Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Monocle Cafe

Every half a year, Tokyo sees something new. The latter half of the year 2011 saw the opening of Hankyu Men's Tokyo, a department store specializing in men's fashion, in Yurakucho (the area right next to Ginza). Although it may sound unusual to people outside Tokyo, the whole department store building dedicated to men's fashion is nothing new in Tokyo: Marui Men for youngsters and Isetan Men's for grown-ups have been around in Shinjuku for ages by now.

What's really new about this department store is a cafe on the lower ground floor: The Monocle Cafe. Monocle is a magazine that has been advocating for the ideal urban environment which, of course, includes cafes. Perhaps unusual for such a magazine, the editor Tyler Brule has decided to open the magazine's own cafe in Tokyo.

Omotesando Koffee, one of the best coffee houses in Tokyo, is in charge of coffee served. The food menu includes katsu (Japanese pork schnitzel) sandwiches, which consist of a succulent pork fillet, crispy deep-fried breadcrumb, thick tonkatsu sauce, and slices of toasted smooth-textured bread. It's probably one of the best katsu sandwiches served in Tokyo.

But the Monocle Cafe is not only about coffee and foods. The wooden interior design, implemented by Maruni, a Japanese wooden furniture manufacturer in business for more than 80 years, creates a heartwarming atmosphere. Especially, their Hiroshima lounge chairs, designed by Naoto Fukazawa, the leading Japanese product designer, have such a smooth, beautiful surface of the back rest that is comfortable both to lean against and to watch when the chair is not occupied.

Last but not least, the cafe staff is super customer-friendly, even by judging from very demanding Japanese standards of service quality. When the kitchen ends up serving a different food than the one I order, they don't just apologize but first throw away my cup of espresso to replace it with the one just brewed in time for my food served. Then they deliver everything to my table (by default, customers order coffee and foods at the counter and take them themselves to their table). When I realize I need some sugar for my espresso, the waiter standing nearby just notices it and brings a sugar container to my table. This kind of services can be overwhelming to customers, but the Monocle Cafe staff know how friendly services do not feel too much.

Also great about this cafe is that customers can read a sample Monocle magazine and that some of the tables offer electric sockets.

When you visit Ginza, do stop by at this cafe. You won't get disappointed.

Added on 8 January
On the second visit, I had Monocle curry (curry with rice in Japanese style) and yuzu squash (Japanese citrus sparkling juice). For foreign visitors, these must be interesting. But for Japanese people, they are nothing special. And today's staff was less professional. Another problem is the cafe's WiFi access. You first have to email a blank message to obtain the password to get access. For foreign visitors like me who have no 3G internet access, this is super useless. Having said that, it's still worth visiting for cozy interiors, katsu sandwiches, and Omotesando Koffee's coffee kashi.


Dione Wang said...

Hello Econoclasm!

Lovely blog, thank you. i'm visiting Tokyo from Singapore this Fri-Sun and was glad to have come across your posts.

I see we've a few things in common -- Africa, music, musings -- nice to find a like-minded person online. Grateful if you could suggest charming/interesting, non-touristy places to visit in Tokyo, too, if you've got the time.


Masa said...

Hi Dione. Thank you for your lovely comment.

Here is my personal Tokyo travel guide.

Hope this makes your Tokyo trip more interesting than otherwise.


Dione Wang said...

This is perfect. Thanks, Masa! Let me know if you're in Singapore anytime (though I should think you do know the city).