Mr. Sato eats the pancakes that won the heart of one of the most powerful politicians in Japan, but were they worth it?
Ordinarily, Yoshihide Suga isn’t exactly a trend-setter, since Japan’s 70-year-old Chief Cabinet Secretary usually doesn’t get much time in the limelight. Last spring was a major exception, though, as it fell to Suga to announce the name of Japan’s new imperial era, Reiwa.
Suga holding up a placard with “Reiwa” written in brushstroke calligraphy has become one of the most memorable images of the year in Japan, so much so that people who don’t know/remember his name simply refer to him as “Reiwa Oji-san” (“Old Man Reiwa”), and this month Suga got an extension on his five minutes of fame with his shocking taste in sweets. A weekly travel program recently revealed that Suga has a soft spot for pancakes, and that his favorite place to get his fix is a restaurant in Tokyo called Satsuki. But while a fondness for flapjacks isn’t anything unusual, the price of Suga’s snacks are, as Satsuki charges over 3,000 yen (US$27.75) for its pancakes!
Our crack reporter Mr. Sato was instantly intrigued. Wanting his taste buds to experience the same pleasures as one of Japan’s top politicians, he dashed out the door and headed for Satsuki…only to be stopped by security staff before even entering the building. He was ordered to pass through a metal detector, and the reason why is because of Satsuki’s exact location: the sixth floor of the New Otani Hotel. One of Tokyo’s swankiest accommodation options, the New Otani regularly hosts guests of the state, periodically prompting advanced security protocols. On the day Mr. Sato stopped by to satisfy his sweet tooth, a number of foreign dignitaries were staying at the hotel while in the country to attend the enthronement ceremony of Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, which took place on October 22.
Once the authorities were sure Mr. Sato wasn’t a security risk, he was let inside the hotel and made his way to Satsuki. Looking at the menu, he saw that the cafe’s current seasonal pancakes come covered with marron (chestnut) cream, and his mouth watered as he waited for his order.
However, Tokyo’s most expensive pancakes don’t just require a financial investment on your part, but a temporal one as well, as they took about 20 minutes to prepare. Mr. Sato remained patient, however, examining the fancy trio of maple syrup bottles which were already waiting on the table. Imported from Canada and produced by the company Decacer, they were separated into heavy, medium, and light versions, and Mr. Sato felt honored that they’d come all the way across the Pacific just to make his meal extra sweet.
Finally, Mr. Sato’s pancakes arrived! Now, for 3,080 yen (after tax), you might be expecting a massive number of pancakes, but that price actually gets you only two. However, we’re not sure if we should call it a “short stack,” since the pancakes come side-by-side, not atop each other, and each pancake itself is incredibly tall.
Or maybe we should call them thick? Either way, the pancakes were so dense that Mr. Sato almost thought they were obanyaki (a traditional Japanese griddle cake that’s shaped like a hockey puck with a hollow core), but sure enough, these were pancakes.
Slicing into one revealed a beautiful cross section where Mr. Sato could see how the batter had bubbled at the top, creating a pillowy soft and fluffy outer layer.
Slicing off a piece soaked in chestnut cream, Mr. Sato took a bite…
…and was blown away. The pancake immersed his taste receptors in such a rich, creamy, warm sensation that he almost felt like he was biting into a Japanese-style tamagoyaki omelet. He could almost feel his taste buds becoming angry at him for not providing such deliciousness sooner, and his sense of contrition grew as he added a pour of maple syrup, which made everything even better.
Given the cost of the pancakes, Mr. Sato’s mind told him he should take things as slow as possible, taking ample time to savor every tiny bite. Meanwhile, his stomach was clamoring for him to deliver more of this disc-shaped ambrosia as quickly as possible.
In the end, he settled on a middle ground, resisting the urge to just pick the pancakes up in his hand and start knowing on them, yet also refusing to even attempt to completely restrain his gluttonous urges. And yes, he of course ate everything.
There was a mild pang of mental indigestion when the bill came and he say the total (4,537 yen, which included a 950-yen cup of coffee and 375-yen service charge), but it quickly went away as he luxuriated in the lingering aftertaste of his splendid splurging.
Satsuki (Hotel New Otani) / サツキ（ホテルニューオータニ）
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kioicho 4-1
Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m.