いらっしゃい!
...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.

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Friday
Jul052013

246 Common, Minami Aoyama  南青山

For those that love city-life and yet occasionally yearn for open air, ad hoc (or at least designed to appear so) drinking/ dining venues, the appeal of 246 Common is apparent, providing dashes of counter-culture and back-to-roots chic in equal measure.

Occupying a slice of prime Minami Aoyama/ Omotesando real estate on Aoyama Dori (Route 246) that could have just have easily been purposed as a parking lot, this “commons” is billed as “food carts and farmers markets.” The open air setting, with a variety of cute little food trailers, kitchens, bars and other stores arranged around a central wood-chipped and tented area (for rainy days), makes for a pleasant change of scene as does the within-easy-reach variety of dining/ drinking options. That said, we found the selection more limited than expected, but fun all the same.

Some robust cocktails were to be had, along with a bar that essentially specialized in generous plastic cups of iced Hakushu whiskey. One charming yatai-style, Showa-themed “bar,” serving a nice mix of nihonshu, shochu and umeshu, also plied a good trade in daylight robbery, with bottled Kirin beer leaving little change from a 1,000 yen note. 

Of the food we tried, which was all pretty good and reasonable priced, the most memorable was the Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. A little slow on delivery, but well worth the wait and an excellent accompaniment to a steady flow of drinks.

246 Common is also in the same neighbourhood as Torimasa, so if you book ahead…

Kome to Sākasu - Nostalgically appointed, but harsh on the purse 

Brooklyn Ribbon Fries - moreish

Bars - plenty to choose from

Shrimp salad on white rice - wholesome, filling

Pan-fried shrimp


246 Common

Monday
Jul012013

Lapaz, Jingumae  ラパズ、神宮前

We chanced upon Lapaz while sitting outside One’s Diner, supping on one of the worst G&Ts we’ve ever had the displeasure to be served. Oh well… that will be the one and only visit.

Lapaz, however, proved to be far more welcoming. A spacious, and curiously appointed interior provided separate smoking and non-smoking areas, a pleasant open frontage for street-side dining, a long, somewhat post-industrial bar dominating the mid-section of the space and a somehow outdoors-y feeling space to the rear. 

As well as the food and drink (robust G&Ts here!), Lapaz also serves as a shop (wares ranging from stationary to apparel) and a kind of drop in office (free Wi-Fi as well as public-use printers and copiers). The atmosphere was kind of artsy, the styling and décor positioning Lepaz as a designer café-bar/ dining space, and overall provided a peaceful spot for a late lunch.

The lunch menu was a little too limited, and the portions could have been more generous (after being offered – and accepting – the omori rice one expects to get a supersized serving, after all), but these were minor niggles. The green curry was delicious, while the taco rice, despite being tasty, didn’t really make much of in an impression.

Lapaz is probably best as a drinking spot, and provides reason enough to visit a little explored neighbourhood.

Bar - domintates the mid-section of the space

Lunch sets - good value, seemingly healthy, but portions could be more generous

Interesting decor - I'll have Audrey, please

Jellied chicken and vegetables - a tad bland

Soup - chicken stock, pleasantly salty

Green curry - delicious, chicken pieces a bit scarce

Taco rice - okay, but failed to excite

Interior - relaxing, with a touch of green

 

03-6438-9624

Lapaz

Tuesday
Apr302013

Būchan, Kanamachi  ブウちゃん、金町

Having girded ourselves for the long journey over the river to Katsushika-ku with beer and denkibran at Kamiya Bar, and based on nothing more than my belief in a recommendation and an Instagram photo, Tobi-chan and I decided to kick off Golden Week with a visit to Kanamachi’s Būchan.

This pork motsuyaki place ticked all the atmospheric old-school blue-collar izakaya boxes, and seemed just the place to settle in for a prolonged Saturday afternoon session. Unfortunately, the menu failed to keep us there for long.

We’d been hoping for something similar to the dining experience at Katoriya, but as it turned out our hopes were dashed. The food was okay – nothing special, but good no nonsense cooking centered on pork offal. The problem was the lack of much else besides. There’s only so much grilled piggy bits one can take without something else in the mix to liven things up. What little else there was was okay, but being limited we ended up feeling we’d tried everything within half an hour of arriving. Even the potato salad couldn’t save us, only being available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. After less the an hour we were back on a train headed for Asakusa and dinner back at Kamiya Bar…

Tsukemono - strong tasting, very slippery 

Interior - classic syle, counter seating around open kitchen

Pork liver - tasy, but small 

Pork offal - neck and ???

Grilled tōfu - lighlty seared, topped with onion, daikon and ginger

Interior - kitchen

Grilled vegetables - shitake mushrooms, leeks, peppers

Asparagus - comes crunchy and accompanied by cherry tomatoes and too much mayonaisse 

 

03-3600-5895

Būchan

Monday
Apr292013

Hogeisen, Asakusa  捕鯨船、浅草

We stumbled upon Hogeisen while looking for somewhere good to eat near Sensō-ji. A Shōwa era relic, this izakaya specializes in whale meat. Although the cramped interior and eclectic theatreland photographs and trinkets provided plenty of nostalgia (Kitano “Beat” Takeshi used to dine here when still trying to make his mark on the comedy circuit), the food failed to generate any smiles. 

Frozen whale meat tends to have the same oddly firm texture as the dairy-milk ice pops I ate as a child, and is practically tasteless, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. Although the whale meat yakisoba sounded interesting it turned out be a pile of bland noodles and sauce, of the kind usually encountered at festival food stalls, with occasional nuggets of whale meat doing little to impress. The beef nikomi wasn’t up to much either…

Counter seating - traditional theatreland dining 

Whale sashimi - not worth the political fallout 

Whale meat yakisoba - risable 

Beef nikomi - average at best, but once favoured by Kitano Takeshi

 

03-3844-9114

Hogeisen

Friday
Apr262013

Kokoroya, Nakameguro  こころ屋、中目黒

I first spotted Kokoroya some time last year, probably en route to Kushiwakamaru or Café Carat, and had been meaning to give it a try ever since. Part of a small chain with a handful of Kyoto establishments this one and only Tokyo outpost with its pleasantly understated Japanesque interior and Kyoto cuisine denoted an enjoyable meal, and a welcome change from usual Nakameguro haunts.

Seated at the long counter dominating the dining space, we soaked up the relaxing atmosphere, the chef’s recommendations and a variety of shōchu, the best of which (at least as far as my aching head could recall the following day) was the Nakanaka – an old acquaintance.  

The food itself was okay, but being a little small left us feeling hungry, and somewhat out of pocket. Not that it was bad, the various dishes just weren’t particularly exciting, and of those that worked there was not enough. If picking favourites, the nanoha with su miso was delicious, and then jidori karaage excellent (I could have eaten a mountain of the stuff). Although in season and thus hard to ignore, the takenoko was a bit of a let down, being less flavoursome than anticipated. And these days, after having being spoiled at izakaya such Monzennakacho’s Uosan, dainty little plates of even daintier morsels of sashimi are just an annoyance…

The service was attentive enough, even being overly so to begin with – food orders were requested before the first drinks and otsumami had been delivered, which, considering the relaxed ambience, was entirely uncalled for. Still, not bad overall, but best suited to a (very) light meal and some drinks, rather than a prolonged evening meal.

Otsumami of assorted vegetables 

The menu - Kyoto cuisine, delicately proportioned... 

Nanoha with su miso - a delicious accompaniment to iced shōchu

Sashimi moriawase (for two) - tasty, but not nearly enough

Open kitchen - great for receiving recommendations of the day

Grilled takenoko - the brazier was a nice touch, if not quite hot enough

Jidori karaage - the best dish of the evening, light batter and delicously moist chicken

 

03-3713-2488

Kokoroya

Monday
Apr222013

Café + Cardiff, Shimo-Meguro  下目黒

A weekend stroll along Meguro Dōri, taking in the various furniture shops for which it is famed, inevitably led to a beer stop. At first glance, the street side menu and steps leading to Café + Cardiff (situated right on the Motogenbajo crossing) didn’t seem to promise much, but once inside we were pleasantly surprised.

Despite the name and some Welsh-themed decoration, (as well as some tempting whiskeys) for the most part the café’s interior had a more Parisian feel to it, somehow reminding me of Minami Aoyama’s Nid Café

The beer (Heineken) took forever to be poured and served, but was (surprisingly) well worth the wait, tasting better than any I’ve yet had here. The menu looked interesting, and the grilled sandwiches were okay, but hardly memorable. Despite a Foursquare recommendation suggesting that the cheesecake was mind-blowing, it turned out to be tasty and quite attractive, but not that special.

Wouldn’t rush back for the food, but settling in for an afternoon drink would be fun.

The bar - Welsh overtones 

Interior decoration - European flavour

Cheesecake - much lauded, but just okay

 

03-6452-4933

Sunday
Apr212013

Es, Ebisu  エス、恵比寿

Es enjoys pretty good, and generally consistent, reviews online, and I have it on good authority that the dining experience on the main floor is enjoyable. On this particular visit we ended up seated outside on the small terrace in front of the restaurant, huddled under a gas heater willing ourselves to be warm. The staff were pleasant, the open kitchen with pizza kiln to the rear of the terrace a nice touch, and the food reasonable in terms of both quality and price. 

The lunch menu provided all the Italian staples, and baskets of bread helped fill the corners. The tuna salad was about as dull as they come, but the corn and potato soup and prosciutto-topped margherita made up for it. Although no longer on the menu, my dining partner mentioned to the staff that she’d once enjoyed a cheese risotto there and had hoped to repeat the experience; the request was speedily accommodated, but the risotto didn’t live up to expectations. 

Obviously better visited once the weather improves if dining al fresco, but I’m curious to try the restaurant proper of an evening.

Tuna salad - dull, limp, uninspired 

Corn and potato soup - smooth and creamy 

Bread and olive oil - a simple pleasure, and replenished if asked for

Cheese risotto - somewhat bland

Margherita topped with prosciutto - moreish

 

03-6277-1612

Es