Koz Cafe: Colorful dishes, Scandinavian style


One of our best — and best-looking — discoveries this summer has been Koz Cafe. Occupying a converted house on a narrow pedestrian street on the Tomigaya side of Yoyogi Park, it has a distinctive Scandinavian feel both inside and out (you can’t miss its patterned slate-blue exterior) and on the menu too.

It was set up by an interior design company as a showroom for its online business. But it’s also a showcase for the equally eye-catching cuisine of chef Thilak Basnayaka. For many years the head chef at the Danish Embassy in Tokyo (and also in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), he now runs a catering business, drawing together the very different traditions of northern Europe and his native Sri Lanka. The results are intriguing and flavorful — especially his signature range of exquisite open sandwiches.

They’re complex, inventive constructions, built with a colorful array of ingredients on a wholesome base of dark rye bread. He has a wide repertoire, of which half a dozen are offered on any given day. Among our favorites are the classic dill gravlax, with the smoked salmon arranged with tomato slices on a bed of pumpkin puree; caramelized grilled scallops, using pureed green pea, pumpkin and tomato to add vivid hues to the seafood; and the signature Koz burger, a small patty of beef nestling on a bed of creamy potato salad.

Basnayaka also produces a range of cooked dishes, from Danish meatballs and vegetarian lasagna to a mild curry-rice that is as much Japanese as Sri Lankan in its inspiration. At lunchtime, the dining room is light and welcoming; in the evening, it’s candlelit with chilled nu-jazz beats on the sound system, and there’s a concise wine list. We haven’t tried the weekend brunches yet, but from the pictures on the Koz Cafe blog, the pancakes and waffles look just as appetizing as everything else.

Koz Cafe, 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3481-0884; www.kozlife.com/cafe. Open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (lunch served till 3 p.m.); nearest station Yoyogi-Koen (Chiyoda Line); English/Japanese menu; English spoken.