When I write these restaurant and café reviews I purposely omit the places I go to regularly. But because I rarely go to Shibuya anymore I can disclose what used to be one of my regular haunts.
Chamate is a little oasis in crowded Shibuya, tucked away under the 3rd floor eaves of Loft (one of the coolest furniture and house wares emporiums in town). Though it’s a Chinese teahouse, the décor is that Scandinavian pastel look that’s popular with the leisure matron crowd. The clientele however are pensive, conservatively dressed young women. In the few times that I’ve seen men, they’ve invariably been in a suit and tie. I guess there’s something formal about the place, or about tea in general. Here’s a link to their site, demonstrating how to serve tea, Chinese style.
Even though it’s in a popular store off a densely traversed street, the only time it’s ever busy is during lunch on the weekends. And you can still get a table. Or you can sit at the counter overlooking the street.
While I hadn’t been there in over a year, T has been using it as a relaxing meeting place with her friends. So it was nice to see new dishes. The lunch set’s a bit pricier than the norm, but the food quality is quite high. T had a lush dim sum set that came with tea. I ordered something more architectural. The centerpiece was a soft-boiled egg set in a nest of crispy noodles, a fitting image for a long-awaited spring.
I imagine the best way to appreciate this café is to watch Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love, then put on your cheongsam if you’re a woman, or your rat pack suit if you’re a man. Then meet your secret tryst and sip tea with restrained desire.
Or, for the less dramatic, you can peruse the beautiful lifestyle toys in Loft, then settle down with your favorite Tang Dynasty poet (Hanshan is a good one) and a pot of chrysanthemum tea.