Newly opened Hearth is located in the middle of Ikebukuro, but it feels miles away from that notorious youth enclave. The classy interior has mature cream-colored walls and dark wood decor, with couple-friendly seats separated by elegant gauze screens. Toward the front, a semi-private room with comfy couches sits just behind a row of intimate window-front tables. Hearth, whose motto is “slow life café and dining,” adheres to LOHAS principles and gets its produce from local farms and fisheries. At the opening reception last month, we got a taste of the kitchen’s dedication to clean, simple flavors. An appetizer of organic vegetable salad, seasoned with herbs and excellent olive oil, contained a nice array of late-summer veggies. Sea bream carpaccio was off-the-boat fresh and drizzled with a mayonnaise-based dressing (it never fails to amuse us that mayo is considered such a delicacy in better Tokyo restaurants). Our favorite dish, though, was the roasted pork strips, which were served sans condiment but were among the most flavorful we’ve eaten in Japan. Starch came via a warm, five-grain onigiri, while dessert consisted of homemade cheesecake and a pot of herb tea. Our only complaints were with the tiny portions and the spotty service, though we chalked up the latter to opening-night jitters. Hearth is dedicated to healthy dining, but it’s also about feeling good, as reflected in the extensive, France-dominated wine list. The restaurant also offers a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic “healing cocktails”—just the elixir you’ll need after braving the kiddy brigades of Ikebukuro.
3F, 2-27-5 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku. Tel: 03-5954-3007. Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-midnight. Nearest stn: Ikebukuro, east exit.