Archive for January, 2012

Anniversaire Café: Omotesando‘s last outdoor café

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


The street running from the top of the Omotesando slope down to Harajuku station has often been called the Champs-Elysées of Tokyo. It once had some of the energy and diversity of that famed Parisien boulevard, but that was then.

Both sides of the street were alive with small shops. The venerable 80-year old Dojunkai Apartment complex— a warren of tiny apartments and tinier boutiques—gave the street a synergistic mix of shabby and cool. Paris sent an ambassador, a small branch outpost of Café de Flore where you could sip coffee outside and watch the passing Tokyo street life. Café Des Pres also had a lively street presence as did the magnificent Aux Bacchanales in Harajuku.

Those cafés are long gone. The Dojunkai Apartments have been been replaced by a sterile shopping mall, and Omotesando is chock-a-block with sleek high-end designer architectural confections of glass and textured steel that conspire to create perhaps the world‘s most expensive wind tunnel.

Yet, one bright spot remains. Anniversaire Café. Near the top of Omotesando street, this lively café serves superb onion gratin soup in winter and fruit sorbets in summer. Sandwiches are good. Salads are fresh. Customers even brave winter rain to sit outside under the awning, warmed  by blankets and the blast of space heaters.

The café is part of a wedding factory, including a faux chapel situated beyond an arched passageway. On certain days, once every hour, newlywed couples pop out of the chapel and promenade through the archway heralded by the café trumpeter and his female accompaniest on the electric organ. Customers at the outside tables are given handbells to ring congratulations to the passing couple.

A sincere kind of phoniness, of course, but the smiles on the newlyweds are real.

Anniversaire Café is real too. You can lounge at an outside table, with a newspaper, a book, or an iPad, and nurse a café creme or a glass of Chardonnay for as long as you as you care to.

You can find Anniversaire Café about a hundred meters down the slope from Omotesando crossing on the police koban side of the street. The café is open everyday.