At Toranomon Koffee (previously Omotesando Koffee) at the swanky Toranomon Hills tower. Pity that the charming machiya at Omotesando has been demolished.
The ambience of Toranomon Koffee has a slightly different vibe compared to its predecessor, but no less charming, I like their new digs at Toranomon Hills. The building is gorgeous, the cafe has plenty of sitting space and there are two barista counters instead of one (so the waiting time is shorter).
I ordered one of the iced cappuccino even though I was so cold from walking to Toranomon Hills from our hotel in Shinbashi. I love their double iced cappuccino. It is so rich, creamy and intense. In addition to their famous baked custard cube, I also ordered an almond financier and a matcha financier. Oh, they were so yummy.
Japan is a haven for crafters. Their stationery shops, fabric shops, handicraft shops are places where I can spend all day wandering around in.
With the husband in tow, I had to exercise restraint in the amount of time I spent in these shops. Despite the limited time that I had, I managed to get some pretty good fabric buys. I bought most of the fabric in ABC Mart in the Q’s Mall in Osaka (Tennoji), Hankyu Department Store in Osaka, Nomura Tailor in Kyoto and Yuzawaya in Takashimaya Shinjuku. Pity that I did not have time to visit the Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo.
A beautiful cafe along Orange Street that feels like a lush floral wonderland similar to Blute in Seoul. Biotop is a concept store, with a cafe and nursery in one room and clothing, accessories and toiletries retailing in the next room.
I really like the idea of a nursery-cum-cafe concept. How is that no one in Singapore has thought about setting up something like that?
Biotop sells drip coffee, pizzas and some baked goods (I think). I would have liked to sit outside at the corner stand with my coffee but the weather was too cold to do so. This is a pretty place to hang out at while shopping in Orange Street, but if you want really good coffee, better to head to Granknot further down.
If you are in Osaka and want some good coffee, drop by Granknot near the Yotsubashi subway station. Or you could easily walk to the cafe from the Dotonburi area, the cafe is in Orange Street (which makes it an excellent stop after shopping in the boutiques and shops in Orange Street).
I love ramen but with age, I don’t eat it very often because I can’t eat the amount of carbs in a bowl of ramen, not counting the slurp-worthy broth that is packed with so much calories. However, it was hard not to eat ramen during our recent trip to Osaka.
We stayed in a hotel that is just a street away from Dotonburi and every time we turned a corner, we were bound to see a ramen shop, or a takoyaki stall, or an okonomiyaki restaurant. I don’t really like takoyaki or okonomiyaki, so it was fairly easy to ignore those. But ramen, tough. So over a 2.5 day period, we ate 3 bowls of ramen (plus another 3 in Kyoto and Tokyo) which is quite a feat for us.
I read online that Kinryu ramen is one of the popular ramen chains in Osaka. There were at least three Kinryu ramen shops near my hotel in Dotonbori – you can’t miss the chain’s impressive dragon signage. I think Kinryu (and probably most of the other ramen chains) is open 24 hours, as we saw plenty of Japanese eating at the shops early in the morning. Slurping ramen for breakfast? Yummilicious. So we had a bowl of Kinryu’s tonkotsu ramen for breakfast one morning, which was really nice in the cold weather.
Looks spectacular right? I liked the thin Hakata-style noodles but the pork bone broth was not particularly memorable.
This is my second time at Ichiran, the first was in Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. I hear that there is always a long queue for Ichiran ramen in Tokyo, so when we saw that the queue at this Dotonburi outlet was fairly short, we decided to join the bandwagon.
Ichiran’s thin noodles are great but I thought the broth in this Osaka outlet was a little too salty for my liking.
We went to the Ichiran outlet along the Dotonburi river which seems to have a queue at all times of the day (probably because of its very prominent location), but there is another shop tucked inside one of the Dotonburi shopping arcades just 2 minutes away that does not usually have a queue.
I spotted this tonkotsu ramen in one of several shopping arcades that run perpendicular to Dotonburi and decided to pop in for afternoon tea. I ordered the Double Happiness bowl and it was fabulous. Definitely my favorite bowl of ramen amongst the three. I loved the tonkotsu-shoyu broth – the flavor was rich, intense and full of umami! Just look at the color of the broth!
I forgot to take a photo of the shop-front, but if you Google Hanamaruken, you will see many blogs featuring a photo of the shop.
We are not fans of hand-drip coffee, but we learnt that Cafe De L’Ambre’s hand-drip coffee is excellent. Not just the coffee, the ambience is lovely too. The interior is 1980s – brown wood, dark, smoky. You sit at a bar counter and watch them make each cup of coffee by hand, filtered through a cotton bag. It is an interesting place to while away a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Cafe De L’Ambre has been around for over 50 years and serves only coffee. No juice, beer, milk, or any type of food. Coffee is not cheap but in my view, worth the splurge if you enjoy drinking coffee.
This is the coffee version of sitting at a cocktail bar, watching the bartender conjure up delicious cocktails. The barista makes every cup by hand, slowly pouring hot water into the filter bag and letting the coffee glide into a small copper pot, which he then heats up for a quick minute before pouring it into a cup and serving it to the customer. The filter bag is a smaller and shorter version of the ones that our local coffeeshops use to make coffee.
A delicious cup of hot hand-drip coffee that has well-balanced flavors. I usually find hand-drip coffee too acidic for my liking, but not L’Ambre’s.
We also tried their cold coffee which is very good. The coffee goes into a cocktail mixer filled with ice, then poured into a cocktail glass. The coffee is good hot, but even better chilled.
How much coffee can one drink in one sitting? At least 3! We felt as though we were in a cocktail bar, tasting various alcoholic concoctions, and being wow-ed one drink after another.
After a hot coffee, a chilled coffee, we decided to try something different. We ordered the Blanc et Noir “Queen Amber” – sweet cold coffee with a layer of milk floating above it. You don’t mix the milk and coffee but just sip it as it is – sweetness followed by a slight bitterness. Simple and good, and absolutely addictive. My husband and I had two glasses each.
It is a good thing that coffee, even copious amounts of it, has no effect on our ability to sleep at night. 🙂 Satiated from coffee, we went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.
Cafe De L’Ambre
Address: Ginza 8-10-15; 81-3-3571-1551 (銀座8-10-15 Chūō, 東京都 〒104-0061) Opening Hours: 12pm to 7pm
I cannot believe that I have not heard of Maisen, this popular tonkatsu restaurant until recently! From what I have read and heard, Maisen is housed in what used to be a public bath-house, and is practically an institution in Tokyo. My husband is a big fan of tonkatsu, just not me. Not sure why, I love eating pork, but tonkatsu isn’t something that I am very fond of. I was really happy to learn that Maisen serves kaki furai, deep-fried oysters, ‘cos that’s one of my favorite things to eat.
So off we went to Maisen on our first morning in Tokyo. He gets his fried pork, I get my fried oysters, and we both get our cup of joe from Omotesando Koffee located just around the corner before that. No disagreements there. We read about the long queue during the lunch-hour, so we made sure to arrive 15 minutes before their opening hours at 11am. I hate queuing for food, but I am Singaporean, and queuing for food is in our blood and this is one place that I don’t mind queueing at.
That’s what I ordered – 5 deep fried oysters accompanied by a huge (and re-fillable) bed of cold, crisp, shredded cabbage and a bowl of miso soup. I like to eat my kaki furai ‘neat’, that is, without any tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the luscious little golden packages of fried oysters. I find the taste of tonkatsu sauce too heavy and it masks the flavors of the food.
The fried oysters tasted as good as they looked. They were bloody good. I savored every bite with utter delight. 🙂 Plump. Fresh. Juicy. And they had a slight hint of that metallic taste that comes with oysters. The batter was very light and didn’t leave an oily aftertaste on my lips.
My husband ordered some special cut of pork loin that had only 5 portions a day. I took a small bite of my husband’s pork and needless to say, it was super. But I still prefer kaki furai.
That’s the interior of Maisen. I like the high ceilings and that the windows let in lots of light into what is otherwise a rather sombre dining room decorated in the 1980s Japanese style. I didn’t get any good shots of the dining room because the wait staff kept giving me the evil eye when I took out my camera.
This dining room is for customers who come in a group. If you are on your own, they will probably ask you to sit at the bar counter outside. I think we might give the bar counter a try on another visit. That area looks less sombre and more…well, fun.
Sorrieeee! I cannot resist putting up more photos of these lovelies. This close-up shot of the kaki furai is making me want a piece so much now.
Besides pancakes, the other two things that I really wanted to eat in Tokyo were fruit sandwiches and a fruit parfait. Oooohh, I love sandwiches made with soft white Japanese bread and filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream. I ate this once a very long time ago in Tokyo, and lurrrrrved it ever since. So I researched for a fruit parlor in Tokyo but unfortunately, we left this till it was too late in the trip to squeeze a visit to one of these fruit parlors. One of these options was the Shiseido Parlour in Ginza near our hotel, but getting a table involved a one-hour wait. I thought this would have to be carried over to our next trip.
I was extremely fortunate to come across the Takano Fruit Parlour in Takashimaya when we were shopping for some gifts on our last full day in Tokyo. I saw Takano’s signage near one of the escalators advertising their strawberry parfaits and the reaction was an immediate ‘let’s go now’! Takano is located on the 5th floor of Takashimya, just a minute away from where we were.
The Takano parlor is a simple, elegant space. I opened the menu and got lost in it. Too many options, and every one looked absolutely scrumptious. I went into Takano determined to order a fruit sandwich but all thoughts of that flew out of my mind when I was visually assaulted by the beautiful photos of their parfaits in the menu.
It took me ages to decide on something. I ended up with one of their strawberry parfaits. I am not very fond of strawberries in general because they tend to be sour and not very tasty. But it was the strawberry season, and Japanese strawberries are usually very sweet and fragrant.
Look at my parfait! Chockful of strawberries in a cocktail glass. It was too pretty to eat.
I felt sorry at having to ruin the beautiful presentation with my spoon.
My husband does not like eating fruit, so he chose the option that came with the least fruit. 🙂 How is it possible for anyone to not like fruit, especially Japanese fruits?
I read that the Shinjuku outlet is Takano’s flagship shop, and they have a space in one of the basement floors in Takashimya selling fruit.
Takano Fruit Parlour
Address: 3-26-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan. 東京都新宿区新宿3-26-11.
Tel: +81 3 5368-5147
We walked past Aoyama Flower Market, a beautiful florist-cum-tea-house in Omotesando, and dropped in to use their bathroom.
I took a peek into the tea-house and decided that I wanted to go in! The interior was so pretty! Like a conservatory filled with flowers and wooden furniture, and lots of lovely Japanese women in women’s office wear, sipping cups of tea and nibbling on a sandwich or salads.
I wanted to get a table and have a cup of tea (even though I am not really a tea person) just so that I can soak in the feminine ambience of the tea-house. I inquired with the wait-staff and was told that I had to wait at least 30 minutes before a table would become available, and even then, there was already a bevy of ladies seated inside the cafe waiting for their table. (I don’t think I caught sight of any male in that tea-cafe).
The next best thing that I do was to wander around the flower market, looking at the beautiful flowers, so attractively displayed with blooms in every possible shape and color spilling out of vintage metal cans and glass jars. I could not stop ooh-ing and aah-ing.
Looking at these flowers made me want to ignore all common sense, and walk out of the flower market with the largest bouquet of flowers that I can manage. But what will I do with them?
I love how they arranged the flowers by colors. One section held blooms in shades of vermillion, pink, and peach. Another section held the whites and creams. My favorite section is the one in the last photo – the blue, purple, lavender and maroon blooms.
Next trip, I will be sure to get to the Aoyama Tea House early enough to secure a table, sip a cup of tea and skip out with a stalk of something too pretty to resist. Besides the outlet at Omotesando, they are also located at Akasaka and Kichijoji.
I am very fond of pancakes. My earliest memories of pancakes are the thin crepe-like ones that my maternal aunt used to make for tea. We ate them hot off the skillet, with lemon and sugar. I would roll my pancakes and eat them in two quick bites. They were my favorite tea-time snack.
These days, cafes offer thick fluffy pancakes that come with a variety of options – blueberry pancakes, caramelized banana pancakes, ricotta pancakes, red velvet pancakes, etc. Besides lemon-and-sugar pancakes, I also enjoy blueberry pancakes. Pity that I still cannot find a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes. (If you know of any, please let me know!) I remember that the pancakes at Relish were quite good, but I haven’t been back in such a long time, I am not sure if they still serve it.
When I was planning for our meals in Tokyo, looking for a breakfast place that sells good pancakes was a priority. The Japanese love pancakes, and I read that the city has a number of popular pancake places. I considered going to Bills as I have always wanted to try its ricotta pancakes, but the queue is daunting. The other options were Sarabeth at Daikanyama, Cafe Kaila in Omotesando, or Clinton St in Aoyama.
In the end, we settled on Clinton St, which came from NY. We woke up bright and early, and got to the cafe by 8am. I would rather wake up early to avoid a queue, then to waste time in a queue. Clinton St., somewhere in the Aoyama neighborhood, is a brisk 10 min walk from the Omotesando subway station.
I took a cursory look at the menu, because I already knew what I wanted to order. Without a doubt, a stack of blueberry pancakes! They were so good – golden brown on the outside, fluffy and moist on the inside, with a generous helping of blueberry compote, and a side of maple syrup. The husband ordered French toast, which he said was good. My stack of pancakes were fabulous – the best that I have eaten in ages. My iPhone6 photos of the pancakes do them no justice at all.
Would I go back to Clinton St again? Definitely. Check out their menu here.
Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant
5-17-1, Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Nearest subway station: Omotesando Station
Update: Omotesando Koffee is no longer in business and is now operating as Toranomon Koffee at Toranomon Hills.
So glad to be able to drink Omotesando Koffee’s brew again. This coffee bar was a regular feature during our February trip to Tokyo. It is a very convenient stop as there is a direct train-ride from our hotel in Shimbashi to Omotesando on the Ginza Line.
Located in a little machiya, on a quiet street in a residential estate at the back of Omotesando Hills, the coffee bar is one street away from Maisen Tonkatsu. We would usually stop by Omotesando Koffee for our coffee fix at around 10.30am in the morning, before strolling over to Maisen at around 10.50am to stand in line when it opens at 11am for lunch.
I hate queuing for food, but when I have to queue, I make sure that I am right at the start of the line!
The place is so picturesque, with a pretty Japanese garden out at the front.
That’s all the available sitting space in the coffee bar. If you don’t manage to grab one of those two benches, you have to stand around to drink your coffee.
Very simple place: one man, one counter housed in a frame that occupies all the space on the first floor of the machiya.
There is something mesmerizing about watching coffee trickling out of the portafilter into the cup.
The barista uniform – a standard lab-coat in powder blue.
Cold doppio cappuccino. I do not usually take cold, ice-blended coffee, and I do not like to try new things when I am very happy with the tried-and-tested (which in this case is their hot doppio cappuccino). So I have no idea what possessed me to order this at Omotesando Koffee during one of our visits. I guess it was one of those random ‘let-me-try-something-different-today’ impulse, and oh my gawd, I am so glad I gave in to the impulse.
The cold doppio cappuccino was shatteringly good. The barista put (what looked like) expresso, milk and ice into the blender and out came this thick and creamy beverage that was utterly delicious. This is now my favorite drink at Omotesando Koffee.
We also like the bite-sized baked custard snacks that Omotesando Koffee sells. The snack goes really well with coffee. Don’t over-indulge in these tasty morsels. They are tiny but quite filling.
Lucky to have these very attractive customers around as subjects when I was photographing the garden.
All smiles, enjoying expresso in his favorite coffee bar, in his favorite part of town.
I will put up directions to Omotesando Koffee shortly. I have got the directions to the place pat down in my brain, but they won’t stay there for long.
Address: 4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines), exit A2 Open Daily 10am-7pm
1. Take Exit A2 at Omotesando station on the Ginza Line. You will see a huge Apple store on your right and the ITO Hospital building in front of you. Turn right at the street and follow the Maisen Tonkatsu signages.
If you are at the opposite end of Omotesando boulevard (the side nearer Harajuku), just walk along the main road in the direction of Aoyama to get to the Apple store. Best to walk on the same side of the main road as Omotesando Hills and you will arrive at the Apple store outside the Omotesando station.
2. Walk along the street till you reach the T-junction at the end. You will see a Scandinavian home decor shop called Flying Tiger on the left of the street. Turn left at the end of the street and you will pass by a cafe called AfternoonTea Tea Stand.
3. Turn right into another street immediately after you walk pass AfternoonTea Tea Stand, (where the lorry is turning out of), following the direction of the Maisen signage again. Walk along the street.
4. Keep walking along the street and you will eventually see this blue building. This is Maisen Tonkatsu. To get to Omotesando Koffee, turn left at this junction.
5. You will see this big open-air carpark on your left.
6. Keep walking for a little while more and you will see a small cross-junction with this building on your right. Turn right immediately at this building and Omotesando Koffee is about 20 steps away, on your left.
We had a reservation at Shin-Hinomoto in Yurakucho on our second night in Tokyo. It was a rainy day, and the rain continued into the night. We were 30 minutes early for our 7pm reservation and had to wander around the vicinity because the izakaya was mobbed and could not yet give us a table. There are many restaurants and eateries tucked under the Yurakucho train tracks and Shin-Hinomoto is one of them. This is another place worth exploring in the evenings if you have no idea where to go for dinner.
That’s the front of Shin-Hinomoto, looks kind of scruffy on the outside, but it serves amazing food at very affordable prices. The shop may be difficult to spot in the dark, but the tip is to look out for the red lantern hanging outside the shop.
Huddle spot for smokers.
It was cold and rainy, and we decided to seek shelter at this concourse just 2 mins away from Shin-Hinomoto, where I killed time by taking photos.
Juxtaposition between the old and new.
Japanese plastic food samples that make my stomach growl.
Time for dinner! I was tempted to pop into this udon-ya for a quick bite. I was so hungry and cold but was damn glad I held out for what was to come at Shin-Hinomoto.
I have read so much about the lovely Shimokitazawa neighborhood located not far away Shibuya, I told myself that I must visit it on this trip. Besides the indie vibe that Shimokita is known for, I also wanted to visit it for Bear Pond Expresso and Shirohige Totoro Cream Puffs. Both shops are residing in the Shimokita neighbourhood.
Shimokita is easy accessible via the subway. We took the train to Shibuya station where we switched to the Keio Inokashira line which stops at the Shimokitazawa station, about 4 stops away from Shibuya.
One of the things I like best about strolling along the streets of Japan is turning a corner and being greeted by a burst of colors from a flower shop. Turn a corner in any neighborhood and you are bound to encounter several flower shops. It is a joy to poke around in these shops and admire pots and pots of botanicals that we hardly see in our tropical climate.
We were in Shimokita a little too early in the day. Most of the shops were still closed! And the streets were empty and quiet. Which isn’t a bad thing for me, because I got a chance to see these beautifully painted shutters of the closed shops. I had quite a lot of fun snapping photos of shop fronts and their colorful shutters.
This reminds me a little of the house in Hansel & Gretel.
This is my favorite. Love the cheery sunflower/daisy motifs.
That’s the grumpy husband, who isn’t a fan of these indie neighborhoods. He prefers Omotesando.
I wonder if the shop owners paint these shutters, or do they hire someone to do the job.
I like the shadows of the messy street wires.
Trust the Japanese to jazz up a boring lock with a cute Snoopy ornament.
Useful trolley to transport young kids around. No risk of losing control of a bunch of rambunctious kids on the streets.
It is amazing how many hair-salons there are in the neighborhood. Look at that owl-shaped door!
The Japanese are really good at visual merchandising.
Before we left Shimokitazawa, we dropped by Ichiran for a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Our first visit to Ichiran, and it was quite an interesting dining experience. You eat your noodles in individual booths, separated from your companions by a divider. A rather anti-social way of eating.
I would have loved to spend more time exploring the cute shops in the neighborhood. If I was on my own, I would have spent the entire day in Shimokitazawa, but not when you have a husband like mine in tow.