The space is narrow and deep: 13 stools at a long bar under Tiffany-esque lamps, facing a wall of shoji screens, with Japanese matchboxes lined up precariously along its ledge. At noon, when Hi-Collar is in kissaten (coffeehouse) mode, all is bustling and bright.
Come early for katsu sando, a deep-fried Berkshire pork cutlet, prickly with panko, sandwiched between slices of shokupan (Pullman-style bread enriched with milk). There are only 10 orders available each day, and you want one.
On the plate, the sandwiches, cut in two and stood on their edges, call to mind prayer books. The tonkatsu sauce has the proper notes of brine from dashi and soy, offset by lemon. The bread is eerily spongy, untoasted, with the crusts banished; the better to heighten our awareness of the pork’s crunch.
I might have clapped my hands when omurice arrived, looking like a piece of sushi writ large: a pallet of fried rice, stained rust-red from ketchup, under an omelet like a mighty cloud come to rest. The omelet was so creamy that with a touch it split in two and spilled its insides. On top was a sausage, incarnadine, with gaping slits, that would have been too salty if it hadn’t also been nearly too sweet — which is to say, just right.
Among the desserts are chocolate truffles, bitter with sake lees, and an ice cream sundae loaded with cubes of coffee jelly whose flavor registers as a scent. Their pleasures are slightly cerebral. I preferred the hot cakes, taller and fluffier than nature should allow. The batter is poured into a mold, but the source of the fluffiness is more elusive. Some Japanese recipes reveal the use of Kewpie mayonnaise. Whatever it takes.
After dark, the menu turns away from the West. On a recent evening, a customer who looked as if she might have a sweet…