I used to only associate crêpes with France – until I went to Tokyo.
While in Paris, my family sampled many, many French crêpes, most often made to order with decidedly French ingredients like Nutella, lemon and sugar, and even ratatouille. No matter if we ate them from a street-side cart or a quaint Bretagne-style restaurant, the crêpes felt and tasted decidedly French. It was perfection. It was delicious. It was as it should be. And, then it got even better.
Right before we went to Japan last spring, a friend sent me an email with suggestions of things our family should see and do in Tokyo. One tip stood out from the others: To sample crêpes from a small stand at the base of the Tokyo Tower, not far from the Zojo-ji Temple. The draw? It offers more than 100 varieties of crepes.
That was enough to get us to go out in search of crepes on our very first day in the Japanese capital city. And, I’ll forever be grateful for that one tip - and the realization that crêpes aren’t just French after all.
Discovering Japanese Crêpes at Marion Crêpes in Tokyo
With the hazy effects of jetlag settling in our heads behind our tired eyes, we couldn’t believe we found a crêpes oasis in Tokyo. There, at the base of the Tokyo Tower, stood Marion Crêpes – Japan’s longest-running crêpe shop.
The walk-up stand is one of more than 85 shops run by Marion Crêpes, which got its start as a food truck back in 1976. Today, you can choose from a mind-blowing number of sweet and savory crêpe varieties - each one looking and tasting better than the next.
The stand itself is a sight to behold. Like many restaurants in Japan, Marion Crêpes uses plastic models to show each crêpes variety you can choose from – leaving nothing to the imagination. And, each one is numbered for ease of ordering.
Together, my family salivated over the possibilities, trying hard to make our foggy heads (and hungry stomachs) choose just one option for each of us to sample.
And, Nutella seemed to be missing from the menu.
Instead, the crêpes menu feature decidedly Japanese products and flavors like azuki beans, lychee, chestnuts, mocha, Japanese curry, teriyaki, matcha, and more.
Sweet crêpes options include varieties like strawberry, azuki beans and whipped cream; custard, caramel, cheesecake, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream; and azuki beans, chestnut and whipped cream.
We enjoyed our decidedly un-French crêpes so much we had them twice during our stay in Tokyo.
When it was time to return home, we boarded our plane with the hope of trying the Japanese-style crêpes again sometime soon – if at all possible.
Finding Japanese-style crêpes at Eight Turn Crêpes in New York City
During our recent summertime visit to New York City, I casually mentioned to my husband that a Marion’s Crêpes stand would do well in Manhattan. He enthusiastically agreed. But, not having seen one yet, we didn’t hold out any hope of stumbling upon one in the city.
And, we never did. But, we made another delicious discovery instead.
On a quiet stretch of Spring Street in SoHo, my husband happily exclaimed that they do indeed have Japanese-style crêpes in Manhattan. It wasn’t a Marion Crêpes outpost, but rather a new storefront that opened up in August of 2013 – Eight Turn Crêpe.
The SoHo store is the first US location for the Tokyo-based Eight Turn Crêpe. Like Marion’s, Eight Turn Crêpe offers Japanese-influenced fillings – all rolled up in rice-flour crêpes.
You won’t find any mayonnaise in their crêpes. Instead they use a “light as air” tofu sauce.
Eight Turn Crêpe is open seven days a week from 11 am - 11 pm. And, it offers the perfect crêpes varieties for each day part – including Double the Eggs, Double the Fun (two scrambled eggs, tofu sauce and truffle sauce) for brunch, Seaweed Sesame (wakame seaweed, carrots, daikon radish, cucumbers, sesame dressing and sesame seeds) for lunch, Chicken Teriyaki (sliced chicken breast, spring salad mix, carrots, corn, sliced red onions, sesame dressing, tofu sauce and sesame seeds) for dinner, and a variety of sweet crepes for any time of the day.
My favorite item on the menu is the Azuki Berries crêpes, made with strawberries, matcha green tea gelato, azuki beans, whipped yogurt, matcha custard cream, slivered almonds, and chocolate Pocky sticks.
The small storefront also features plastic models of its crêpes varieties in its window and, like Marion Crêpes, your chosen variety comes rolled up in a paper cone.
The paper cones at Eight Turn Crêpe come printed with helpful instructions on how to eat each savory or sweet crêpe, encouraging you to turn the crepe counter-clockwise as you eat it.
But, alas, Eight Turn Crêpe is in New York City and I live in Chicago.
Awaiting return of the Marion Crêpes pop-up shop at Mitsuwa Chicago
I’m still holding out hope that I can enjoy Japanese-style crêpes – even before I’m able to travel back to Japan or New York City.
Mitsuwa, the Japanese marketplace located in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, hosted a Marion Crêpes pop-up store this past winter. And, I recently learned that Mitwsua Chicago will welcome back Marion Crêpes in October (exact dates yet to be announced). And, that is good enough for me.
So, for now, I'm busy dreaming of the amazing Japanese-style crêpes I had in Tokyo, and anxiously awaiting the return of the Marion Crêpes pop-up stand to Mitsuwa Chicago.
Have you eaten Japanese-style crepes in Japan, New York City, or another city around the world? Which ones did you try? What is your favorite kind? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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