Violon: Coffee in a European music hall

Violon: Coffee in a European music hall

Steal away among older Japanese gentlemen to this shrine of lovingly preserved mid-century audio recordings
Some of the customers are there to listen intently while others use the classical music as a lullaby for a mid-day nap.

Littered with antique lamps, small framed prints and porcelain knick-knacks, Asagaya classical music café Violon is reassuringly musty with the smell of old furniture. The café is a relic from a bygone Tokyo enamored of continental European music and amusement, located near the string of bars and small izakaya that line Star Road just north of JR Asagaya station.

Equal parts café and music hall, this meikyoku kissa (roughly "classic song coffeehouse") boasts a meticulously recreated 1/25 scale interior of Vienna’s Philharmonic Concert Hall, with an orchestral pit filled with custom-made vacuum amps and speakers that thunder with handpicked classical music from owner Mr Teramoto's formidable collection.

Violon is both a disciple and descendant to the now-defunct Classic, another meikyoku kissa that used to be located in nearby Nakano. After learning the ropes from Classic’s owner Misaku, Teramoto opened Violon in 1979. Even today, Violon preserves sculptures and paintings from the old Classic in a small corner at the back of the café.

Teramoto's café plays host to a series of irregular concerts featuring both amateur and professional musicians, and a regular "SP (short playing) record concert" every third Sunday of the month. Violon's recent curators offered background and commentary to a carefully-selected program of 1930s and 1940s big-band and hot jazz, as well as French chanson. Perched on plush, velvet-upholstered chairs while sipping Teramoto's dark coffee laced with a few drops of brandy (¥350), the audience dozed and cocked their ears, as if straining to fully ingest the otherworldly atmosphere.

After any gig at Violon, head next door to Pik-kee-noo for some homely and authentic Thai grub whipped up by Teramoto-san’s wife Mehta. The khao soi is highly recommended. This is the classic Tokyo experience: From Vienna to Bangkok in just a few steps.

Violon: Asagaya Kita 2-9-5, Suginami-ku, tel. 03 3336 6414, cash only