The Boston Phoenix
July 16 - 23, 1998

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Japonaise Café and Bakery

Fast, cheap, and out of curry doughnuts

On the Cheap by Stephen Heuser

Sometimes the cuisines of France and Japan dance an intricate duet on a high-end fusion menu. Sometimes they meet in a bun. The ham roll at Japonaise Café and Bakery, outside Audubon Circle in Brookline, has a sweet dough that will be familiar to anyone who's had an Asian red-bean bun -- and it's baked with chunks of ham and a bit of cheese in a way that will be familiar to anyone who's had a ham-and-cheese croissant. The roll is snack-sized, about as big as a scone, and snack-priced at $1.10. This is a bakery designed for people who don't want to spend $6 or $7 to get a lunch too big for them anyway; for $2 you can get a little sandwich called a "potato croquette" (fried mashed-potato patty and barbecue sauce on a sesame bun); for $3 you can get a "sandwich box": four assorted half sandwiches, crusts trimmed off, lined up like soldiers at a tea party. If you think that sounds too quirky, then you probably won't want the noodle sandwich ($2) or the bottled Japanese "yogurt-flavored" drink ($1.25) or the "curry doughnut" ($1.70), a fried bun with a vegetable-curry center, which tends to sell out by midday. Desserts are gorgeous and cost about the same as the sandwiches. There's no ambiance as such, unless you count a glass pastry case and wheeled trolleys of bread in the background. But there are six outdoor tables and Beacon Street's eccentric afternoon parade to keep you distracted, and sidewalk sparrows to help if you can't quite finish that third ham roll

Japonaise Café and Bakery, located at 120 Beacon Street, in Brookline, is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 566-7730.

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