Themed sweets buffets and “high tea” services are very popular in Japan, especially during different holiday seasons. I’d wanted to experience one for the last few years, but most are reservation-only and until now I’d failed at getting my act together in advance. Last year, most of them were canceled (for obvious reasons), but as of autumn 2021 they’re back–and this week I headed out for the HAUNTED CHATEAU: WITCHES’ HALLOWEEN TEA at The Strings Omotesando.
When I arrived, the staff escorted me to the private dining room for the Haunted Chateau (below). Apparently, witches prefer to have high tea in bridal salons…
The white decor might initially seem like an unusual choice for Halloween, but when most of the treats themselves are dark in color, white surroundings make the colors pop–so as it happens, this was a good decision.
This was my table. The savory items are plated and served (for the most part), and the sweets are buffet–although they don’t start calling tables to the sweets buffet for about 15 minutes after people are seated, to give everyone a sufficient change to take pictures. As you’ll see, a lot of work goes into the treats, and they definitely want everyone to enjoy them visually too.
The little number “8” on the table was for my buffet card. It’s all you can eat, they call the tables two at a time for the first pass through, to ease congestion at the buffet. (Although there were only about 20 people in the room anyway.)
One table at the “Haunted Buffet” – some of the Halloween teas feature sweets designed to look like creatures; this one focused more on seasonal colors–and definitely nailed the theme.
The “Haunted Drink Buffet” – three types of iced tea, grape juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, and hot coffee and tea on a nearby table.
No sweets buffet would be complete without a chocolate fountain…complete with brownies, pears, and bananas for dipping.
While waiting for the sweets buffet to start, we were able to help ourselves to “haunted appetizers” – on the left, black keema curry and turmeric rice; one the right, purple sweet potato soup with French fry “fingers.”
The first of the plated courses also arrived before the sweets began: a beautiful salad of beet and kabocha (a Japanese squash similar to salad). Food is art in Japan, and this was merely the first delightful taste (and it did taste delightful) of things to come.
The main course: chicken in balsamic glaze, with mashed purple sweet potato (yes, that color is natural) and sauteed mushrooms. It’s a heartier meal than I expected at “high tea” – but you don’t argue with a witch . . . or with a waiter who offers you food like this.
After the main course, they started calling tables for the main attraction. The sweets were presented in small or bite-sized servings, so it was possible to taste them all (but challenging, because there were a LOT of options). The little beauties on the shelf over the pear tart in the photo above are baby chestnut-berry tarts.
Mont blanc is a beloved dessert in Japan, especially in autumn – and no sweets buffet would be complete without one. Here, they had two options: traditional chestnut and purple sweet potato. Also, the marshmallow ghost eyes on the martini glasses were hilarious.
The buffet featured several types of tarts – including the white chocolate spiderwebbed beauty above – and seasonal fruit desserts like apple pie (below the tart in the photo above). You can also see the tongs – guests wore plastic gloves when at the buffet, and used only the tongs to touch the food, for safety.
Chocolate mousse cake. With ghosts and edible glitter. Because over the top is the only way to fly..
My personal favorites: lavender jelly with Kyoho grapes (as you’ll see in a later photo, there were cut grapes inside the jelly) and vanilla panna cotta (colored black with charcoal, though the taste was pure vanilla bean). These were spectacular, both visually and in terms of taste – and despite being nearly full to bursting, I did make room for a second jelly.
Baby blueberry mousses–another of my favorites from the buffet. Everything was delicious, but these were a perfect blend of sour and sweet. I wanted to go back for seconds, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth overeating to the point of feeling sick. (It was ALMOST worth it, though.)
Profiteroles are also wildly popular in Japan. As you can see, these were supposed to be “add your own ghost face” spooky delights. As you can see from the picture below, I’m pretty much terrible at putting ghostly faces on pastries.
Clearly I did not miss my calling as a pastry chef.
My ghost chou cream was a visual fail, but fortunately it tasted a whole lot better than it looked. (Chou usually has very little flavor, but they somehow managed to make this taste like a dark, rich chocolate cookie.)
One last close up of the lavender jelly with Kyoho grapes. You can see the grape halves sitting in the bottom of the glass. The jelly was a bit more lavender and less gray than it looks in this photo, though the color is pretty close to accurate.
This was my first experience with a themed “tea” in Tokyo, but it won’t be the last. Themed teas and sweets buffets are popular here year-round, and I’m looking forward to exploring them at other places and in other seasons!
So, tell me: does this look like fun, or is it not your cup of tea?