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Coffee Tomo - new on Sawtelle

Coffee Tomo is just off Sawtelle, next door to where Tsukemen ramen will be opening at the end of the month. I read about it in this last week's LA TImes and decided to give it a try Sunday

Like Conservatory, all their beans are roasted small batches in-house, in the front-of-the-house actually, as the coffee roaster is just to your left when you walk in. Unlike Conservatory, all their coffee drinks are served pour over. I initially ordered their Yirgacheffe, but they suggested I try another because they had just been roasted that day. As coffee geeks will know, beans need a day or two to de-gas after roasting before they're at their best. I tried the brazilian. I got it for there, and they asked if I wanted a ceramic cup, I said yes and they served it to me in a to-go cup, oh well. The pour over was excellent, better than Intelligentsia. Overall I'd grade the coffee a phenomenal A-, only topped on the westside by Funnel Mill.

I also tried one of their pretzels...

DAMN!

I got the red bean and cheese one, this is a horseshoe shaped pretzel, with some decorative knots tied on it. It was fresh (took about ten minutes) and steaming hot when served to me. Stuffed inside the pretzel was a combination of red bean and mozzerella cheese. the combination is an odd one, but to me (a lover of red bean filled pastry) very delicious. The pretzel was not large, but it would be fine to share because it was very rich--it is quite a lot of cheese stuffed in that pretzel. My biggest caveat is that I'm not sure how well it went with the coffee, tea might be a more appropriate order if ordering a pretzel, they have some sweeter pastry offerings that I may try next time I go.

I'm looking forward to going back, trying some of their other pretzels and other food options. Next time I intend to try the espresso, which sounds absolutely fascinating, based on the LA Times review. I've so rarely had a good espresso that I have high hopes Coffee Tomo can become my go-to.

Also, I noted that there is a new ramen place, Tsukemen, opening next door to them at the end of June. They had a sign up which indicated that their opening or soft opening would be announced on facebook, but I couldn't seem to find them on facebook, at least not in English, and my rudimentary abilities to read kana has apparently disintegrated away to nothing in the past few years. :-p It looks to me that Tsukemen is a popular chain in Japan, ala Santouku, but I'm not certain about that. If it is though, I'm very excited, hopefully this will be the first decent ramen on Sawtelle.

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Funnel Mill
930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

Tomo
18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

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  1. Great review! As a former home coffee roaster I really appriciate fresh coffee. It's great to have another place on the westside that does this. I'll be checking it out, maybe not the red bean pretzel though! A lifetime of eating savory beans is hard to overcome

    4 Replies
    1. re: AAQjr

      He also has Sweet Potato Pretzels and Savory ones as well that are just as delish!! :)

      --Dommy!

      1. re: Dommy

        Hopefully the are open on Sundays, 'cause I'm heading down to give it another shot

        1. re: Dommy

          the garlic ones are pretty good too.

          1. re: Dommy

            had the sweet potato and cheese pretzel and the Yirg.. both were very good. The pretzel really did go well with the coffee. About the coffee: Looked like a good full city roast, Med body, very complex. Ultra clean cup.

        2. I have been to Coffee Tomo 3 times in the last week and, clearly, I love it. My favorite drink is the caramel latte (blended or hot). They use real caramel (not the syrup they put in Starbucks coffee), paired with their rich espresso. Tommy, the barista, reminds of the latte masters at Intelligencia as he swiftly creates a swan out of steamed milk. I also tried several of their food items including the original pretzel, the red bean pretzel and the honey toast. Upon ordering, they tell you it will take about 5 minutes to make. I find that reassuring, they are not putting an old pretzel in a microwave- all the pretzels are handmade to order. With great coffee drinks and snacks (and pleasant 40's music playing), Coffee Tomo is an ideal studying spot!

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          Tomo
          18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

          1. Hola. I wrote the article - I'm very happy you went and enjoyed!

            Note: his espresso roast is *weird*. Non-traditional and awesome. A mix of light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. They are not exactly traditionalists here, but you probably guessed that.

            I think the red bean cheese pretzel is the most weird (and great), and you're right, it doesn't sit as well with coffee. It's a bit too manic/savory... but the sweet potato/cheese pretzel goes much more happily with coffee. But I tend to be of the opinion that really good beverages get occluded by having any food, so I savor the coffee first and get the pretzel after.

            For those following along with my coffee-vendetta/obsession, I rate their drip well ahead of Funnel Mill's, *way* in front of Intelligentsia's drip (Intelligentsia to me has always truly gotten espresso and always sort of flubbed their drip) and almost to my LA favorite, Cafecito. They're still playing with it - they're not quite as spot-on-every-time, but they do a good, intense job. It makes me happy - years ago I ranted about the impoverished state of LA coffee compared to the Bay Area, let alone Seattle, and now things are much ahppier.

            Oh: and Chowhounds: I'm really excited to see other people try the honey butter bread. It's described at the end of the article. It's the "negative space modern art inverted Belgian waffle toast thing." It is one of the most utterly mondo-bizarre joyous-sugar-attack bits of Japanese post-Western-pop weirdness I've had out here. I'm wondering if others will dig it, or if it's part of my weird affinity of Japanese bizarroid cutesified perfection excess.

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            Funnel Mill
            930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

            29 Replies
            1. re: Thi N.

              I knew it was a Chowhound that wrote that article!!! Thanks for clarifying my suspicion! Great article!

              1. re: Thi N.

                The honey bread sounds like the monkey bread they have have at a lot of snacking joints in koreatown, like Crazy Hook, et al., which is basically like a loaf that's been made like French Toast with a syrup and mounds of whipped cream.

                Anyone if the whipped cream topping the honey bread at Coffee Tomo is fresh whipped cream or is it from a can? It looked a little like it came from a can due to the consistency, but I may be wrong on that note.

                I went to Coffee Tomo the other day and they were sadly sold out of the homemade, stuffed sweet potato and cheese preztels, I guess that's the big seller of their savory and sweet pretzels. I do really like their coffee and it's not too bitter which I like. Only had the cappachino so far and the machiato both good. And their garlic pretzels are great, it goes almost with out saying that it is pretty expensive compared to other joints, at 5 bucks for one of the pretzels.

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                Crazy Hook
                3250 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010

                Coffee Tomo
                11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                1. re: kevin

                  From a can, which I thought was odd considering how hand crafted everything else was.

                2. re: Thi N.

                  I just posted about Portola Coffee Lab in OC. If you are serious about coffee, that is worth the drive.

                  I did like Coffee Tomo. Didn't think it was amazing, but Sawtelle really needed a place like that. Did have the sweet potato pretzel and enjoyed it. When they brought it to me it was so hot, I burned my lips and mouth, but "no pain, no gain".

                  I"m waiting for the Artisan Ramen place to open in the same building. Then I can eat Ramen, have a pretzel and coffee, then shop at Giant Robot. That is Geek Heaven..

                  -----
                  Coffee Tomo
                  11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                  1. re: bsquared2

                    Yup! As noted, the pretzels are made to order and they arrive HOT (which also makes them great for carry out, I got one to go and drove all the way home to Culver City and it was still HOT!). But they have always warned me when they put it on the table.

                    --Dommy!

                    1. re: Dommy

                      Yeah, everytime I get it is piping hot, so I presume it would take a solid quarter hour before it cools down.

                      And three of the stuffed are great, I like the sweet potato and the read bean the best, prolly red bean the best. the pumpkin one is good too, damnit, now i gotta go there again, for a capp and a stuffed pretzel.

                      my only qualm might be at times it feels like there is too much cheese in there. it makes a great dessert, if you had a light meal, but if you previously had a heavier meal, you'll need to split it with others.

                      the special coffee with steamed milk, and half and half, and the cinnamon stick that you swirl in there is really great too.

                      1. re: Dommy

                        Damn, I wanted to catch em this afternoon, but sadly they are closed from 9am to 3pm today, but they definitely do need to celebrate the Fourth of July.

                    2. re: Thi N.

                      I've now tried their espresso. It really is funky, an excellent pull, mouth-coating intensity like the essence of coffee, a twinge of bitter with a touch of sour and overall just a very umami kind of espresso. Fabulous.

                      I also like Tomo's iced coffee better than Funnel Mill's, though I do prefer Funnel Mill's syphon coffee to a pour over cup, Coffee Tomo is one of the best pour over's in LA.

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                      Funnel Mill
                      930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                      1. re: jadekarrde

                        Tomo has very extensive training in coffee, ask him to expound on it.

                        By the way where is funnel mill, and do they serve up teh weasel civet coffee if I'm not mistaken, I'm sad to say I haven't even tried it yet.

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                        Tomo
                        18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

                        1. re: kevin

                          Kopi luwak? I just came back from Bali with a whole box of it.

                          1. re: J.L.

                            Dammit. That's exactly what Im talking about. Kopi lowak. How much did it run you? So funnel mill has that stuff???

                            Thanks

                            1. re: kevin

                              I"m a huge coffee geek, but I will never drink coffee that's been pooped out of an animal.

                              But yes, Funnel Mill does indeed have the Kopi stuff from time to time, probably best to contact them about it ahead of time. It's terribly expensive.

                              -----
                              Funnel Mill
                              930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                              1. re: jadekarrde

                                Funny, I never thought I'd eat the ovaries of an tide pool echinoderm... Until I tried uni.

                                Disclaimer: I'm by no means a coffee expert, but I know when my nose & taste buds like something. The kopi luwak is, without doubt, indeed the smoothest coffee I've ever had. A box of grounds (makes about 50 cups) cost me about USD$200 on a remote farm near Ubud, Bali (no middle man; they cultivate & package the coffee right there). Quite a bargain, from what I'm told.

                                1. re: J.L.

                                  $200 direct from the farm? That seems a little high.

                                  I think those farmers had a real party after you left.

                                  I had some in Vietnam and it was about $5 a pound. Hopefully it was authentic.

                                  1. re: bsquared2

                                    The stuff I got was the real deal. Just brewed a batch of it for me & friends tonight here in L.A. - same great taste as in Bali.

                                    Totally worth it, from my standpoint, since I place a value on the experience. Don't really care if I actually overpaid them for it, in this case.

                                    1. re: J.L.

                                      I've heard that receiving 100% legit kopi luwak at the retail level is iffy. Because of the huge premium it commands, the end product is often-times doctored, thinned down, or just the the real deal. There's also synthesized versions, usually found in Vietnam and the US. I think if getting the real deal is the goal, going straight to the home of the civet is the most reliable way to go.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        yeah, just go straight to the weasel and and allow to take a crap and they collect the excrement.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          Something like that...

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            So on a serious note, would you say that it's not worth spending the dough at Funnel Mill or wherever else because it's just so expensive and wouldn't be worth it if there was no personal knowledge whatsoever that you are actually perceiving the taking care of business?

                                            Also, sorry to put that image in your alls head, but i gotta say the cheese and red bean stuffed pretzels are quite addictive at Tomo and the cappachinos there are great too.

                                            -----
                                            Funnel Mill
                                            930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                            Tomo
                                            18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              I don't think you should buy it at Funnel Mill. Roasted coffee goes stale rather quickly. A common rule of thumb is two weeks. While Funnel Mill has many virtues, fresh coffee is not among them.

                                              You can buy Kopi Luwak coffee beans online. You probably will perceive a difference between them and ordinary coffee beans, though they aren't necessarily "better" than ordinary coffee beans.

                                              -----
                                              Funnel Mill
                                              930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA

                                        2. re: bulavinaka

                                          Indeed, I purchased the beans on the farm itself, within view of said civets (see photo). Of course I'm no dummy, they could still substitute it. But... one's gotta just "trust" at a certain point in one's travels in life.

                                          Plus, the coffee, fake or not, tastes damn good.

                                           
                                          1. re: J.L.

                                            I already knew what civets looked like (I googled them when news first broke out years ago on this civet-poo coffee), but still -- OMG they're soooooo cute!!!!

                                            1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                                              These civets I saw in Bali are treated well. They almost literally lay golden eggs for their owners.

                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                Good. I was wondering about their treatment, though I didn't want to get self-righteous and interrogate you about their cage conditions. TOO CUTE!!

                                                1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                                                  just grab a coffee mug and place it you know where, a french "pressed" coffee straight from the source. :)

                                            2. re: J.L.

                                              And indeed, you confirm what I was nudging at. You couldn't have taken it any closer in a practical sense - if you know what I mean...

                                          2. re: J.L.

                                            wow, that sounds awesome, can i get some of those kopi lawak beans too, J.L.

                              2. re: jadekarrde

                                As an Iced Coffee lover... I also really liked the ice coffee... nice and smooth, but with a nice deep roasted flavor. It's not as complex as some of my favorites, but having just spent the better part of the day there writing and finding all the guys there absolutely sweet and attentive, I will return more often that not!...

                                --Dommy!

                                1. re: Dommy

                                  Tomo, I believe, is especially awesome, he can probably wax rhapsodic about coffee for hours on end, and why not listen, his an artist and expert on the art of making coffee.

                                  -----
                                  Tomo
                                  18707 Devonshire St, Northridge, CA 91324

                            2. So I went in and had a straight espresso on their La Marzocco and a pour over of the Yrig . My first impression is that I like the way they do things really taking their time to do things right but at least on my visit they weren't quite dialed in yet. The barista recommended the Yirg for my pour over, so I went with that. It looked nicely roasted, even color, no pits ect but I think it still needed another day do degass the body was thin and complexity was not what I expect from a Ethiopian. For me this cup was not yet at the level of The Conservatory for Coffee and Tea's pour over or drip. The espresso, (straight, no sugar) was sexxy looking with good tiger stripping and a nice aroma. My temptation is to say the machine may have been running hot as the shot was on the thin and sour side, better than what I've had at Intelly but not as good as what I've had at Luxxe (montana).

                              I know it sounds like I've been tough but I do think they are on the right track, nice atmosphere, good Jazz playing in the background and I do like their approach but when you are charging over 4$ for a pour over and 2.50 for an espresso I will have heightened expectations.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: AAQjr

                                But did you have a pretzel? The pretzel is the key. If you don't want sweet beans, do the sweet potato cheese. HAVE THE PRETZEL. It is the center of their soul. And honey butter bread. So JapanoKorean that it hurts my tender little soul with dainty joy. PRETZEL.

                                1. re: Thi N.

                                  LOL! Coffee is at the center of my soul ;-) Just coffee today! I had an almond croissant from Amandine earlier (yum). I almost got the cheese and jalapeno pretzel they do look good, I will try a pastry next time.

                                  Btw: I noticed someone getting ice coffee that had been brewed earlier and put in an ice tea dispenser. I know the Japanese are big ice coffee drinkers, this shouldt be worth exploring as well.

                                  1. re: AAQjr

                                    I concur that is pretty darn pricey. And it's very interesting that we have two great coffee joints within the Sawtelle Corridor. With Balconi, being a few blocks away... Great coffee there from the siphon bunsen burner contraption, amazing fucking stuff. I think for coffee alone, Balconi is head and shoulders above anyyone else in town, but they don't really deal in pastries or baked goods save for a token carrot cake, which still hits the proverbial spot.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      Balconi is fantastic. Don't tell too many people about it, though... Wouldn't want the secret to be out and have a Chowmob show up the next time I go get my cuppa joe...

                                      1. re: J.L.

                                        Love Balconi, and wish MORE people will know about it.

                                        We knew the owner for years: they ran coffee shops in Westwood & West LA before finally settling in Sawtelle. I hope they got enough business this time around that they can actually stay open and not repeating the fate of Balconi's previous incarnation.

                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          sorry, man, that is a secret find, and it would also be great to go there right after kiriko or yakitoriya.

                                          yeah, for my own very selfish reasons, i like that it's not too busy but that would be bad for their profits.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            I love Balconi and I really want to see it do well. The original Balcony Cafe was sorely missed until its replacement finally opened. But I've seen people wait for over 30 minutes for their cup of coffee in a line that really wasn't that long. Unless the owner is there or there are at least two of the younger baristas there, it can be a painfully slow process to get that perfect cup of coffee they brew.

                                            In short, I'm with you. May they stay in business forever and may never more than 4 people ever be in the place.

                                            1. re: cacio e pepe

                                              yeah, you are right it is usually a pretty long wait, but it has always at least been a solid five minutes of a wait.

                                      2. re: AAQjr

                                        AAQ, have you tried to pull the beans at home? I don't know it's because of their mix of 3 d'frent roast levels, but no matter how I dialed the grinder, how I tamped, I kept on getting thin and bright shots with very little crema.

                                        It never tasted the same as at the cafe (not surprised), and the cafe's pull was also... rather meek. I do have to say the sweet/sour shots served well as cappuccinos at home though.

                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          I leave espresso to the pro's and drink press pot or pour over at home.

                                          maybe if you talk to them they'll do a custom blend for you or go to the conservatory for coffee and do the same. They sometimes have indian malabar which I love in espresso blends in small doses.

                                      3. re: Thi N.

                                        the red bean and cheese one is really good, but i always think there's a little too much cheese in there but then afterwards i eat it all on hindsight.

                                    2. Tsukemen is the latest noodle trend in Japan. The noodles are served separate from the broth, which is usually cold, similar to the way somen is served. Apparently ramen restaurants around LA are already serving this. I wonder if Rameniac, etc have sampled some of these. Looking forward to the opening of Tsukemen. Also hope to try Coffee Tomo. Thank you for the duo update.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Ogawak

                                        Nidaime Tsukemen has been threatening to open at at corner location forever, it seems.

                                        At this point, I'd be shocked if they actually opened within the next month.

                                        1. re: Ogawak

                                          Seems like we're spinning off-topic, but Ramen Yamadaya has tsukumen-style ramen - Culver City location should be open by mid-July.

                                          Back on-topic, Thi's standard-of-excellence writing needs to be linked each time we're fortunate enough to have one of his "Finds":

                                          http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/...

                                          I'm an early bird, so I looked up Coffee Tomo's posted hours - I guess they're not, at least not yet:

                                          http://www.coffeetomo.com/index.html

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Tsukemen and Ramen are the subject in question of the OP's last paragraph, so discussing them is not really OT.

                                            What is OT but worth mentioning is the opening of the snow ice shop in the same complex, Blockheads Shavery. I have loved the snow ice offerings I have had in Hawaii and the SGV.

                                            1. re: Ogawak

                                              Sorry - the heading of the OP deceived me - that's what I was going by, and I'm guessing anyone else searching for the subject would as well. But I'm not one to talk about going OT - I'm guiltier than most...

                                        2. I love coffee, so I checked this place out on Sunday. It was about 4PM, quiet holiday weekend, I was only 2nd in line. One person working, ordered an iced latte & it took, no exaggeration, over 20 minutes! The guy taking the orders was just in complete disarray, absolute confusion.
                                          He actually seemed a little confused on my order of an iced latte, sort of dazed & unable to process my request...
                                          I wanted to ask for my money back just so I could head out, but I was scared that might just shut the place down.
                                          Coffee was ok, not memorable, but I'm sticking with Groundwork, top quality & service at the Venice location.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: MahiMahiFish

                                            Groundworks in Venice has never achieved higher than Peets for me, and their coffee, in the dispensers, is usually starbucks quality (a few times, has been less than that sad standard). The Starbucks with a clover at Lincoln and Maxella does a better cup of coffee than Groundworks. They make an a pretty good Americano at groundworks though.

                                            1. re: jadekarrde

                                              I agree that Groundworks is no good, regardless of location.

                                          2. Thought I'd make a quick mention that I went by Tomo after some (seriously good) ramen next door and due to the un-seasonably warm weather had an ice coffee. Wow. Really, seriously fantastic. I thought the preparation showcased the bean/roast very well.

                                            I should mention it might not hold up as well if you like to add a lot of dairy to your coffee.