Maybe it’s my father’s fault, but I kinda like coffee. I like the mellow buzz of the bean, and, believe it or not, I like the taste and the smell of a good roast too. I sometimes walk down the coffee aisle and just take a whiff.
In every city I find myself in, I’m sniffing out a café to chill in- to read, to write, to maybe draw or even just think- or not think. To get away. Japan is no exception. This weekend, though, I took an express trip to Brooklyn- well Brooklyn Parlor in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
In my recent gotta-experience-the-real-Japan kick, I’ve been avoiding all the shopping centers, malls, and gimmicky impressions of America. I want to see the stuff that is unique to Japan- the stuff I can’t get anywhere else- the sights, sounds, tastes, and sensations that when I bid farewell, I don’t have to wish I’da done this or that. Call me a sucker, but I just couldn’t let this Brooklyn one go! I saw it the first time I went to Shinjuku, on my way to Pit Inn Jazz Club. What was Brooklyn doing in Japan?!
I made my way down the stairs to the underground café, welcomed by the snickering face of Brooklyn, a black and white montage of taxis, brownstones and the Brooklyn Bridge. At the bottom of the stairway, I joined the line of about 5 or 6 people outside, hinging on a line of about 5 or 6 more people on the other side of the door, each one sliding down the line of chairs on the wall as tables were made available. While outside, I peeked at the menu, not too impressed, perhaps even disappointed by an offering of burgers, dessert pretzels, and cheese trays. What more could I have expected, huh? As I was finally granted access inside, the doors opened to the sounds of funk- something along the lines of the Commodores’ Brick House, appropriate considering the brick and book walls standing on the wooden floor, the soft rays of light massaging my shoulders. Across from seats in the waiting area, a bar hugged the “L” shaped wall where they were cranking out a few orders.
Filling in the “L” was an unfinished wood-grained island of a table supported by the appearance of barrels and covered with laptops from which extended the fingers of men in suits seated on stools, most with ear phones wedged in the ears. I was soon seated at my multi-colored tile-covered table on a wooden bench. It was a large table. Big enough for maybe twelve. But they seated four parties at a time around this table. There were other tables and chairs arranged around the room, even a couch. Behind me rested the illuminated logo of Brooklyn Brewery. The walls were lined with a mosaic of books. I didn’t get up to investigate yet. I was more interested in the book in front of me titled Menu. I ordered the cheesecake and a coconut latte.
As I waited, I browsed the walls from my seat, reminded of all those movies with the enclosed libraries, accessed only by the sliding ladder. A little closer to me was a shelf with a sign that read,
“All books here are for purchase. Please treat so when taking them to your seat.”
Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing any Japanese translation of that (though it may be fault of my own memory.) I got up to look at a few of the books, relieved to find that there were some with pictures for those of us who are illiterate.
My gaze was refocused at the arrival of the cheesecake. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I’ve noticed that most Japanese confections aren’t as rich as those I’ve had elsewhere. The cheesecakes I’ve eaten before this one were brittle, shattering at the tap of the spoon. But this one yielded like softened butter. The latte was good too. As I scribbled some notes and read my book (my own book; I couldn’t afford to pretend to read Japanese) I noticed the burgers and salads and pretzels of the others at my table. The not-so-impressive menu was now looking pretty good.
Definitely not authentic Japanese, if Japanese at all, and other than the pictures and signage the place didn’t particularly shout Brooklyn; but, hey. I’ll probably be back before I leave Japan. I forgot to check out what looked like the wine cellar.