Omotesando Koffee

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This is the eight post in the series titled Tasting Tour of Tokyo detailing my recent trip to Japan. Other posts include Kikunoi AkasakaRokurinshaMikawa ZezankyoKaoriyaSushi SawadaSushi Aoki, and Street Foods in Tokyo.

Is there really such thing as a “best kept secret”?

After all, good secrets in the food world are hard to keep, and hidden gems quickly gain cult status through word-of-mouth, blog posts, and social media.

But it’s hard to keep track of it all. And frankly, even though this tiny coffee shop has gained quite a following in the past year, I had no idea it existed. It’s only because of my lunch and subsequent conversation with Shirley of Lovely Lanvin during our ethereal  tempura lunch that I even found out about this place.

Welcome to Omotesando Koffee, one of the most unusual coffee shops I’ve ever visited.
Omotesando Koffee
Omotesando Koffee is most definitely “hidden”. The tiny cube of a shop is quite difficult to find. Bryan and I meandered around this ritzy neighborhood in Omotesando quite a few times before we saw this tiny little sign.

Omotesando Koffee is probably unlike any coffee shop you’ve ever seen. Once you get past the traditional Japanese fence, beyond the lush green plants, you stumble upon this old, tatami-style Japanese home.
Omotesando Koffee
Except that it’s anything but traditional.
Omotesando Koffee
The inside of this Japanese “home” is completely empty except for a large, single cube stuck right in the middle of the house. A lone barista stands inside the cube with his La Cimbali coffee machine and a few snacks.
Omotesando Koffee
The menu is simple – variations of iced “koffee”, hot “koffee”, and some snacks.
Omotesando Koffee
One of their most well known snacks or “kashi” is the Baked Custard, tiny cubes that remind me of French canelé (which I love).
OmotesandoKoffee
I love the Baked Custard, which has a nice, hefty crust yet is gorgeously chewy on the inside. It goes perfectly with my cup of cappuccino. I think it’s cute how they serve all of their desserts inside coffee filters. The coffee filters are also printed with the shop name as well as a map of the surrounding area.

The cappuccino is excellent. It’s on par with my favorite coffee shops in Cambridge.
Omotesando Koffee
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.
Omotesando Koffee
As I look around, I realize that I’m very lucky to be able to even visit this place.

You see, Omotesando Koffee was intended to just be a temporary pop-up. In fact, the old Japanese house was slated for destruction sometime in 2012. The original lease was only 12-months long. Owner Eichii Kunitomo’s went with this box-like design because it could easily be disassembled and reassembled as it “popped up” around the world.

Things have changed since those original plans. The pop-up became so popular that people didn’t really want it to leave the neighborhood. The 12-month lease has since been extended, which means Omotesando Koffee isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Who knows how long it will be before the shop is able to go where it dreams of going, reflected by the long list of destinations on its website? When will it get to actually disassemble and reassemble in a new location, the way it was designed to move?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, though it seems perfectly happy at Omotesando for the moment.

Omotesando Koffee

The Facts
This place is not far at all from all the wonderful places to shop in Omotesando (my favorite being Kiddie Land, which I think has one of the best selections of Ghibli & Totoro themed stuff in Tokyo). You can easily walk from Harajuku (another really fun neighborhood to visit) to Omotesando. They are right next to each other.  If you really like walking, you can do what Bryan and I like to do, which is to walk all the way from Shibuya to Harajuku to Omotesando.

One of the most famous tonkatsu restaurants in Tokyo, Maisen, is located just around the corner from this coffee shop. You can easily visit both in one day, maybe grab a coffee here after a meal at Maisen?

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.

This is a fun place to visit, though if you’re short on time, I think it’s also OK to skip it, especially if your goal is to experience things that are uniquely Japanese. The coffee is good, but not better than the best artisanal coffee shops in the US. Instead, I like to think that it’s offering a wonderful opportunity for the Japanese to experience really good coffee, something we’re blessed to have in abundance here on this side of the globe. 

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Comments

  1. Sarah says

    What a lovely place! I think it’s interesting that you mention that you don’t think this place is “uniquely Japanese”. To me, this place seems completely, utterly Japanese – a small cafe/store focusing on a very small range of high quality products in a beautiful, restrained setting. I feel it is Japanese in a very contemporary way, not in a “sushi, kimonos and waving cat” kind of way.

    We have a big coffee culture where I’m from (Melbourne, Australia), and all the artisan coffee shops here in Melbourne import coffee making equipment from Japan (and Italy of course), but the Japanese Hario brand of home brewing, filtering and grinding equipment is extremely well regarded for its quality and design.

    Personally I’ll be adding Omotesando Koffee to my must-visit list anyway because good espresso-based coffee is something I miss when I’m in Japan! Thank-you for sharing :)

    xox Sarah

    http://www.sarahcooks.com.au

  2. says

    This was most definitely the coolest coffee shop I have ever been to. It’s been a week and I still can’t get over it. Great photos! When I went there there were so many people. A shame really, but it’ll be hard to keep this one quiet.

  3. says

    Oh that cafe is SO COOL! I love it! The coffee looks amazing too – and I start to crave good espresso-based coffee after I’ve been in Japan for a while.

    I think it’s interesting that you refer to this cafe as not “uniquely Japanese”, where I can’t think of anything more Japanese than a tiny, extremely specialised shop, focusing on producing one product of very high quality. :) And the simple, elegant uncluttered design of the shop (plus the fabulous jacket the barista is wearing!) Reminds me of the fabulous shop Muji – such contemporary understated Japanese elegance. :)

    xox Sarah

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