Thursday, June 4, 2009

Espressamente Illy, Marunouchi

No, not really, because I haven't been drinking coffee much this year (good lord, the year's almost half over). But today 鈴寺さん and I went out so I could listen to her complain about work, and we headed toward Kitchen Street again, and then I remembered the semi-outdoor place at the northwest extreme of Tokyo Station, and it turned out to be an Illy cafe, and boy was I happy with that because I don't think there's better coffee in Japan.

When I lived in Australia, I drank a lot more coffee. I like to say that the Italian immigrant influence has produced a coffee culture rooted in the Italian fundamentals - but using 'culture' and 'Australia' in the same sentence is a bit suspect, I have no real idea about the immigration theory, and I've never been to Italy. I DO know that US-style coffee is too big and funny-tasting, whereas the cappucinos I used to drink in Sydney had a lovely balance of coffee to milk (and onward to foam. And yes, I do think Melbourne coffee is better at the margin.). And I also know that I tried a lot of brands in Australia and consistently preferred Illy. But in Japan you have your choice of American-style coffee chains, Japanese-style chains (low-end like Doutor, which I think of as basically a place where you pay to sit, since real estate is expensive here, and they happen to give you brown beverages, or else high-end like Kohikan or standalone places, which are inexplicably expensive and packed with ritualistic trimmings surrounding the brewing process while not really delivering on taste.) - or Illy.

I'm not a nut about seeking these out or anything; looking at the web I see that there are actually 15 of them. It's just that one was in Hillz, and in fact was in a weird 2nd-floor location that made it somewhat immune to prying eyes whereas Staba was right out there for all to see, and the flagship store is in Nihonbashi, right next to Takashimaya, where I like to buy imported ham and domestic sausage. The flagship is big, stylish, and well worth a linger. The Tokyo Station store is small, cramped and oddly-placed (the far northwest corner of the station, to the right of the bus area, kinda the opposite side from the Bell-Mart) but still has the coffee!

There's actually a fair selection - 6 pastas, assorted sandwiches, cakes for dessert, lotsa specialty coffee...Linji had the asapara-chicken-carbonara, which she pronounced 'good', though I secretly theorize she was too busy complaining to taste it (Been there! Sympathetic!) while I had cold capellini with tomato and avocado. It was quite good! Chunks of fresh tomato, pureed fresh tomato serving as the sauce, and almost half an avocado (well, a small one) all mixed together. Very enjoyable. Pastas are Y700 or so, lunch coffees are Y250. They got really confused when I tried to order a specialty coffee from the wall, not on the menu (hey, you've got these pretty pictures there to entice me, and then you're going to act all coy when I actually want to drink one of the pictured items?!), and after consultation between 2 staff and the manager I gave up and just had espresso. Which was Illy, and which was quite good.

Open from 7:00 until 23:00, pretty cool. Remember that next time you take shinkansen or NEX, OK?


  1. hey -this is molly - matt sweeny's wife - he told me you took him to an ILLY CAFE today!! i gotta get in the know... need my illy. is it in the marunouchi building? matt has no idea about where you were - he just said you walked a little ways to get there. would love to get the details...

  2. Molly, we actually went to the one in this post. It's in the northwest corner of Tokyo Station. Closest subway exit would be Otemachi B7, then follow the side of the big building away from the main street, turn right at the corner.

    The one by Nihonbashi Takashimaya is much better though, and that's RIGHT next to exit B4.

    I'll gladly accept a coffee from your Francis Francis machine any time! I looked at them for years when I lived in Australia but never bought one.

  3. headed to exit B4 TODAY. can't thank you enough!

    thanks for hooking me up with my drug...

    (and when i get my francis francis wired for japan electricity - we'll have you over - but i'm not hopeful... plus i'm a bit worried that as soon as i get it changed, we'll move back to china. not ready for that to happen ;)