Pre-trip planning to the land of the rising sun will no longer be as tedious – not with the official launch of Japan Rail Cafe by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), Japan’s largest passenger railway operator on 4th December 2016.
Their first overseas venture is currently the world’s only travel-themed cafe by the JR East Group, which will feature a Japan rail pass ticketing counter, a retail corner for Japanese knick knacks as well as a dining space to savour Japanese dishes in their cosy 180sqm space. With miniature train tracks hovering beneath their mirrored ceilings and full length glass windows that allows for a brightly-lit interior, customers can expect to spend a full afternoon planning their itinerary with the assistance from the friendly staff (some are Japanese themselves!) at the instore Japan Rail Pass Counter or to simply browse the interesting mix of Japanese produce with a menu of quality dishes made with only specially-sourced ingredients.
Instore Japan Rail Pass Counter
Customers are now able to purchase exchange orders for JR Passes at the ticketing counter operated by JTB Pte Ltd prior to their trip. Besides rail passes by JR East, passes issued by 5 other Japan railway companies – JR Kyushu, JR West, JR Shikoku, JR Central and JR Hokkaido are also available for sale, covering almost all regions in Japan.
Moreover, travellers are also able to get their prepaid data SIM card and attraction passes over the counter, most of which are guaranteed entries and open-dated. Look forward to a smooth travel planning, as the knowledgeable personnel at the counter will advise travellers on the best railway passes and recommended attractions for visiting based on their itineraries. Packages are made ready as well, with airfares, hotel stays and theme parks’ access all-in at affordable rates.
Japanese Retail Corner
One aspect of the retail corner is the trending items from JR East’s retail stores in their train stations over in Japan, where the range of products can stretch from intricately-designed hand towels to contemporary clothing lines – a manifestation of Japan’s new lifestyle phenomenon “Eki Naka”, which essentially implies “in-station shopping”.
On the other hand, the “Food Japan Selection” will include food items that originated from the featured region of the month, which will change on a monthly basis. The opening month featured region happened to be Tohoku – hence JR East have specially brought in confectioneries that are unique to this region of sightseeing paradise, of which we have spotted some Aomori (one of the six prefectures in Tohoku) specialities.
In line with the featured region of the month, the cafe will churn out a special menu showcasing a few representative dishes in those regions, alongside other items by the various recipes developed by JR East Food Business (JFEB), a food subsidiary under the JR East Group owning more than 50 brands of F&B outlets in Tokyo.
The Ultimate A.B.C Burger $22.00
This signature creation marries a combination of avocado, bacon and cheddar cheese with a 160g wagyu beef patty between fresh lettuce and Boulangerie ASANOYA’s soft buns. Diners also get to choose 2 side dishes from a selection of mild spicy seasoned wedges, fries, mini salad and soup.
The meat was moist and flavourful, albeit we thought the quality of the patty was a tad lacklustre given the choice of wagyu. The accompanying parts were complimentary though – the cheese and bacon pieces added a nice savoury twist with each bite, while the cream avocado binds all the components of the burger together in a smooth finish.
Kaisen Avocado Don $18.00
This other signature dish was the stellar item on the table – think a mixture of Aomori scallops, salmon slices seasoned with lemon-flavoured tare, ikura and avocado chunks atop a base of 10 grain rice. Topped with mentaiko, sesame and seaweed, customers can choose to empty the bowl on its own for the original taste, or enjoy it with pours of the dashi soup made from dried bonito stock to get its full-blown flavour as an ochazuke.
The healthy 10 grain rice was good even on its own, not to mention it was paired with the freshest sashimi, the meaty scallops preciously brought in from Aomori and perfectly riped avocados. The complement toppings gave off surprising elements now and then – the burst of fragrance from the roasted sesame seeds went hand in hand with the explosion of sea flavour as you break off each ikura bubble. Undoubtedly, this bowl that is sure to fill you up is our top pick from the current menu.
For the month of December, walk-in lunch will be served from noon to 2pm, although the operating hours for the retail, takeouts and Japan rail pass counter will be from 11am to 8pm. One complimentary drink will also be given per dish ordered during their soft opening period for the entire month of December.
To further complement the establishment, a monthly issue of “Japan Rail Times” will be available as complimentary copies in the store, which covers handy Japan’s latest news and events as well as any promotional coverage and updates to the monthly menu.
All in all, we are excited for Japan Rail Cafe’s embarkment in the new building at Tanjong Pagar Centre. With a self-granted duty to bring awareness to the less-travelled areas of Japan that is beyond the reach of the internet, it seeks to also build a mutual two-way sharing between the Japanese locals and travellers, effectively bridging a harmonious platform for communications for both groups of potential travellers and inquisitive individuals.
Address: #01-20 Tanjong Pagar Centre 5 Wallich Street, Singapore 078883
Monday – Saturday 1100 – 2100, Sunday & PH 1100 – 2000
Japan Rail Pass Counter: Daily 1100 – 2000
Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar