If you can get mad before the word genius, then maybe you can make genius appear.
That line that I stole from John Mayer was the first thing that came into my mind even before writing this post. I mean, who would be that mad to open a coffee shop in a dimly lit basement five meters under the street with no signage at all? To serve only three different types of the same coffee at a price higher than most specialty coffee shops? And the maddest of all: to run everything by himself? He is either mad or a pure genius. I’ll let you decide after my two cents below on the quirky Sarugaku Coffee.
Voted as the best coffee shop by the influential Japanese food review site Tabelog, Sarugaku remains intact with its idealism. It cares so little about directing people to them, and prefers to attract by the power of mystery. If you’re just passing by the street, you won’t know there’s a coffee shop down that tiny basement alley. If anything, their neighbor Caffe Foglio is more likely to be the place you end up in. But don’t get fooled, walk straight instead through the corridor.
Beyond that wooden door is a Narnia of its own. Low ceilings made of used wood planks, second-hand ladder, giant jazz-playing speaker, and tons of old CD collections set the tone for Sarugaku’s unusual ambience. The tables are set in a way that repulse loud conversations. Each of them is almost like a private confession room, purposefully built so that you’ll spend more time appreciating either the person that you are with or the cup of coffee that’s sitting on your table.
The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Here the coffee comes only in drip-style with three different variety: regular, bitter, or strong, all priced at 600 Yen. It is going to take a long while for him to prepare the coffee, so carry an extra dose of patience here. It is worth the wait though. The coffee is very much enjoyable, easily pleasing, and well balanced. The kind that you’d drink sip by sip with an interval of short and long pause in between, letting the taste warm down your palate.
Other than the coffee, their milk (latte) is one that I’d actually highlight for two reasons. One is the unique inexplicable taste. Two is the idea of serving it in a bowl. It naturally requires you to hold it with both hands, and in such autumn weather, a hand-warming cup of latte adds a lot to the experience. I recommend this and the cheesecake, as well as the coffee.
Now that you’ve heard what I want to say, what’s your vote? As for me, I’m leaning towards John. That guy who runs Sarugaku Coffee is indeed a genius in one way or another, although on face value the masses would consider him mad.
To caffeine and beyond,
Sarugaku Coffee Daikanyama
English: B1F Daikanyama Post Office Bldg, 23-3 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Japanese: 渋谷区猿楽町23-3 鳥居ビルB-1 Shibuya, 東京都
Closest metro station: Daikanyama
Daily 1PM – 7PM
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