Tokyo Coffee Diary (ii)

Continuing from where I left off the last time...

[I am ashamed to say that this is almost four months late, and unfortunately my memory is fuzzy and my descriptions are not going to be as on point as they were for part (i) (here!), but I will try to recall everything as best as I can.]

6. Paddlers Coffee

So this was a chance visit. It was the kind of place on my coffee list but not on my 'die-die-must-go' list, but when my mom and I walked past it one sunny morning in Shibuya, we decided to check it out. I feel as though we spotted it by a stroke of luck; a little flag hanging off the side of a wall; a stand on the floor that said 'Paddlers Coffee'. Paddlers' is the only place outside of the USA that serves Stumptown Coffee, and having followed Stumptown's Instagram for quite a while, I was undeniably rather excited. 

Tucked in the corner on the second floor of a rather indie-looking shop (Todd Snyder, never heard of it until that day), Paddlers is tiny; unassuming even. Here, they only offer filter coffee, and you have a choice of three regions - Latin America, Africa and Indonesia - and a blend. We had the Indonesia, which came under the barista's recommendation as the "least acidic coffee" of the three. 

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As it was my first time having proper filter coffee, I didn't quite know what to expect. The Indonesia was pleasant; earthy and dark. The coffee had a light mouthfeel, and I wondered if it was too diluted. That aside, it was quite refreshing. I felt a little bad though, as they didn't have any milk on them and my mom doesn't like her coffee black! We later found that they had recently opened a new branch that serves espresso in Nishihara, so if that's more your style, you can head there instead. 

Paddlers' Coffee
Todd Snyder Townhouse, 6-18-14, Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku
Nearest Station: Shibuya Station/Harajuku Station
Open 11am-7pm daily

2-26-5 Nishihara, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Yoyogi-Uehara
Open 7:30am-6pm daily

7. Turret Coffee

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When you're googling the 'best coffee in Tokyo', a few big names come up. Omotesando Koffee. Bear Pond. Streamer. The list goes on. But of all the lists I've seen, Turret hardly makes an appearance on any, which I feel is completely unjustified, because Turret definitely ranks near the top of my list. Turret actually uses the same beans as that of Streamer's and the person who opened it used to work under Hiroshi Sawada at Streamer. However, I found that I enjoyed the coffee at Turret's a lot more than the one at Lattest -  maybe I should have gone to the original Streamer outlet instead. Anyway, this just shows the importance of the many variables involved in the making of coffee, and how the same beans can produce rather different cups of coffees. 

Turret's coffee had a wonderful balance of flavours, and the milk really allowed the dark notes of the coffee to shine instead of overpowering them. The coffee was not acidic in the least, which I liked very much. I highly recommend a trip to this place, especially after a trip to the Tsukiji fish market which is a 5-10 minute walk away! Oh, and did you know that turrets are actually the names of the trucks that deliver goods to and from the Tsukiji fish market? 

Turret Coffee

2-12-6 Tsukiji Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Tsukiji-Shio/Hibiya
Opening Hours: 
Mon-Sat 7am-6pm
Sun 12-6pm

8. About Life Coffee Brewers

I only just realised, but I'm not sure if the guy was posing for my camera. Anyway, I'm kind of upset that I didn't take any good pictures of this lovely little coffee stand in Shibuya, because it's so (instagrammable) adorable. This is pretty much a takeaway joint, and there are no seats save for a tiny bench outside the kiosk itself. My mom and I opted to drink our coffee on-the-go, which is not a very Tokyolite thing to do, but we did it anyway. 

The people here really seem to know their shit about coffee. I didn't get a chance to talk to them but I read a little article about them in Drift (volume 2), a wonderful publication about coffee and I was really quite impressed. What further impressed me, however, was my latte. I was initially a bit skeptical about their coffee as I had read somewhere that this was one of the few places in Tokyo that used a light roast for the beans. But what About Life did was show me that light roasts can be done, and when done right, they are a truly work of art. 

About Life Coffee Brewers
1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Shibuya
Open daily 8:30am-8:30pm  

9. Omotesando Koffee [CLOSED] 

[edit (26/1/2016):  I just did a random google search and discovered that Omotesando has closed! My heart just broke into a million pieces. Toranomon Koffee is, thankfully, still up and running - but I will miss this quaint hideout very much.] 

The place is a little shed tucked away in a quiet street away from the busy streets of Shibuya and Harajuku. It feels like an entirely different world once you turn into the side streets, and when you step into Omotesando Koffee, you'd wonder if you are really in the city at all. Most of the seats are found in the garden, and the whole place exudes incredibly homely vibes. I would think "quaint" is the best word to describe this place. 

I was highly impressed by the fact that they had an automatic (??) tamper. And it's pretty genius, I don't know why most places don't seem to use one but it's such a good idea. It would really make all the coffees a lot more consistent. Consistent tamping probably wouldn't be much of a problem for such experienced baristas though, but it's the little things that count, right? 

The coffee was smooth, nothing mind-blowing, but good, and safe. The baked custard cube complemented the coffee rather well. It's something like a canele, and the crunchy, caramelised edges were divine. (P.s. do forgive my ugly thumbnail in the picture above.)

 Omotesando Koffee
4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Omotesando
Open daily 10am-7pm

10. Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee is where I had one of my first experiences with specialty coffee. It was during a trip to San Fran in 2013. Unfortunately, I don't think I truly appreciated what I was drinking back then. All I remember thinking was that they had a really nice logo and that the queue was very long. I was very excited to hear that they had expanded to Asia, though, and to Tokyo at that! 

Their Tokyo outpost is huge. It's actually located on the second floor of a building, on top of a shop called Zucca - so don't get confused while you're looking at google maps. The design of the place is minimalistic, while the wood flooring gives it  a rustic feel, coupled with the greenery at the patio. They even have a whole section selling merchandise! 

Of course, I had to have a gibraltar as Blue Bottle is supposedly the place that invented it! A gibraltar is basically the in-between of a macchiato and a latte, somewhat similar to a piccolo. I distinctly remember that the coffee here was a lot sharper and brighter compared to most of the coffees I've had on the trip, and it had a fantastic mouthfeel. And just look at that latte art. The milk was done beautifully. 

My only regret was leaving this to the last day, because the brunch menu looked awesome and I would have loved to try their beignets but I was too stuffed from a morning of eating. But I'll make it back, I promise. Or to the SF branch. Somewhere, someday, somehow. 

Blue Bottle Coffee
3-13-14 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-0062
Nearest Station: Omotesando
Open daily from 10am-9pm 

 

Bear Pond Espresso

This was what I had initially typed for Bear Pond in my (upcoming!) Tokyo Coffee Trail post, but after spending practically the whole day trying to put all my thoughts into words, I decided to just heck it and give it a post of its' own. 

Bear Pond has been on my coffee shop bucket list ever since I watched A Film About Coffee, in which it was featured. This is probably one of the most prominent espresso shops in Tokyo, with good reason. Here, you can always expect (and are most likely to receive) a good, solid cup of coffee, especially given the number of rules put in place to ensure consistency in every shot. For one, only one person is allowed to pull the shots in this tiny space - and that person is none other than Katsu Tanaka himself, owner of Bear Pond Espresso. Secondly, coffee is only available for a few hours a day - typically from about 10:30am (when the shop opens) to 2pm, which is when a daily flux in the power grid messes with the machine. It is also the time of the day when the shop gets too busy for Katsu to give each and every shot of espresso his 100%. 

To be honest, I'm not sure how this third rule contributes to the consistency of every shot of espresso, but I'm thinking that the constant use of cameras in his presence may be distracting. Or the irresponsible use of flash photography. Whatever it is, photography seems to be strictly prohibited in Bear Pond. If you wish to snap a shot of your espresso (like I did), you'll have to go up to the counter lady to ask for permission to do so. I was kind of surprised when she gave me the go-ahead to take one, though. The service here is not exactly the friendliest, which is surprising given the typically good service found in Japan. I felt a tad uncomfortable sitting there sipping on my dirty espresso, reading the picture of dorian gray. Almost unwelcome. Based on reviews I've read though, I think it depends on the mood of Katsu and counter lady - basically, your luck. But that's not the main focus here, and don't let it be.

Now, this is. I'm still struggling to put this into words. This dirty espresso is basically a shot of espresso layered with some whole milk, followed by another shot of espresso. It felt like a delicate balance of flavours and textures. I've never had any coffee quite like it. In my first sip, I could already taste the notes of chocolate in the coffee. 80% espresso and 20% milk, to be exact. (According to Katsu here). Bold, dark and sweet. As the espresso and milk began to blend, the flavours became increasingly complex, eventually shifting to a 1:5 ratio of espresso to milk (basically, a reverse of the above). How precise; and how fascinating. The espresso was thick and viscous, making the milk feel more like a complement rather than a distraction to the taste and mouthfeel of the coffee. Very sexy indeed. This magic was over too soon. I wanted to have an espresso, but I had gone down on a Wednesday, and they did not sell their angel stain espresso on Wednesday. The disappointment was real. 

I meant to go back sometime, but Shimokitazawa is not exactly one of the most convenient locations, and there was so much more of Tokyo to explore. But I promise, I will be back one day. Just not on a Wednesday. 

Bear Pond Espresso
2-Chome-36-12, Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0031
Nearest station: Shimokitazawa (take the North exit)
Open Wed-Mon

 

Coast and Company x FatCat

So today, Alex and I went all the way down to the East to strike off two places that have risen quite high on our to-go lists!! My transport luck was terrible this morning, though. First of all, I missed my bus - the only direct bus to that part of the East for me, and although SG NextBus said that the next one was coming in four minutes, it never came. SO. I decided to try out an alternative route, but I got off a few stops too early and had to re-route. On the way to my new bus stop, I saw the bus that I was supposed to take leave. So I hopped onto a random bus for a few stops before I decided to take a bus to an mrt station that I kind of knew my way around (Kembangan), and find my way from there. Well, I made it in the end - after a lot of walking from Kembangan. Sigh, the East. The journey is never well.

That being said! The food at both Coast and FatCat was worth it - although I was pretty sad to see that the sour cream toast had been taken off the menu, for Alex and I were both really looking forward to trying it. Instead, we had the smoked salmon brioche toast and almond peanut butter toast, both of which were pretty darn good.

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The coffee was ace as well. Which was a relief, because I was so afraid that the amount of walking I did would not be justified by a substandard cup of coffee. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

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After a good first brunch and chilling session, we made our way to FatCat Ice Cream bar - somewhere that had been on our to-go list ever since it opened because of all those darned Instagram photos of those charcoal waffles drizzled with salted egg yolk sauce and the myriad of ice cream flavours available ranging from the classic to the mysterious.

(Seriously though, there is a 'Mysterious' ice cream flavour - Alex tried it and it's truly a FatCat mystery, for she cannot tell you exactly what it is after tasting it)

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We were first in line. This was the queue as we were leaving, and we left at like 12:50 (the shop opened at 12). We got there at 11:30 due to our earlybirdiness (is this even a word) and by the time 12 rolled around, there was a really long line of people waiting (even more people than what you see in the photo above) and we were so proud of ourselves for being the first. We even took a selfie to celebrate.

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Anyway, the Gourmet Waffles - yes, they deserve that capitalisation. They're that fantabulous. We had ours with butterbeer and hay-and-honey ice cream.

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The wait - and the journey - is worth it. The fifteen-minute wait for our Waffles was probably one of the most agonising waits ever, as we were so excited to try this special thing and well, our expectations were surpassed. Isn't it lovely when you look forward all year to try something and it ends up being even better than you imagined?

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I think half-eaten shots are our signature photos.

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Everyone can do with a little bit of salted egg yolk sauce in their lives. The sauce was very grainy, much like those found in liu sha baos (which are truly some of the best things ever). I think my terrible pouring skills didn't manage to cover the whole Waffle in that sauce very sufficiently - thank goodness there was a generous amount of caramel surrounding the Waffle, with some of the most delicate bits of lavender. Truly Gourmet food.

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(Not gonna lie, we kind of went crazy with the photos.)

Cafe-hopping mornings with Alex are the best mornings :'))) The ambience at the two cafes we went to were actually quite different - pretty interesting. Coast and Company was incredibly chill and peaceful, while FatCat was bustling with people right from their opening - they've really become so popular in such a short span of time. The only gripe I have with FatCat is that there seems to be no 3G in there...? But it's not quite their fault! (Singtel please). I would love to go back to FatCat sometime soon - I actually thought it was a lot more accessible than Coast and Company, for the walk to the main road is a lot shorter, thus making it a lot more convenient.

Anyway, we've got our next Eastventure planned out already, and I can't wait.

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Duck and Waffle {London}

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset I am guilty of having moments when I let my mind wander, and I think about the things of the past... Things I was supposed to have let go of a long time ago, the things I did wrong, the things I did right. And then there are things like really good breakfasts.

Breakfasts that you just can't seem to forget.

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Breakfasts that just leave you wanting more... Even when you are millions of kilometres away from that breakfast place.

The kind of breakfast you wake up at six in the morning on your last day of holiday for (and make the rest of your family wake up for too). The kind of breakfast that is worth it. This place is open 24/7, but it is so hard to get a reservation! At a "godly" hour, that is. We made a reservation the night before for 7:30 the next morning, driven primarily by my desperation to try the famous dish that the whole restaurant is named after - the Duck and Waffle!

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This was probably one of the best breakfasts that I had on the entire trip, if not the best. Let's deconstruct it, shall we?

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The egg, well... Eggs are perfection, and to me you can never go wrong with eggs. They go perfectly with anything and everything (my father would disagree though), and the fried duck egg is such a good touch.

The crisp skin of the duck was crunchy, salted goodness, and the meat of the duck retained its tenderness despite the skin being fried to perfection, for it wasn't dry or tough. The maple syrup, when poured atop, added an excellent depth of flavour to the duck and it was truly looking at things in a new light - I would have never thought of eating duck with maple syrup before, but now I think it is a fantastic idea.

The waffle, perfect. Crisp and fluffy, just how I like it. When my sister first saw that these were Belgian waffles, her mind immediately turned to the Liege waffle, all-too-commonly known as a Belgian waffle. But those are merely a variation of the Belgian waffle - the real Belgian waffle, my friend, is actually rather similar to the American waffle. It simply has more air pockets, making it lighter and crisper. These were the perfect accompaniment to the duck, for the plain and simple waffle highlighted the contrast between the sweet and savoury. Cut a piece of duck, a square of waffle and a bit of the egg, dip it in some maple syrup (or drench the entire plate in maple syrup before hand) and pop the whole thing in your mouth.

Relish it, and appreciate the importance of each component. Look at the view, and start to see the world in a different light. Think about how ducks and waffles are such an odd combination but they go together better than peanut butter and jelly.

I'm starting to realise that waffles are so much more than a mere dessert dish. Waffles are incredibly versatile, and they could actually be variable substitutes for a number of things - rice, noodles, bread, and so on! Use them in a main course, instead - because you can! They do an amazing job in highlighting flavours and flavour combinations, yet are so underrated because of their stereotype. However, with places like Duck and Waffle and Revelry popping up, this stereotype may soon change!

As you may have noticed, this dish was so good that I didn't even take any half-eaten shots of my food, for I was too busy enjoying it. Coupled with the rising sun, watching the city wake up, it was really the best way to end my trip, and the best breakfast to end with, with the best company. The view is quite amazing, and the atmosphere is perfect. I also had the loveliest French waiter - it was really a pleasure to have been served by him.

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Do head to this place if you have the chance to - I have heard varying reviews on it, ranging from fabulous to overrated, but the best way to find out is to really try it for yourself. I did, and it was fantastic. I do hope you think so too.

Duck and Waffle Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY Open 24 hours