“Tokyo must be the greatest food city in the world. And Harajuku is such a vibrant, varied neighborhood: the most exciting place to launch my business,” says Doug Crowell, founder of New York bistro Buttermilk Channel. On September 28, Crowell opened a brand-new branch of the restaurant in Harajuku, with the hope that “people in Tokyo can find a place for American-style comfort food and a Brooklyn-style brunch.”
Located just outside exit 5 of Meijijingumae Station, the new bistro hums with funky blues and jazz music, its off-white and blue decor, with brick-wall accents, offering a minimalistic yet refreshing ambiance – and immediately conjuring up a Brooklyn vibe. The design of the restaurant is based on the original bistro in Brooklyn, from the wall colors and the church pew and booth seating, to the welcoming atmosphere and the delicious feel-good menu.
A New York native, Crowell graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked in kitchens in a number of restaurants including the prestigious La Grenouille. He met chef Ryan Angulo while working together at the renowned French restaurant in Manhattan called Picholine, and they merged their passion for American cuisine by opening Buttermilk Channel in 2008.
Buttermilk Channel takes its name from the small tidal straight in Upper New York Bay. Some people believe the channel got its name in reference to farmers who used to cross the straight with milk to sell Manhattan markets. As legend has it, the tidal current of the straight was so strong that by the time the farmers reached the other side, their milk was churned into butter. With regards to the bistro’s menu, says Crowell, buttermilk is essential to making their pancakes ultra fluffy, and their chicken moist on the inside but crunchy on the outside.
Doug Crowell expresses how “the small, quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn needed a bistro of its own, one that could serve all kinds of people at all different times.” It’s inspired by French-style bistros with a large menu, allowing customers to either have a casual meal or a more formal dinner, drop by for a light late-night snack, or gather for a family occasion.
When we visited the new Harajuku branch, we opted for the Pecan Pie French Toast with bourbon, molasses and toasted pecans. The plate featured two slices of fluffy French toast, drizzled with a dark sugary (but not overpowering) syrup, topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It’s a simple recipe but the airy texture of the French toast completely won us over. Also, the hint of bourbon married with sugar offers a tantalizing twist — it’s a perfect complement to the whipped cream.
As for other menu items, Crowell recommends the fried chicken and waffles, one of the most popular dishes. Customers particularly love the sauce, he explains, which is a mixture of vinegar and maple syrup, making it a little sweet and sour.
He also suggests giving the duck meatloaf a try. It takes a classic American comfort food staple, meatloaf, and fuses it with duck, which is a little more refined and complex. It’s a fancier and more unique dish.
Buttermilk Channel may be a simple bistro among the myriad of cutesy Harajuku dessert spots and restaurants, but if you’re looking to get a taste of New York City without the expensive trip, this is the place to visit.
For Buttermilk Channel map and contact details, see our Concierge listing.