It’s been a while since I’ve been ambivalent to write about a cafe, and it’s even worse considering it’s a cafe with pretty damn strong name recognition. Meaning I’m either the dad yelling at their kid for getting two runs but not a home run, or yelling at their kid because they got a home run but it almost fouled. Yeah I expect too much. Toranomon Koffee is the only cafe I had to give a second chance to in my past revival of coffee searching. That sounds bad, but there was at least the sign there was enough effort on display to warrant it. I never gave Think Coffee’s espresso a second chance, and I never will (unless they change drastically), so put your fedora back on and go back to blasting The Postal Service.
So that was a negative start wasn’t it? Toranomon Koffee is a branch of Omotesando Koffee which is located in Toranomon of all places. It’s a pretty chic little cafe in the lobby floor of a behemoth of an office building that has a perfect view of Tokyo Tower. They have that style of fake wood and slickness that I would refer to as the ‘expensive stuff at ikea style’ and design was carefully planned out in every single aspect from the way they put coffee beans in little test tubes, to their minimalist coffee bags. Style-wise, it is the antithesis of Sarutahiko Coffee which feels warm, interesting yet unrefined. It’s actually a style that I quite enjoy and willingly give them points for it since it is so tightly designed it belongs in an interior design magazine. Which isn’t a stretch because I own a few coffee magazines written by what appear to be architecture nerds (Brutus).
Coffee is the make or break for any cafe in my mind however, and the fact that I’m writing about this cafe means it didn’t really break. It had been a long time since I had a ristretto because it’s not only such a hard thing to pull off well but it also requires a different grinder setting and a different ratio of coffee. I’m not Achille Gaggia, the space god king of espresso, so I’ll never truly know, but my idea of ristretto was that it’s a way to get something full of flavor and highly layered into an even shorter yet larger punch of flavor. I’m at least fairly certain the point of ristretto is NOT to just drink an under-extracted salty espresso. I’m actually quite good at messing everything up and making under-extracted espresso myself thank you very much. Needless to say the ristretto had one flavor I could discern which was salted caramel, very salty caramel. This is made even more of a shame considering that the consistency was was very syrupy and could have made it worthwhile. Give the ristretto a pass, sadly I couldn’t.
So I bought their coffee, it’s pretty dark and seems most well suited to cold brew, which I can’t bring myself to make in the winter even though I’ll freely eat ice cream in a blizzard. I was somewhat near the area when I decided to give Toranomon a second chance. Drinking the espresso revealed to me what the espresso had cut out, it still starts with a salted caramel flavor note, but this time it gave way to a bit of juiciness and earthiness. I could also find a hint of cocoa powder in there as well. The experience made it good enough to recommend, and I would recommend it to anyone going to that near-tokyo tower collection of areas.