Cajun haven Troubadour: A taste of America

By on December 29, 2009

Crank up the outboard motor and skiff on down to the bayou for some of the most unusual food in Japan. While it’s been said that jazz is America’s only worldly contribution, anyone who thinks its culinary dossier ends with cheeseburgers is unacquainted with Cajun cookin’. Tama Plaza’s Troubadour is a good place for to get educated.  

Cajun (or Creole) cuisine is the result of a blending of Spanish, African, and Native American cultures by the French Arcadians in Louisiana over the last two hundred years. Dishes are aromatic, spicy, and rich with complex sauces. It starts with onions, bell peppers, and celery (the Holy Trinity of Cajun food), combined with regional North American ingredients. New Orleans’ cuisine, like the city itself, became a melting pot of numerous and disparate ingredients from around the world.  

Owner and surfer Katsuaki Samejima opened this restaurant eighteen years ago, intending to bring American cuisine’s depth and diversity to Japan. Chef Miyashita rises to the challenge, preparing Cajun mainstays, as well as southwestern and original dishes. After spending some time in New Orleans, Samejima loved the food and wanted to introduce it to Japan, squelching ideas that it is anything but delicious.  

My son Eiji and I went in expecting some pretty spicy stuff, but there was little he couldn’t handle.  

Troubadour has the atmosphere of a canteen with a respectable selection of southern rock on the stereo and classic rock album covers lining the walls. Ceiling fans turn slowly in the high, vaulted ceilings upstairs; a bustling dining room downstairs; and a large dining patio out front, sitting up where the ‘gators can’t get you.  

We started with orders of quesadillas and catfish. Eiji liked the cheesy Tex-Mex quesadillas, but the cornmeal batter-fried catfish strips were gone with the wind. I managed to try a few, and they were as good as many I’ve had back home (in the American South). Many Japanese don’t consider the catfish (namazu) suitable for eating as it’s a bottom-feeding river fish, but assure your local friends that, prepared properly, it has a mildly twangy taste, and Troubadour soaks theirs in milk, which removes any mustiness.

We chose entrees of country meatloaf and seafood Étouffée. The meatloaf was a good deal better than what I remember as my family’s Thursday dinner. Troubadour’s was spongy and savory, complemented by a dark mushroom gravy and a side of green beans and mashed potatoes. Eiji notes that the meatloaf is “better to chew slowly, so as to get all the taste.”

The Étouffée was Eiji’s favorite dish. The name comes from the French verb étouffée (literally “smothered” or “suffocated”), and this étouffée was a smokin’ jazz ensemble of smothered plump, peeled shrimp and other tasty sea creatures in a rosy roux sauce and a wisp of cayenne and onions. It isn’t what a kid would call spicy, though it does give an exciting bite in the back of the throat. Eiji noted it was “like some kind of shrimp curry.”

Their authentic gumbo is one of the most popular dishes with their regular customers. Gumbo, the miso soup of the bayou, is something between a soup and a stew, and Troubadour serves it up with plenty of okra in a thin, flavorful stock.

If you’re really hungry, you can order their blacken steak in caramel dark gravy. At 250g, it’s easily enough for two or three people.

They also have all the staples of Cajun food, including Jambalaya and black-eyed peas. If you don’t have time to eat in, you can take out one of their acclaimed sandwiches: Turkey, barbecued chicken, meatloaf, or my favorite, the Cajun Reuben, which is a mound of roast beef and cheese.

Save room for homemade pecan pie with whipped cream.

Brunch serves up the rarely-seen Southern biscuits and cream gravy, and other down-home favorites on the weekends. Happy hour on Monday from 5-7pm has ¥500 drinks and Cajun appetizers (catfish!). Staying true to their name, they regularly feature live music.

So if you’re getting restless with the same kinds of restaurants in Tokyo, git’ out to this good ol’ Cajun hideaway and you’ll have an unforgettable meal, I gar-rawn-tee! 


Monday 5pm-midnight. 

Tuesday to Friday, weekends and holidays 

11:30am-midnight. 30 minutes from Shibuya on the Den-en-toshi line  3-minute-walk from Tama Plaza station (south exit), straight out past Bagel & Bagel, past the second signal and it’s on the left. 

Phone: 045 911-3763

About Boone Johnson