Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Berg Morning Plate

I love that Tokyo is so big and filled with so many restaurants that new gems keep presenting themselves. On a recent television program Berg in Shinjuku Station came up as a great B Gourmet restaurant, cheap and delicious. It is open from 7 a.m. and stays open until late at night. It is located just outside of the Shinjuku JR Station’s Higashi-Guchi. Take a left and walk about 15 seconds and it is on your left.

This morning at 7:05 a.m. the shop already had about five tables of customers and there was a line at the counter. I placed an order for the Morning Plate which comes with coffee and was just under 500 JPY. Can’t beat this.

The shop also has many hot dogs and beer on tap. There is a menu of side dishes that includes a cheese plate and other beer-friendly plates. I was so happy to see a poster for Baird Beer’s Rising Sun Pale Ale as the featured Japanese craft beer. Was tickled when a guy who had just finished his breakfast go back to order the Baird beer. If I weren’t off to Tsukiji Market for a tour I would have joined him.

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Behind the counter were seven staff, all donning denim aprons with BERG stitched onto it and wearing colorful bandannas on their heads. For the life of me I can’t figure what seven people would be doing there. They were all busy and seemed to have some task.

A dozen kegs of beer were set off to one corner. A sign that this shop goes through a lot of beer. I will be back, later in the day next time. I hope the Baird Beer will still be the featured beer. I have walked by this shop for years and never bothered stopping by. Glad it’s finally on my radar.

Berg

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Lumine EST B1

Simple map:

http://www.berg.jp/map/map.html

 

Tsukiji’s Smallest Coffee Shop Amikane コーヒー網兼

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86-year old Hatsue Murata of Coffee Amikane

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Tsukiji’s smallest coffee shop, Coffee Amikane, only seats six. It’s only open two days a week, Tuesday and Saturday. The hours are short, I believe 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday and possibly until noon on Saturday. If you are lucky to find an empty seat at the shop then grab a seat and have Murata-san pour you a cup of Joe for 250 JPY. More than anything, take in her lovely smile.

Hatsue Murata starts by warming up the coffee cup in a bowl of hot water. The coffee is in a large enamel coffee pot and is sitting in a pot of hot water. On the counter you will find condensed milk and sugar.

We were lucky as Murata-san’s daughter, who lives in California, happened to be there at the shop. Her mother is hard of hearing so her daughter shared with us her story. That she grew up in the house over the coffee shop. Her mother pointed to the coffee grinder and said that it was about 50-years old and her daughter corrected her mother saying it was more like 60 years.

When asked why her mother was still working the daughter said that in Japan, some people think that once you retire you are no longer useful. Her mother only opens the shop twice a week and for only a few hours at a time. Hatsue-san has a lovely smile and shows no signs of retiring soon. Her story reminds me of Jiro-san of Sukiyabashi Jiro. Perhaps Jiro-san also has the same feelings that Hatsue-san regarding work as they are both in their 80s.

If you happen to miss getting a seat at Coffee Amikane then be sure to go to my favorite Tsukiji spot, Turret Coffee. Consider yourself lucky if you make it here and can spend a few minutes with the lovely Hatsue-san.

Coffee Amikane

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 6-27-3

Tuesday and Saturday only, limited hours

Japanese Kissaten – Ginza Tsubakiya

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Some twenty years ago friends brought me to this coffee shop in Ginza. It was my first time in one of these classic kissaten 喫茶店 (coffee shop). I had no idea that such places existed. It felt as if we had stepped back in time. The coffee was (and still is) expensive, but one could order exquisite cakes or sandwiches, and sit there for as long as we wanted. Tsubakiya is an old-school kissaten in the heart of Ginza, perfect for some quiet solo time or for meeting friends.

Recently a friend was visiting from overseas and we decided to meet for coffee. Of course there are great spots in the city, like Omotesando Koffee or Turret Coffee, but not all are ideal for lingering over conversation. So I returned to Tsubakiya, and nothing seems to have changed.

Tsubakiya sits on the corner, just a block off of the main Chuo Dori. The coffee shop is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The 3rd floor is non-smoking, which is good to know as some of these older shops can be filled with smokers. There is a stairwell that leads up to the shop from the street level. The dark interior is a nod to the early 20th century Taisho era (1912-1926). Waitresses are in black dresses with white aprons and completed with a frilly white cap. A cup of coffee starts at 1,000 JPY, and I believe refills are for about 300 JPY. The coffee is made with a siphon and the cup I had was very smooth. A great spot if you are looking for a quiet cup of coffee in Ginza. It opens at 10 a.m., another reason why we chose this spot as other coffee shops don’t open until 11 a.m.

Tsubakiya is part of Towa Foods and has a few shops throughout the city.

Ginza Tsubakiya

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-7-11, Sugawara Denki Bldg. 2F and 3F

03-3572-4949

Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Could This Be Tokyo’s Best Coffee? Chatei Hatou

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One of the great pleasures of giving food tours in Tokyo is meeting passionate people who introduce me to spots in Tokyo. The metropolis is so big that it is impossible to make it to every shop that you want to go to. Sometimes it takes someone to put a shop back on your radar. This was the case with Chatei Hatou. I first came across in it Oliver Strand’s piece in the New York Times Magazine. It’s in Shibuya, an area that I often go to. However, it is in a part of Shibuya that I rarely get to. So, it was on my Go List, but not high on the list. Until a great client who knows his coffee told me that I absolutely must go and check it out. He warned me that a cup of coffee would set me back $15. He also mentioned that while there were a variety of cups behind the counter, that customers did not select one, but that the master would size me up and choose one for me.

I finally found myself in the back streets of Shibuya. Walking in the area I realized I must be somewhere in the vicinity of Chatei Hatou and I pulled out my Go List and made a beeline for the shop. Well, beeline is a stretch, as I did get lost once. That’s good for a city where most streets do not have a name.

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Just down a side street off of a major street and up a few meters from the Lacoste. The narrow shopfront sticks out on the street. It has charm and character and could have been modeled after a ski house in Europe.  The interior is dark and there is a lot of bric-a-brac on the walls on tables. I am guessing accumulated over the years as it opened in 1989. Walking in I knew I was back in Japan as it did smell of tobacco smoke. Bummer, but it wasn’t too smoky and I had to try what my friend said was one of the best coffees in the city.

I was seated at the counter, just in front of the master. I ordered a demitasse of “old beans” as it appears on the menu (900 JPY). I was told it would be bitter and he pointed to the demitasse cups. I nodded in approval and the dance began. The beans were grounded, put into a sock, and then the master used a small, flat wooden spatula and shaped the ground beans in the sock into a mountain shape. He then started to slowly and purposefully pour hot water onto the grounds. What I was amazed at was that he did not put the sock over a coffee pot or cup. He continued to pour water and the grounds started to expand and soak up the hot water. After pouring for a while he finally put the sock over a small glass carafe to capture the coffee. I was mesmerized at his attention to each detail. Hot water was poured into my demitasse as he finished up the coffee. He put the carafe down behind the counter. I am not sure if he was heating it up or what. But after about a minute of my cup being warmed he poured the coffee into the cup and presented it to me. Quite the ceremony. And, a very good cup of coffee. Dark, yet smooth, and only slightly bitter.

The other customers were a mishmash of chatty housewives, single people reading books, a group of guys holding a business meeting. It was surprisingly full at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night. If it were smoke-free I would plan on going back soon. Am glad I took the advice of my friend. It is a unique look into the coffee culture in Tokyo.

Chatei Hatou 茶亭 羽當

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-15-19

03-3400-9088

11:00 – 23:00

no holidays, even open on Sundays

Turret Coffee at Tsukiji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turret Coffee2Turret Coffee is a godsend for anyone visiting Tsukiji Market. Up until now I couldn’t find a coffee shop that had espresso. Surprising considering that most of Tsukiji’s business takes place in the early morning hours.

Turret Coffee opened in October, 2013. Speaking with the owner, Kiyoshi Kawasaki, he said that business is a little slow. His shop is down a narrow side street off of one of the major streets near Tsukiji’s outer market. It happens to be a few steps beyond a Starbucks. But, if you don’t know about Turret Coffee, you wouldn’t venture beyond Starbucks. Now, you know.

Turret Coffee1

Kawasaki-san comes from the popular Streamer Coffee shop.Turret Coffee2

Turret is the name of the vehicles the delivery boys drive at Tsukiji Market.
Turret Coffee3

 

Espresso is served in ochoko, traditionally used for drinking saké.

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The current seasonal drink is a cinnamon-flavored latte.
Turret Coffee5

This sign is a welcome site in the early morning. Turret Coffee has about five counter seats and two very small tables with chairs. The shop is opened seven days a week, and opens at 7 a.m. Monday – Saturday. It is located just near the Hibiya station exit #1 or #2. Just about three minutes from the main crossing of Harumi Dori and Shin-Ohashi Dori of Tsukiji’s Outer Market.

Tsukiji will never be the same.

Turret Coffee

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 2-12-6

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo’s Best Coffee – Five Questions for Mal Simpson

While Japan is known for its rich tea culture, there is no shortage of coffee shops, some with a cult following. Many citizens of this fast-paced metropolis stay energized with java. Shochu is more up my alley so I asked a friend, and coffee aficionado, who has made the rounds of Tokyo’s top coffee destinations for his verdict.

Mal Simpson, from Sydney, is part of the management team at Decanter, the flagship restaurant at the Tokyo American Club. See more on Mal below.

1. How did you get into coffee? Do you make coffee at home? If so, where do you buy your beans?

From my café days, the coffee machine was always so close to the kitchen line. When I open new places I always ask the chefs to try the coffee. They seem to know what they like even if they are not connoisseurs as such.

I don’t generally make coffee at home but if in a jam or too lazy to leave the house I use a MyPressi Twist hand held coffee maker. I buy my beans at NOZY Café, great blends and they always change their line up. Plus you get a great discount on a coffee when you buy beans there.

2. What is unique about the Tokyo coffee scene? The siphon coffee? Art work on lattes?

The art on some of these lattes is pretty awesome at some of the joints. Worthy of their own art exhibition for sure. Now there’s an idea! I prefer consistency and convenience with my coffee. I return to my regular haunts mainly because of these aspects.

3. Any thoughts of the ubiquitous canned coffee. Have you seen the Georgia Wa mattcha flavored coffee?

I think there is a statistic somewhere that says there is a vending machine in Japan for every 20-odd people. I do drink canned coffee every once in a while when an interesting new one comes out. The hot cans in winter-time come in handy. One in each hand whilst walking to the train station keeps you warm.

4. What do you think about old-style coffee shops like Renoir?

Yes I don’t frequent the old style “kissatens” at all. The ones I have been to are dark and gloomy and full of old people drinking watered down coffee through coffee stained teeth and chain smoking in constant haze of smoke. You get an ashtray and a glass of water as soon as you sit down. I read that there used to be around 160,000 kissatens in post WW2 Japan. Now there are less than 70,000 left, fading away in favour of the Starbucks, Excelsior Café and new-look Doutor Cafes. The one I went to in Nerima just outside central Tokyo looked like the furniture, décor, the staff and the menu prices had not changed in 50 years.

5. Your favorite coffee shops in Tokyo? Any coffee shops with really good food? What makes them special? 

It is hard to find a café in Tokyo that has all my prerequisites. Ultra cool, good service, fun staff, outdoor seating, great coffee and chilled music. But there are a few gems around that are worthy of a mention. (All coffee photos by Mal Simpson.)

 

Nozy – Sangenjaya (Setagaya-ku, Sangenjaya 2-29-7, http://www.nozycoffee.jp) – Home roasted, single origin, yes very old school idea considering the fad these days. Popular with cyclists, slightly off the beaten track though. They roast the beans in a small room right next to the coffee machine. You can imagine the beans hardly have time to cool before they are ground up and made into your coffee order. Talk about fresh! Owner Masataka Nojo started out in Shonan I heard back in his University days. Grab a brew take away and sit across the road in Setagaya Park. The coffee flavour will linger on in your mouth for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Streamer – Harajuku (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 3-28-19, http://streamercoffee.com) – The owner Hiroshi Sawada seemingly has managed to make baristas look like rock stars. He has done collaborations with Apple, New Balance, Armarni, Casio, Patagonia and his latest gig is Barista Sports wear. Some of the merchandising he does in store is pretty cool too.

 

Lattest – Omotesando (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 3-5-2m http://lattest.jp) Produced by Sawada of Streamer, inside looks like a warehouse art gallery. Staff are passionate about coffee and very friendly. As my friend quickly noticed, the girls’ uniform seems to be cut off jeans and sneaker. He often stays for several coffees of an afternoon.

 

Globe – Ikejiri (Setagaya-ku, Ikejiri 2-7-8, http://www.globe-antiques.com/cafe/) I love hanging out at this place on a rainy afternoon. Set in the corner of a huge antique shop in an equally impressive multi-storied building. You can basically buy the chair you are sitting on and add it to your bill. Fun selection of cakes under the counter and coffee served in a French-style bowl.

 

Gazebo – Daikanyama (Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-33-15, http://www.gazebo.jp) One of the only places that you can sit in the sun and people watch whilst sipping coffee on the patio. They do a very reasonable light lunch set weekdays. Gazebo was one of the first places I found in Tokyo that had a discount when you “checked-in” to Gazebo using facebook.

 

Breadworks – Tennozu Isle (Shinagawa-ku, Higashi-Shinagawa 2-1-6, http://www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/en/breadworks/about/story-of-breadworks/) – By the same guys who do Cicada and TY Harbour brewery etc. Built in an old factory warehouse and with a great deck for seating out along the waters edge. It hardly feels like you’re in Tokyo. I can never decide if I want to have their coffee and fresh made bread/pastries or go next door for a beer breakfast at TY Harbour. Worth a trip out there for brunch.

 

Nakameguro Lounge – Nakameguro (Meguro-ku, Kami-Meguro 3-6-18, http://nakameguro-lounge.net) – Ultra cool themed lounge. Always playing cool deep house or lounge and the odd acid jazz or sultry jazz track. Great coffee, excellent service and very reasonable prices for coffee and food.

 

Bear Pond – Shimokitazawa (Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-36-12, http://www.bear-pond.com) – I think I would incur a wrath of complaints if I didn’t mention Bear Pond. Although my experience there was not as pleasant as others. I found the hand written signs around warning you not to take photos a little off-putting and the staff were far to overly “secretive” about their beans and roasting. The place is no bigger than a six mat tatami room and too far out of the way for me to make regular trips out there. In saying that, it is insanely popular and it was a great coffee. You should try the Ristretto. The owner is obviously totally into the coffee but I still rate NOZY Café as the best so far.

More on Mal:

After Graphic Design College thinking I could change the world, I quickly lost my passion for design and the inbred big corporate industry advertising and wound up helping out in my friends sushi bar. After wondering around the Japanese resto scene on the Gold Coast for a few years I eventually found some direction by studying Cajun Cooking at New Orleans Café (1996) in Sydney under my Chef mentor Chef Shea of Paul Prudhomme and Emeril’s kitchens fame. Played around in fine dining in Sydney for a while at Coast and Manta (1998) before moving to Tokyo. Opened a small restaurant in Ebisu with Chef David Miney of Harvey Nichols/London (1999-2001) After another brief stint in Sydney (2001-2002) re-opening a revamped New Orleans Café. Moved back to Tokyo and started up as Maitre’d at the newly opened Legato from Global Dining (2003-2006). Moved to London (2006-2010) and opened 4 Japanese restaurants, mainly for the Bincho Yakitori group with UK Restaurateurs David Miney, Dominic Ford and Ronnie Truss. (2011) Now at TAC as part of the Management team, started the new restaurant Decanter and helped developed the Vegas-style Steak House concept.

Hobbies: Abseiling, Rock climbing, Cycling, Hiking, Tennis. I still do some activities with the local Boy Scouts of America as a Venturer Leader. Travel of course, as well as coffee and drinking wine… they go hand in hand really…