UPDATE: Sadly Omotesando Koffee closed their pop-up in Omotesando in December 2015. An outpost was opened in Toranomon Hills: 1-23-3 Toranomon,Minato-ku,Tokyo 2F Toranomon Hills Mori Tower 105-6302 Japan.
Tokyo is very good at hiding its gems in narrow backstreets and alleyways, and from what I have observed so far the best things are the hardest to find. Omotesando Koffee is not an exception. Tucked away in the most remote alley of a quiet ritzy residential area, behind the hustle and bustle of Omotesando Avenue, this tiny quaint coffee shop is a real espresso heaven. Once you get past the traditional Japanese fence, beyond the lush green plants, you stumble upon this tatami-style 60-year-old traditional Japanese house. Although as soon as you step inside it is nothing short of modern with a progressive cubism theme incorporated in the décor. It’s a slightly surreal setup, with a space completely empty except for a single cube-framed bar located right in the middle of the room. There isn’t any space for sitting around, though there’s a small courtyard outside which customers can use if the weather’s good. The barista and owner of the place Eiichi Kunitomo as well as his assistant stand within a cube frame concentrating on their tasks and maintaining meticulous order. Line forms on the left side, first barista takes your coffee order, you step on the right side where you pay the bill after the assistant shows you the price on a sleek wooden calculator. It somehow perfectly matches the rest of the design. Tip: This place is cash only. If you need to get cash, there is a 7-11 right around the corner which accepts international debit cards. You patiently wait for the barista to pull you espresso shot on a pristine La Cimbali machine. In the past Tokyo certainly could not rival with the abundance of outstanding artisanal coffee shops of the US. Only in recent years has the city coffee culture started to thrive. Serious-minded coffee makers like Kunitomo-san have been plying their trade around the capital, many of them roasting their own beans and wielding heavy-duty espresso machines. In Tokyo, coffee culture commands attention to detail, dedication to craftsmanship and the customary Japanese pursuit of improvement. We found ourselves drawn to the care and attention put into each cup of coffee. The menu is simple – variations of iced and hot coffee and some snacks. During my two visits to the coffee shop I have tried their traditional cappuccino and baileys cappuccino, and both were excellent. The brew is fragrant, rich and incredibly smooth. It has a slight hint of smokiness and leaves a pleasant sharpness around the edges of the tongue. Totally up to par with my favorite Boston coffee shops like Thinking Cup or Pavement Coffeehouse. Their signature snack or kashi is the Baked Custard, also baked in the shape of a cube which they serve in a coffee filter. It has a nice, hefty crust yet is gorgeously chewy on the inside. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to my perfectly brewed cup of cappuccino. I loved how they serve it in the coffee filters printed with the shop name as well as a map of the surrounding area.Off to the side you can buy other fun coffee related items, such as metal filters, insulated mugs, and even a “cup of coffee” literally made out of coffee beans. Of course, the cube-esque theme is quite pronounced here as well. The place was initially intended as a temporary pop-up and Eichii Kunitomo went with this box-like design because it could easily be disassembled and reassembled as it “popped up” around the world. You can even find a long list of all the destinations Eichii Kunitomo strives to take his cube frame to on their web-site. However, due to its insane popularity people didn’t really want it to leave the neighborhood so the shop will linger in Omotesando for a little longer (hopefully much longer!). This is definitely a fun place to visit especially if you are a coffee enthusiast and miss your favorite artisan coffee shop in the US.
Address: Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, 神宮前４丁目１５−３
Do you have any favorite coffee places in Tokyo? Please do share, I’m always on a hunt for new spots with good brews.