Hidden in the back of a building, with only a very simple sign advertising it, is one of Mito’s best-kept secrets. Cafe Rin is an exquisite little café on the ground floor of one of the many eponymous buildings near the Daiku area of Mito, featuring a soothing and relaxing atmosphere and delicious home-style meals. Not only is it removed from the noise and bustle of the busy streets outside, it fronts onto a small Japanese garden that has frequent visits from intrepid local cats who dare to scale the high bamboo walls. If you’re looking for a great place for a date, a chat, or just to sit and study, Rin is exactly what you want.
Once you pass down the dark, spare, narrow hallway from the street entrance, you reach an area that feels as if it is a different world. The walls are pleasant jewel tones with interesting art and architecture, soft jazz plays in the background to add to the ambience, and the low lighting makes things seem to glow with a nostalgic warmth. Water is self-serve and nearby is a bookshelf full of books for all ages (in Japanese, but some are illustrated children’s books that even adults may enjoy) that guests can read at will. The menu is small, but full of items that tempt the tastebuds, rendering decision-making a bit lengthy. Most dishes are a fusion-style combination of Asian or Western influences, such as the California bowl with its avocado and smoked salmon served over balsamic rice. All dishes come with a perfectly dressed salad and a tasty cup of soup, but make sure to leave room for the desserts. Among the regular offerings is the heavenly fig cheesecake, and you can turn any dessert into a set that comes with a drink and a scone, complete with a tiny dish of whipped cream and jam.
There is also a variety of coffees and teas on hand, and if you prefer to have your sweets to go their fluffy and lightly sweetened scones are available for purchase beside the cash register. All in all, the prices are reasonable and the food never disappoints (try the cheesy meatballs!), but the elegance and calming atmosphere is what will keep you coming back for more.