Jashumon: Ogikubo Coffee shop Time Slip

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Jashumon exterior passersby

As if by magic, time has stopped inside the coffee shop, Jashumon, just a short minute from Ogikubo station. This old kissaten started serving coffee, tea, and other drinks in 1955.

Jashumon upstairs 2If you are an intrepid wanderer of this vast city, you may discover in other backstreets of other languishing neighborhoods old kissaten bearing the same name, “Jashumon.”  These iterations resemble each other in their collections of antique clocks gracing the tinged walls, their abundance of lanterns and lamps lighting the heavy-framed oil paintings crowding the pendulum clocks, and their preservation of a venerated past.

The original Jushamon operated on a side street in Kunitachi for decades. (The small, leaning building still sits there locked up tight.)

The coffee shop owner and proprietor, Nawa-san, was also an accomplished magician who, more than half a century ago, had tutored a group of young people in the art of legermain. And in honor of their revered teacher, some pupils opened their own “Jushamon” kissaten in different parts of the city.

Jashumon stairs downNawa-san started his extended magical engagement in heaven in 2008, but the Ogikubo Jushamon, run by pupil Kazue Furota, a sprightly 83-year-young woman, still carries on.

Walking up and down the very steep stairs from the first floor kitchen to the second floor coffee room must be keeping Furota-san spry. (The photo shows the view from upstairs.)

She will arrive at your table with a pleasant smile and your carefully prepared cup of the day’s featured bean, or your cappucino, your  “Vienna” coffee—black coffee with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or your sophisticated Italian coffee.

This Jashumon speciality comes with a cup of hot lemonade which you are to sip between sips of the dark Italian roast.

Jashumon muskersOn a recent visit, Furota-san commented on the collection of ancient muskets racked above a window. She says these weapons found their way into her family generations ago, and they were fired in three wars: the Spanish War of Independence, the American Civil War, and the  Satsuma Rebellion of the samurai.

Some people have commented that, at her age, Furota-san should retire and take it easy, but she says that as long as the joren (the regular customers) keep coming, she’ll keep going.

Sitting at second-floor table, looking at the defunct dusty reel-to-reel tape recorder, the stack of discolored manga, or the grafitti of names and dates scratched or inked onto the walls, one indeed is transported to an earlier, analog Tokyo.

Back in the day, Furota-san helped lay the bricks that support the walls that support the multitude of clocks which are now tick-tocking away the minutes.

 

Jashumon

1-6-11 Kami Ogi, Suginami Ward

Tel: 03-3398-6206

Open daily 2:30 pm to 9:30pm

Jashumon is just a minute walk from the north exit of Ogikubo station. Exit the station and bear right. You’ll soon see the overhead yellow sign of the “Ogikubo North Exit Shotengai.” Turn in there.

 

 

 

Chic, cheap Italian eatery in Ogikubo

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

 

The stylish Italian eatery, La Gallina, is situated on a slightly seamy sidestreet in Ogikubo next to a cos-play joint called AquaDoll. The touts trying to entice passersby to descend to the club, however, don’t seem to care. Such juxtapositions are common along the Chuo Line.

The customers at La Gallina don’t mind either. They’ve come for the simple, yet delicious food, expertly prepared and served with flair. They are also here for the very reasonable prices.

Chef Miyamoto worked in Puglia, Piemonte and Parma for four years and brought back to Japan considerable skills and an educated palate. His white bean soup (600 yen), a deeply satisfying Puglia favorite, is made with pureed cannellini beans moistened with chicken broth, blessed with a hint of sage, then drizzled with a swirl of olive oil and topped with a garlic-infused bruschetta and parsley. Fantastico.

Another excellent starter is his aji mariné with vegetable vinaigrette (1500 yen). This dish, easily shared by two, combines thick slices of tasty horse mackerel with a baby leaf salad and a fine dice of celery, daikon, carrot, whole capers, and slivers of green onion, all bathed a light tasty dressing. The careful, uniform dice of the veggies subtly shows the impressive knife skills and attention to detail that Chef Miyamoto brings to his cooking.

A variety of pasta dishes are offered, including a few daily menu choices chalked up on the black slate board. The gnocchi with taleggio cheese (1800 yen), again easily shared, were cloud-like pillows of potato pasta in a creamy, yet tangy sauce. Miyamoto finishes this dish with a line across the plate of chopped Italian parsley and another line of freshly ground black pepper. Unpretentious and delicioso.

The main dishes too are consistently fine. The grilled pork chop with rosemary (1800 yen) was a generous cut of pork nicely caramelized in spots but still juicy and faintly blushed with pink. The accompanying vegetables—broccoli, carrot, turnip, and sugar snap beans—were also nicely grilled and flavored with a rosemary-infused olive oil.

Another winning dish was the roast chicken with red wine sauce (1600 yen). The portion of thigh was perfectly crisped on the outside, yet tender on the inside. The red wine sauce was richly flavored with balsamic vinegar and a few grains of sea salt.

The separate dessert menu offers six or seven choices. The fruit madedonia with gelato (500 yen) is a refreshing melange of apple, orange, grapefruit, and kiwi (both yellow and green), crowned with a dollop of honey gelato. An unusual and tasty end to a meal is Miyamoto’s limoncello bruleé (500 yen).

The wine list is well-chosen with a broad selection of Italian whites and reds. Most bottles are priced at less than 5000 yen. One of the best is the young “Super-Tuscan” Dogajolo, an elegant, fruity red (4200 yen) or, among the whites, the Monteoro Vermentino Gallura 2009 from Sardinia (3900 yen).

The decor, at first, seems simple to the point of austerity. But after a glass or two of spumante (800 yen), the off-white plaster walls textured with trowel marks take on the potential of unfinished canvases. And the plain, dark wood tables frame and focus all attention to the food on the plate.

I’ve got only one quibble with La Gallina. I like the heroic tone and polished timbre of the Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, just as much as the next guy, but hearing him belt out his best-selling song Con te partiro, four times during dinner would strain even the patience of a saint.

5-24-7 Ogikubo, Suginami-ku. Tel: 03-3392-9855. Lunch 11:30 am to 2 pm (L.O.) Dinner 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm (L.O.). Closed Mondays. For the complete review, and other of my reviews, please check out http://metropolis.co.jp/dining/restaurant-reviews/la-gallina/