...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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Shinki Soba, Nakano  真希そば、中野

I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out in Nakano, but years have passed since last paying the place much attention. A recent visit, in search of a renowned camera store, revealed a much changed north exit to the station, the development of which, thankfully, has had little or no effect on the narrow streets and alleyways to the east of the Sun Road and Broadway.

In the end the visit to the camera store proved fruitless, but lunch at Shinki Soba (conveniently located among the izakaya, rāmen shops and girly bars that make up the afore mentioned neighbourhood), was pleasant enough. Not purely dedicated to soba, the menu covered a range of more general izakaya standards, and some few of the patrons clearly treat the place as such.

The soba were nice and firm, and the tempura crisp and light. For the price and locale, the set lunches provided good cost performance, but the beer-pouring machine in the kitchen was the star of the show, and the communal pot of coffee brewing on the counter was a homely touch.

Cold Soba and tempura lunch set - perfect now the weather is warming up, and filling and nutritious too

Menus in black and orange - still all the rage for Japanese establishments

Soba and tempura in hot broth - delicious but the tempura batter soon becomes soggy

Soba - firm and slightly texturous 



Shinki Soba


Ghungroo, Minami Aoyama  ゴングル、南青山

An unexpected lunch call led to this neat Indian restaurant on a side street off Aoyama Dōri, opposite Kinokuniya. Apparently a popular spot for lunch and dinner, Ghungroo was pleasantly busy, but not overly so. Not having to queue to get in was welcome, as was the friendly, efficient service.

Neglecting the basic lunch sets, we ordered from the “Chef’s Menu” lunch options, choosing saag with cheese, accompanied by a large, lightly baked naan, rather than rice. Both curry and naan were flavoursome, although the former was not as good as some.

Some Internet comments suggest that both the quality of the food and the service has declined since the restaurant moved premises – the previous iteration being still visible on the other side of the street – but, we had no complaints with either. I’ve the impression that most dishes here are adapted to Japanese tastes, so this is probably not the place for a truly “authentic” Indian dining experience, but still keen to visit Ghungroo for dinner, all the same.

Attractive sugar bowl

Cheese saag with naan

Tidy interior





Aoyama Janoja, Minami Aoyama 青山ジャノジャ, 南青山

Weary, hungry and desperate to get out of the rain, we stumbled upon Aoyama Janoja and, to our regret, entered in.

The dull, barren interior and rubbish food were well complimented by a total lack of atmosphere. If there were one “good point” it would be the embarrassingly apologetic and attentive service from the waiter. His shame was written all over his face.

The food was so bad that we actually rushed to get through it lest the experience linger. The appalling pasta dish aside, the four cheese pizza, consisting of a burnt, crunchy pitta-like base and a tomato-meat sauce (without the meat) topped with three cheeses and honey (not good with the meat flavoured sauce…), was hard to make sense of.

How on earth is this place in business?

Tomato cream sauce and shrimp pasta -- without a hint of tomato

"Four" cheese pizza

Takenoka tempura 


Aoyama Janoja


Uncle Tom, Ebisu  ウンクルトム、恵比寿

Tokyo is dotted with these old-style Western/ spaghetti “restaurants” serving up antiquated Japanese takes on Italian staples and domestic creations utilizing all manner of seemingly incompatible ingredients.

Uncle Tom, situated a short jog from Ebisu station’s East exit, is one of the better known and loved of the genre.

Usually busy, especially of a lunchtime, the portions are pretty good, the prices extremely reasonable, and the pints of Yebisu beer very cheap. 

The atmosphere is redolent of a rāman-ya, and the interior rather 1970s/ 80s, complete with a collection of prints by John Lennon. 

The salads, although sizable, aren't prizewinners, but the spaghetti is strangely compelling. The asparagus, bacon and egg pasta was certainly moreish, and I have it on good authority that the cod roe and nattō variety is equally tasty…


03 3442 1934

Uncle Tom


Torimasa, Minami Aoyama  鳥政、南青山

Torimasa joins our little pantheon of yakitori-ya, coming in at the “high-end” if that’s appropriate for yakitori. Actually, I’ve only done lunch there, which was excellent, although I have it on good authority that evening meals are also of a superior quality.

Tucked away on a narrow side street off Aoyama Dōri, not far from Omotesando crossing, a block or two before Franc Franc, Torimasa is a small yakitori-ya, that’s been in business for three decades.

Its popular, so queuing at lunchtime is not unknown. Once inside, the place seats about two dozen – at a push – with counter, table and tatami seating available.

The atmosphere is pleasant, although not exactly lively, and the interior simple, clean and nicely “shibui.” It’s also possible to spot the occasional TV/ movie celeb’ lunching there, too.

Taking a counter seat is recommended, from where you can admire the glass case stuffed with waiting-to-be-grilled yakitori. Each skewer of which is excellent; fresh, huge, tender, juicy and (most importantly) utterly delicious, the speciality of the house being succulent Nagaoya cochin chicken, generous portions and a nicely balanced tare sauce. 

The master of the house, a portly gent usually to be found perched at the counter of a lunchtime, is friendly and has enough English to make non-Japanese speaking guests feels welcome, and even provide a comparative analysis of British and West German ladies-of-the-night during the 1970s. The master also wistfully explained that he’d had to take skewers of foie gras off the menu, as suppliers simply can’t source the stuff large enough anymore.

The lunchtime menu consists of two sets (donburi and rāmen) and the teishoku, all for ¥1,300.

The donburi set is more than most can manage, being comprised of a gargantuan bowl of rice toped with four or five skewers of chunky, tender chicken morsels (the liver being particularly good), pickles and soup. The rāmen set provides a full bowl of noodles in broth, a mini version of the aforementioned donburi and pickles, too. Finally, the teishoku offers soup, rice pickles and the same yakitori skewers that adorn the donburi.

Dinners come in full- or half-set courses, both of which I’m eager to try.

This is yakitori at its best – perhaps even better than that at Kushiwakamaru (although with a less expansive menu), although far less friendly on the purse than Katoriya.





Toshian, Shirokanedai  利庵、白金台

A venerable soba joint on Platinum Dōri just a couple of minutes walk from Shirokanedai station, Toshian is both popular and worth a visit.

Lunchtimes are especially busy, and on high days queues are to be expected.

Not a large shop, the interior is traditional and sitting face-to-face with strangers is the norm. 

The menu is comprehensive, the service a little brusque, and the food excellent, although the tempura is of the heavy/ oily type rather than the light and crisp variety I’ve come to prefer.

Both the tendon and tempura soba were excellent, the soba being particularly good.

The tamagoyaki, seemingly a dish for which the shop is loved, was fluffy and sweet. 

Not the cheapest lunch around, but thoroughly enjoyable.


03 3444 1741 



Akaoni, Sangenjaya 赤鬼、三軒茶屋  

Akaoni, the lauded Red Devil of Sancha, is said to be one of the best nihonshu focused izakaya in town, famed for its list of 100 or more sakes – with a particular focus on smaller local breweries’ jizake – and quality food, both of which have been enjoyed by loyal patrons over the last three decades.

In my humble opinion, Akaoni enjoys a reputation better than it deserves.

Sure, the sake list is impressive and competitively priced. The food is good, but nothing mind blowing, the portions a little stingy (always leave feeling hungry) and the speed with which it is served at times agonizingly slow. 

My first visit, almost a decade ago, left me feeling that the place was a little unfriendly and lacking in warmth – an impression that remained on subsequent, infrequent visits.

A bonenkai there with Moxie, Woody and Tobi-chan in December of last year confirmed my previous assessment as far as the drink and food goes, although the welcome and service was much friendlier… perhaps too much so, as the lady of the house was in full sales mode, to the point of being overbearing.

Such gripes aside, Akaoni is still a good little izakaya, and worth a visit, as long as your aim is to drink plenty of sake and nibble as an afterthought.

When you do nibble, the sashimi moriawase is a good bet, and can be had at a discount (i.e., an extra fish is added) if you order when making a reservation. 

The towering stewed daikon was another favourite, as was the grilled lotus root.

On the other hand, the salads and nabe were pretty dull. 

If sperm sacks are your thing, then the shirako might please, being particularly soft and creamy of texture.

Don't believe the hype, but don’t neglect to stop by either. For a more thorough appraisal, look here and here.