Happy 2017! Ringing in the New Year in Japan certainly has its perks! I packed in a ski trip, a much anticipated visit to Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Wild Snow Monkey Park) in Nagano, and a city stopover in Tokyo.
Never thought this little cafe would kick off as the first post of the year but here it is! Enza Cafe sits just by the entrance of the Snow Monkey Park. You can’t miss it.. and you shouldn’t!
Serving simple fares from Ramen to small Japanese bites, sushi, cakes, ice cream and an array of quality coffees & teas, the cozy cafe is a popular pit stop before and after the park. Thanks to a simple but super satisfying lunch, the 1.6km hike to the park was a breeze albeit the muddy slushy trail. We ordered all 3 Ramens on the menu; Chicken Broth Ramen, Special Spicy Chicken Ramen and the Local Zenkoji-Miso Chicken Ramen. Believe me when I say, they are all good. So depending on your personal preference, pick one and you won’t be disappointed. First and foremost, the broths at Enza are entirely chicken based but plays no second fiddle to the popular Tonkotsu version. It is rich, robust and tasty.
For a straightforward bowl of noodles, go for the standard Chicken Broth Ramen. Al dente yellow springy ramen noodles sit in a cloudy flavorful broth. A few tender chicken pieces, half a perfect onsen egg and some chives are the only accompaniments. Despite minimal toppings, it was a hearty meal, and coincidentally my fave of all three versions. The soup is super tasty and rich without being overpowering, with a slight touch of umaminess!
If you’re into spicy food, the Special Spicy Chicken Ramen would be a natural choice, though be warned it is not as spicy as it claims and may not quite live up to your expectations if you’re a hot jalapeño kinda foodie. However, if you have an open mind, and put spice aside, this special ramen packed an unusual flavor that’s just as delicious. Perhaps renaming it from spicy to mildly spicy may have been more befitting.
Go for the Local Miso ramen if you fancy a strong sweet miso flavor plus lots of vegetables in your ramen. Crunchy shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, seaweed and chives in every mouthful. Plus tender chicken, springy noodles and a milky thick rich broth. A filler, this one!
The Fried Sweet Potato is a specialty at Enza and without a doubt! The fluffy sweet root is fried perfectly.. crisp exterior with soft sweet flesh. A light sprinkle of salt did the rest of the magic! We ordered one to share and it was truly delicious. So much so we got another one after visiting the park and this time, we did not share 😁! Coffees as promised were high quality. My Matcha Latte was strong, creamy and sweet. Great for the cold weather!
And if you have room, do pick up an Apple soft serve! Yes, even if it’s -5C! Get one for the road! Nagano is known for her sweet juicy apples and you could find many snacks, beverages and foods incorporating apples in them. I don’t think I’ve ever had an apple flavored soft serve and this really sweet zingy baby was surely quite special!
The cozy cafe is spaciously set up with nooks and corners displaying cute memorabilia, books and knick-kancks. There’s even an enclosed “outdoor” area with toasty heaters to keep warm.
Don’t forget’em monkeys!
Enza Cafe @ 山ノ内町平穏上林１４２１－１Yamanochi-machi Shimotakai-gun, Nagano, Japan🇯🇵 Phone: +81 269-38-1736