An espresso shot is the foundation of many different coffees. It's hard to make a bad drink with a good espresso, and so much easier to make a bad drink with an over extracted shot. The espresso shot that I ordered arrived with a medium dark brown crema, and a small volume of coffee. (The crema colour is an indicator of freshness. If it's pale, it's stale, which is why I always make a note of this. The small volume suggests that the shot was not over extracted, which would give rise to unpleasant flavours in the shot, as non soluble coffee grounds end up in the cup). It was bitter, with hints of woody flavours, and a slightly thick mouthfeel. The aftertaste was bold and lasting - overall a well executed espresso. So far, so good.
Prices as are expected - $8.50 for the latte and cappuccino above - and broadly in line with what is charged in other quality cafes.
Along with Smitten and Chye Seng Huat Hardware, Maison Ikkoku has a very well stocked retail section, with accessories that are not always found elsewhere. There is a good selection of items for brewed or filtered coffees, including Chemex and V60 coffee drippers, cone filters and syphons. There are also tampers on sale for home baristas. Unfortunately, Maison Ikkoku does not sell coffee beans. This is something that I would like to see happen, as there are some interesting blends and single origins from Columbia and El Salvador being used.
Overall, there are a good selection of brewing methods available, as well as helpful staff pulling quality shots. The milk steaming issue won't affect everyone, but it's unfortunate to see this when everything else is done so well. Also, Maison Ikkoku can be very crowded at weekends, with queues for seats - opening the second floor cocktail bar during the day would help to alleviate this. It's certainly worth a visit, and along with Symmetry and EspressoLab, is a good choice for anyone craving caffeine in the Arab Street area.