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