The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

In Park Slope, behind understated red awnings,
and beyond a Japanese gift boutique, lies a secret garden cafe
designed by artist Toshio Sasaki.

Sasaki’s most famous contribution to Brooklyn
is "The First Symphony of the Sea" the 332-foot-long,
10-foot-high wall relief for the New York Aquarium at Coney Island.

The design of the Gingko Leaf Cafe garden,
on Union Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, is an extension
of the "The First Symphony," explained Miyo Sasaki,
Toshio’s wife and proprietor of the boutique and cafe. And though
the new cafe garden is an Asian-inspired garden replete with
a waterfall running over rocks and a snow lantern, it does have
elements similar to the Aquarium installation – fish (large goldfish
or koi) and a similar simplicity of design.

Tables in the garden sit on highly polished
stones while inside the airy cafe are more tables and a sushi
bar that seats about four customers.

Miyo, a clothing designer, opened the Gingko
Leaf boutique 18 months ago. Gingko Leaf is a combination gift
shop, artist’s gallery and clothing boutique, selling Miyo’s
original designs, jewelry and as of this month, a Japanese tea

The cafe is currently open for lunch, serving
obento boxes (containing various combinations of shrimp or eel,
soup, garden salad, tempura and fresh fruits) which range in
price from $12 to $15.

There are five Japanese teas on the menu
– varieties of green tea including the "matcha," a
powdered tea whisked to produce a creamy froth – to enjoy while
looking out across the quiet, sunlit garden, surrounded by wood

Miyo will begin offering dinner at the
end of May. Until then, the cafe is without a liquor license.

On May 19, Gingko Leaf will host performances
by shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) player James Nyoraku Schlefer
in the garden. Performances are at 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm; tickets
are $25.

The elegance and simplicity of the gingko
leaf, the symbol of Osaka where Miyo was born, is appropriate
for this cafe as well as its owners.

Gingko Leaf Cafe is located at 788A Union
St. and accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Closed
Mondays. For more information, call (718) 399-9876.

– Lisa J. Curtis