messages. 'Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow'. There was also a mirrorball, suggesting that evenings have a little extra swing, and the lunch menu is served until 5:00pm, making very early dinner a possibility. It was that little extra attention to detail, such as having a proper nice glass carafe for my water, that made me want to stay and savour my lunch.
I went with the 'Energy' lunch set, and very nice it was too: tender fried fish with a tangy cheese and tomato sauce, along with rice and miso soup, some salad and small side dishes, crunchy pickles and, something I particularly enjoyed, a little bowl of smooth mashed potato blended with slightly spicy mentaiko salmon roe. I took my time over it, listening to the light jazz and pop they were playing, which managed to be mellow and soothing without ever becoming bland; the girl from Ipanema did not make an appearance.
The menu is in Japanese, with a decent amount of English, with a wide range of dishes, many of them vegetarian, and a moderately confusing range of options which I'm fairly confident I've managed to untangle. There are five daily lunch sets - Energy, Balance, Healthy, Refresh, and Low Carb - costing between ¥1080 and ¥1380 (all prices given here are before consumption tax is added; at the time of writing it's 8%).
There's also a salad/deli part of the menu, with dishes from ¥1150 to ¥1550, and salad ingredients comprehensively listed in English: they include kale and chicken; coriander, jerk chicken and mushrooms; shrimp, avocado and quinoa. Other dishes from ¥880 to ¥1200 include soy meat and vegetable masala, pasta with bacon, mushrooms and yoghurt, soy milk pasta with cod roe and panacetta.
To these you can add side dishes for ¥100-200 each, or a drink and dessert for ¥450-580; the drink menu features a vegetable unicorn smoothie, which I'll assume isn't made with real unicorn. If you want a full-sized dessert, for ¥480-980 you have various ice creams, pancakes, and tiramisu.
I really enjoyed my lunch here; it was tasty, reasonably priced, and the chilled atmosphere meant I felt I could take my time over it, an important thing for me. There are also branches in Shibuya and Ikebukuro, which I'll investigate when I find myself there. Thank you Atari Cafe! See you again.
Cenova shopping center is a few minutes' walk from JR Shizuoka station; the town's bus terminal and the terminal of the local Shizutetsu train line, Shin-Shizuoka station, are inside the shopping center.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.