Lunch? Good. Snoopy? Better. A Snoopy-themed café that offers a hearty lunch and official merchandise?
Hmm, I think we’ll need to skip the superlative level and fish for another adjective above “Best”.
Welcome to Snoopy Cha-ya.
Name? Snoopy Cha-ya, Ise Branch (SNOOPY茶屋 伊勢店).
Speciality? Café and casual dining. Mix of Western-style and Japanese set meals, desserts, and beverages.
Where? Just off Oharai-machi Street, north of the Uji Bridge (which leads into the grounds of Ise Grand Shrine).
Operating hours? Dining area open 1000-1630 (lunch menu last order 1530 / café menu last order 1600). Souvenir shop open 0900-1700. No regular closing days.
How much? Around 1,000-1,500 yen for mains or noodle sets. Desserts from 450-900 yen. Café-style beverages (hot/cold) 800 yen. Note that these prices don’t include Japan’s consumption tax (8% as of this writing, set to rise to 10% in October 2019).
English menu? None, but the Japanese menu is richly illustrated (which helps make choosing by sight easier).
Date of visit? Monday, 26 November 2018.
Time of day and type of meal? Midday, lunch.
The clock was racing towards noon by the time I left the grounds of Naikū, the “Inner Shrine” of Ise Jingū. (Read my separate travel report to learn more about the visit.) In view of the hour, lunch rapidly ascended to the top of my list of priorities…
…which made me exceptionally thankful for the close proximity of Oharai-machi (おはらい町).
This attractive shopping and dining district grew up around the traditional approach to Naikū, catering to the needs, whims, and fancies of the many visitors who descend upon this historic corner of Mie Prefecture every year. The options are bewildering, and the assortment of structures old and new quite mesmerising…
…but one particular set of wooden signs caught my eye.
Now wooden shop signs are a dime a dozen in this traditional neighbourhood, but I think you’ll agree that these were a little out of place. (In a good way, mind.)
I’ve been reading Peanuts comic strips since childhood, so the sight of Snoopy-anything is likely to merit at least a passing glance from me. But consider the setting: a place steeped in history and tradition, with the nation’s most important shrine a mere stone’s throw away. I’d have expected something like this in a major city like Tōkyō, or in a popular tourist draw like Kyōto…
…but Ise? Never in a million years.
Down the alley we go.
The door on the left leads into a shop filled with all sorts of official merchandise, including a wide range of items that combine traditional Japanese artistry with Peanuts/Snoopy motifs. The door on the right leads into the dining area.
A large Snoopy doll stands ready to greet customers just inside the entrance. Of course, Angry Usagi couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a new friend.
I love the interiors. Contemporary Japanese with a hint of Snoopy. (The silhouettes on the windows are my favourite element of the decoration.)
Here’s my spot. A nice half-corner seat affording a precious veneer of privacy.
Let’s have a look at that menu.
There’s a small but well-curated selection of Japanese and Western-style Japanese dishes on offer, from lunch sets to desserts. Needless to say, every item is Snoopy-themed – except for one dish featuring Woodstock.
I settled on the Snoopy Japanese-style omurice (スヌーピー和風オムライス), served with miso soup and a side salad (1,598 yen with tax).
The usual bit of waiting…
…followed by the big reveal.
Gorgeous. Almost too good to eat.
Alas, mindful of the hour and the demands of my stomach, I reluctantly set myself to the task of disassembling this work of art.
The omelette wasn’t your usual coarse sheet of egg. This one was exceptionally smooth, with a lustrous surface delicately moulded around the generous helping of fried rice underneath. As to flavour, it wasn’t out-of-this-world awesome but was quite good nonetheless. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong with omurice served in a bath of rich demi-glace sauce.
And my word, this set meal was filling. Between the omurice and the thick hamburger patty and the vegetables and the sauce – and let’s not forget the soup and salad – there was no room to spare for dessert, much as I wanted to try one of the tempting Snoopy-themed sweet offerings on the menu.
Here’s the bill.
I paid a bit more than I would have for a cafeteria-cooked or convenience store-bought omurice meal, but hey … setting, theme, presentation, taste, and portion size considered, I’m one happy Peanuts fan.
Into the shop next door to browse through the fine merchandise, then back out into the street to continue my journey.
Now I’m not certain when I’ll find myself back in Ise. That said, if I do swing by the neighbourhood again, this is one shop whose doors I’ll be more than happy to darken a second time.