Friday, December 23, 2011

Omotesando Koffee

If I'm asked to recommend the best coffee shop in Tokyo, I immediately mention Omotesando Koffee because it combines the Japanese tradition and the 21st century design philosophy at its best.

The traditional side is represented by the house that houses the shop. It's a small, old-style residential house. Facing the alley is an old-style wooden gate with a roof. Inside the gate spreads a small garden surrounded by a concrete block wall (typical of the mid-20th century Japanese urban landscape) and a wooden house. A narrow flower bed along the wall accommodates non-conspicuous flowers and grass plants.

Inside the house sits a cubic kiosk within which the shop owner brews and serves coffee to customers over the counter. The design of the shop is all based on the cubic shape. The signage at the entrance on the alley is a black metal square ring on a stand. The white paper menu on the counter divides its surface into multiple squares each of which lists one particular coffee (espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, etc.). Each component of the kiosk is also a cube, since it's meant to be mobile: the house is planned to be demolished soon (though the house owner just decided to postpone the plan). Finally, the koffee kashi, the original baked custard designed to stimulate your appetite for coffee, is cube-shaped. All this consistent design philosophy, along with the interior of a Japanese old residential house, creates a tranquil atmosphere, tranquil enough to focus your five senses to the present moment of tasting coffee.

There's no seat or table inside. The shop is more of an Italian bar where people just hop in and quickly gulp a cup of espresso. It is in the middle of a quiet residential area three blocks away from the busy Omotesando boulevard. A little bit difficult to spot, but it is worth visiting as nowhere else can offer such an experience.

If you need a second opinion, I would mention that Monocle magazine editors love this place so much that when they opened their own cafe on the basement of Hankyu Men's department store in Ginza last autumn, they asked Omotesando Koffee to train their barristers and decided to serve its coffee and koffee kashi at the cafe.

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