I don't remember when I first read about Hiroko's Place, but ever since I did I'd been wanting to check it out. It seemed to have such a great combination of appealing elements: inexpensive, home-style Japanese fare; good coffee; shelves of books and couches to read them on; a quirky and cozy atmosphere. When I met up with RT and RL to have dinner there near the end of winter break, I discovered the place was even more charming than I expected—it was like some hip Asian grandmother's living room.
I arrived about half an hour early, having given up on strolling the neighborhood once the sun set and the night turned dark and icy. After settling myself on the couch with a menu, I noticed that Hiroko's Place offered coffee brewed using a siphoning method which I had never seen before. Though the prices were a little high (the above, a large, was $4.25), I ordered myself a mocha, which was noted as being unflavored and unsweetened. Watching the brewing process was fascinating—I totally went back to my high school science experiment days—and the mug I was served was filled with coffee that was very smooth, clean, and rich tasting with an edge of bitter chocolate.
Once RT and RL arrived, we moved to a table to have our meal. I went with the kino-tara spaghetti, which was spaghetti in salted cod roe with an assortment of mushrooms and mixed vegetables. Rather than being creamy as I had expected, this dish was more like a stir-fry of spag and veg, and it came with a scoop of Japanese-style potato salad on the side. Simple but enjoyable.
RL added on a ladle of Japanese chicken curry over her omelette-wrapped fried rice; hers also came with a scoop of potato salad. RT went with the seafood gratin over macaroni, which reminded me of some kind of baked seafood mac and cheese. I didn't sample either of them, but they looked good, and both RT and RL seemed to enjoy their dishes.
For dessert the three of us split a green tea parfait and a green tea cake. The parfait was beautifully layered with assorted fruit, sweetened red beans, whipped cream, green tea ice cream, and corn flakes—a touch that in its incongruity seemed quintessentially Asian to me. In both desserts the ice cream was a little icy, and the green tea roulade was slightly dry and didn't seem like it had been baked in-house, though I'm not certain. Didn't stop us from finishing it all, though.
We lingered for a while after our plates were cleared, and the place seemed exactly right for doing so. The service was consistently friendly, our water glasses were continually refilled without our prompting, and no one seemed antsy about us staying that long. We left a large tip in thanks.