Archive for the ‘Asagaya’ Category

Café Deux Oiseaux: Stylish old-school Asagaya kissaten

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

Deux Oiseaux exterior

Thirty years ago, Café Deux Oiseaux was started in Asagaya by two birds of a feather, Takao Sou and his wife.

Deux Oiseaux interiorAnd for those regular neighborhood customers who flock together at Deux Oiseaux,  this old-school kissaten with its stylish airy interior, richly-grained oak counter, warm wood-plank floor, bentwood café chairs, fresh flowers, and Sou’s lovingly crafted felt-drip coffee, serves as a gathering spot, gossip center, art gallery, and quiet oasis from flurry and commotion.

Sou is a disciple of the 100-year old, yet spry and energetic, Ichiro Sekiguchi-san who still roasts his own beans daily at Café de L’Ambre in Ginza.

Decades ago at L’Ambre, Sou learned the craft and discipline of making neru drip coffee.

And the equipment of this craft laid out at Deux Oiseaux—the curve of the counter, the position of the grinder, the glass jars of roasted beans, two copper hot water kettles, the gas burners, and the small wooden-handled copper pot to receive the brew—is arranged just as it is at L’Ambre.

Deux Oiseaux Sou-sanA master of the neru, cotton felt-filter, brewing technique, Sou keeps the tilted hot water kettle motionless against his right side as he leans ever so slightly forward to allow a stream of water so thin it resembles a string of pearls to fall from its copper spout. His left hand moves the filter almost imperceptibly under the beads of water to completely wet and imbue the freshly ground coffee.

The aromatic liquid is caught in the small bright copper pot which Sou then briefly holds over a blue gas flame to regain the proper drinking temperature before pouring the coffee into a pre-warmed cup. The finished brew, a medium-roast Kilimanjaro AA, is richly flavored with a clean, bright finish (550 yen).

Deux Oiseaux Sou-san 2After finishing the brew, Sou takes a break to adjust and retie the crisp white chef’s apron he wears around his waist. His wife takes an ice pick and and a shallow wooden bucket with a large block of ice and starts deconstructing it into small glistening chunks for the glass of ice water one gets after ordering.

Sou is not sure if he’ll be able to continue serving coffee until he’s a century old. But his wife smiles and says they’ll give it a go.

Sou doesn’t worry about the corporate coffee company chains. “Almost all my customers are regulars,” he says. “Families come here. Even grandparents bring their grandchildren sometimes.”

Deux Oiseaux Sou-san wife iceA well-dressed matron at the counter looks up from her coffee. “I’ve been to Starbucks,” she says. “They are often near a station, and are a good place to meet someone. But I come here because I like the two people behind the counter.” Sou smiles in response. “And, of course, because the coffee is outstanding,” she adds. “Sou puts his heart into every cup.”


Café Deux Oiseaux (03-3338-8044), Asagaya Kita 4-6-28, Suginami Ward. The café is about 8 or 9 minutes from the north exit of Asagaya station. Exit the station and cross the bus zone toward Ito Yokado and the Tendon, Soba, Udon shop on the corner. Walk past that straight along  Nakasugi Street and the café will be on your left.

Violon: Café et Musique. Classic kissaten on Asagaya backstreet

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Violon interior 1

Violon is a classic. Customers come here for classical music and coffee. That’s all Violon provides and that’s all the customers need.

Violon interior tubesAll seats face the massive array of speakers and horns that are built into a special pit that extends down below the floor. The ceiling behind the speakers gently arches forward for a better acoustic.

Music lovers come to Violon mostly solo to read, to sleep, or to make a request and listen to a vinyl LP. But the small tables also accommodate duos, trios, or even a quartet.

The place serves coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate, orange juice or cola. All are the same price—350 yen.

But when the coffee arrives, you are offered the option of brandy in your brew. Should you accept, the young lady deftly shakes a small vial about six times over your cup sending in perhaps a teaspoon of the distilled grape into your coffee. It‘s not enough alcohol to give you a buzz, but if the music doesn’t mellow your mood, the brandy will.

Customers are known to nod off, head against the wall in slumber, while their coffee slowly cools.

Violon coffee 1Others sit, head in hands, staring at the speakers lost in reverie. Some have carved messages into the worn wooden tabletops.

The six tiny tables in the center are in a sort of orchestra pit planked with wood and one gets the feeling of sitting in the hold of an old sailing ship.

Thousands of vinyl LPs are stacked into shelfs. You can write up a request on the chalkboard near the miniscule kitchen should you prefer to listen to anything from Mussorgsky, Brahms, Dvorak, Chopin, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, or any other composer, including of course, the master, J. S. Bach.

When I arrived, a symphony that I couldn’t place was playing. A few moments later a trio of young people entered and ordered tea with one young man remarking, “Ah, Schumann’s ‘Spring Symphony’.” I climbed the three steps up to the register to check. He was right.

Violon loveThe sound system runs on vacuum tubes—RCA UY-227 Radiotron Amplifier Tubes—seemingly from the 1950s. The owner has laid in a large stock of these irreplaceable components.

Violon seems to host a live classical music concert almost every night, including solo pianists, string quartets, and even a theremin performer. Details are provided on the website.

Violon: Asagaya Kita 2-9-5. Tel: 03-3336-6414, Open 12pm to 11pm. LP Record Time is until 6pm on days with musical events. Closed on Tuesdays. A map on how to get there is on Violon’s website