Koko Head Cafe Opens in Tokyo With Brunch All Day

Lee Anne Wong’s first Japan outpost has new dishes and a view of Tokyo Station—and a second one is coming to Osaka.


the bar at Koko Head Cafe Tokyo

Photo: Sarah Burchard


The first time Lee Anne Wong sank her teeth into the crisp, chewy, twice-baked toast slathered with sugar and butter known as rusk, at a department store in Tokyo, she knew she would open a brunch-centric restaurant—first in Hawai’i and then abroad. “The plan was always to go to Japan,” the chef and co-owner of Kaimukī’s Koko Head Cafe says. Now here she is.


On April 17, Wong, general manager Patrick Salmon and Aimee Iwata, the Kaimukī eatery’s executive chef, opened Koko Head Cafe in downtown Tokyo across from the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station. This puts it among the ranks of The Pig & the Lady, Arancino, Eggs ’n Things and a small handful of Hawai‘i eateries with outposts in Japan.


art from hawaii at koko head cafe tokyo

Photo: Sarah Burchard


The cozy corner space is sunny and bright, lined with palm trees and other tropical flora. A tiki bar stocked with frozen pina coladas, Hawaiʻi-made spirits and craft beer stands front and center. The walls are adorned with paintings, prints and wood carvings by local artists such as Haunani Hess (O‘ahu), Lloyd Boards (Kaua‘i), Clark Little (O‘ahu), and Wongʻs husband, Lyle Cady of Burn Shop Designs (Maui), who designed all of the carved wood coasters, flowers and signage. QR codes for each artist’s website let guests learn more and purchase their work. Beyond the bar and dining room is a floor-to-ceiling view of Tokyo Station and a lanai with outdoor seating. The staff, all wearing aloha shirts, greet customers with an “Aloha!” while Hawai‘i favorites such as The Green and Iration jam as background music.


SEE ALSO: The Pig & The Lady Tokyo: What It Takes to Open a Hawai‘i Restaurant in Japan


Lilikoi Souffle in an individual size skillet

Photo: Sarah Burchard


So what is different about Koko Head Cafe Tokyo? Locals will recognize the brunch menu, which is exactly the same as Kaimukī’s, except for the airy liliko‘i souffle and fresh tropical fruit plate brought from Papaʻāina, Wong’s brunch spot on Maui, and two Tokyo exclusives: a lemony mac nut hummus with fresh vegetables (¥1,500, about $11) and a hearty bowl of saimin with locally made fresh noodles, fishcake, miso-braised pork shoulder and belly, wakame, poached egg and green onions in a broth of chicken stock, lighter shiro dashi and kombu dashi (¥1,600, about $12). Both are available at lunch. “I had to have noodles, but I couldn’t do ramen,” Wong says. Poke may also appear as a special, as it did during my visit.


saimin topped with pork belly and green onions

Photo: Sarah Burchard


Also different are the hours. The Tokyo cafe offers dinner (until 10 p.m.) and is open until from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Dinner items include a seared local fish with market vegetables and yuzu-dashi beurre blanc (MP), Hokkaido pork katsu with charred pineapple chimichurri and Steak and Potatoes of Hokkaido sirloin with Wong’s famous hash browns. Brunch dishes served at dinner include Breakfast Bruschetta (made with that life-changing rusk), Cornflake French Toast, and Coffee and Donuts.


lunch menu at Koko Head Cafe Tokyo

Photo: Sarah Burchard


One of the biggest stretches at the Japan store was implementing the “Kitchen Kampai”—a back-of-house tipping system advertised as “buying the kitchen a round of beer.” It’s offered on the menu as a ¥300 option ($2.25). In Kaimukī, when a customer adds to that tip jar, the kitchen cheers loudly, ringing cowbells and banging on pots and pans. In Japan, where not tipping is the norm, the staff accepts tips shyly, uncomfortably even. Wong is adamant about helping them supplement their earnings. “I’m teaching them how to chee-hoo,” she says.


Bringing Koko Head Cafe to Tokyo took much longer than she and co-owner Kevin Hanney envisioned when they opened in Kaimukī nine years ago. Wong says they were ready to build out a location in Omotesando near Blue Bottle Coffee when COVID hit and the deal fell apart. Their luck turned when they learned of a spot on the seventh floor of the Shin-Marunouchi building amid sleek restaurants including a modern soba shop and a Mexican taqueria. “Everything happened the way it should have,” Wong says. After signing the deal, she rushed to Tokyo, checked into the Marunouchi Hotel and in eight hours designed her new kitchen, complete with a walk-in refrigerator—unheard of in most Japanese restaurants. Executive chef Kazu Ooe, an Osaka native who spent two months in Kaimukī learning the menu, runs the kitchen. Iwata, who is fluent in Japanese, has been helping him and Wong train the kitchen staff.


SEE ALSO: Koko Head Cafe Adds New Dishes in a New Location in Kaimukī


“From the first day I started working with Chef, she has had Japan in her sights. This country, especially Tokyo, holds a very special place in her heart and inspires so much of what we do,” Salmon says. “For me to see this dream come to be is very special.”


There’s more to come. Keep an eye out in August 2024 when Ooe returns to his hometown to help Wong open Koko Head Cafe Osaka inside the new Hilton Hotel.


Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., last order 10 p.m., Shin-Marunouchi Building, 7th floor, 1 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō, @kokoheadcafetokyo