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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Tuesday
Aug142012

Kyo no Shin, Jiyugaoka 京乃臣、自由が丘 

Situated on a side street just off Jiyugaoka’s Hilo Street – just around the corner from Fermata – Kyo no Shin offers Hiroshima style (packed out with vegetables rather than the familiar pancake-like batter) okonomiyaki and a range of sundry dishes with a Mediterranean flavour, in a surprisingly intimate and contemporary setting.

This small restaurant is on the ground floor of what must have been a home. As such, it’s hardly spacious. A large teppanyaki hotplate dominates the space, around which 10-12 diners can be seated. Off to the right, an alcove complete with table and chairs can accommodate a small group. The kitchen, what there is of it, is behind the hotplate.

The crew of amiable young chefs takes orders and cook their delicious fare right before your eyes – this “show” being half the fun. The other half is eating the food itself.

We started our meal with hiyayakko kakijou (thick slices of flavoursome cold tofu with bonito flakes), followed by the kaisen no kouso bataa yaki, consisting of shrimps and assorted white fish and shellfish, cooked in butter, the flavours and seasoning being redolent of Spanish cuisine.

Moving on to the okonomiyaki, the funwari yamaimo suteki was delicious, although so light as to be somewhat unsatisfying. Craving something more robust, the soba torotoro tamagonose totori daisen tori no sauté provided a gooey pile of sauce-smothered vegies, topped with a fried egg and juicy chicken. 

Excellent overall, Kyo no Shin does a competent job of providing a somewhat more sophisticated okonomiyaki dining experience than is usual. There’s another in Gakugei-Daigaku, too.

 

03-3723-9600

Kyo no Shin

Saturday
Aug112012

Quan An Tam, Jiyugaoka  クァンアンタム、自由が丘

Quan An Tam is my new favourite Vietnamese restaurant – cooking, atmosphere, volume, price – all the boxes are ticked. For dog-fanciers, pets are also allowed.

Located on the second floor balcony of Jiyugaoka’s “Jiyugaoka Depato,” just a hop and a skip for the station on Jiyu Dori, Quan An Tam is certainly one of the more attractive offerings amongst a host of bars, snack bars and restaurants hidden away in the building.

The restaurant isn’t large, and fills quickly. Undoubtedly popular, booking is advised on weekends. The interior is comfortable, clean and less drab than others, such as Giang’s, and feels less touristy and worn out than Huong Viet or Lotus Palace. The cooking beats them all hands down. 

Service is good, and seemed to improve with subsequent visits. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and at time a little camp. Clientele are mostly youngsters and couples.

The menu covers a wide range of dishes, many of which I’ve not seen at other Vietnamese restaurants, making the experience a lot more fun than initially expected. Prices are good considering the size of the portions – every dish is huge, making it difficult to sample more than a few unless you visit as a group (recommended).

Each dish looks, smells and tastes freshly prepared, with none being served suspiciously quickly. The goi cuon (uncooked spring rolls) were as good as those at the aforementioned establishments, while the banh uot (shrimps in moist, cold dumplings) were interesting, if somewhat less exciting than they at first appeared to be.

Not to be missed, the goi bo (beef salad) provided a mountain of delicious fried beef and vegetables, with a nice tangy flavour.

The tiem xao (pork, shrimps, aubergine and cucumber) worked well, although the flavours of the pork and shrimps seemed at odds.

No Vietnamese meal is complete without some pho, such as the delicately flavoured pho ga (pho noodles in chicken broth with fresh herbs), or banh xeo (“Vietnamese okonomiyaki”), which was immense, if a little bland and over reliant of bamboo shoots to pack it out.

Perhaps the most interesting dish of the meal was the tau hu doi thit (fried cakes of minced shrimp). 

We washed this down with Saigon and ba ba ba (333) beer (the latter served in its can), both of which were somewhat overpriced. This is the one complaint I have for Quan An Tam – the food is excellent and well priced, but if you intend to get your drink on, dining here can become expensive.

 

03-5701-0302 

Quan An Tam

Tuesday
Jul312012

Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental, Motosumiyoshi  元住吉

One of two (the other being in Musashikosugi) seafood-centric izakaya, Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental is a superb dining experience – providing you like huge servings of fresh fish and shellfish as extremely low prices.

Located on the Breman shotengai (out of the east exit of the station, on the left just passed ABC Mart), it’s not a place that jumps out at you, being hidden away on the 2nd floor of an inconspicuous building, unseen from the street. My dining partner and I stumbled upon the place having been tempted by the signs for an okonomiyaki restaurant in the same building.

Oriental, plays the blue-collar, days-gone-by card well – simple, lively interior complete with beer and beverage posters, rough wooden tables and counters, crates, paper lanterns and bucket loads of noisy, happy diners.

The menu was wide-ranging, covering sashimi and sushi, through grilled, baked, fried and stewed dishes, salads and sides, and a smattering of classic izakaya fare not of the sea. Portions were extremely impressive, tasted great, and then even better when we received the bill at the end of the night.

Service was efficient, friendly and informed. Each member of staff knew their way around the menu, and was happy to offer recommendations and advice.

The clientele were a mixed bunch, young and old, and seemed each and every to be having a whale of a time. The atmosphere was lively, although most of the action seemed to be in the (much larger) smoking section of establishment.

A good range of shochu and nihonshu were available, along with draft and bottled beer, Hoppy and soft drinks. Best dishes of the night were the immense nokezushi, and the succulent, flesh-laden tuna jaw, not to mention thick slabs of fresh, if rough-hewn, sashimi

Top stuff.

 

Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental

044-430-5530

Sunday
Jul222012

Bowery Kitchen, Komazawa Park  駒沢公園

Apparently the establishment that brought Tokyo’s post-modern café genre into being, after 15 years in business Bowery Kitchen remains an excellent dining spot, whether for lunch or dinner. 

Situated on the edge of Komazawa Koen (on Komazawa Koen Dori), it is also one of the better pet/ dog-friendly establishments I’ve come across. This also means that queues, as well as canines, can be expected on weekends.

This should not deter a visit, however, as both the ambience and food are thoroughly enjoyable. The interior – all tiles, stainless steel and concrete, off set by exposed ducts and tempting displays of beverages and cakes – is rather cool, and perhaps surprising for a neighbourhood diner. As always, the open kitchen is both entertaining and a central feature.

The atmosphere is relaxed, but busy, with clientele ranging from dog-fondlers to dating couples and oldies out for a bottle or two. The menu covers a range of cuisines, North American through European and Asian, most of which come across as somewhat tapas-y.

The food itself comes in fairly well sized portions and at reasonable prices. The mains aren’t particularly large, but it’s fun to choose several dishes to share with your dining partner(s)/ doggie(s). Overall, the ingredients and resulting dishes are fresh, healthy and tasty.

Drinks are a little pricey, so perhaps not the best location for those intent on binging.

After several lunchtime visits, an evening stroll through the park followed by a meal at Bowery Kitchen proved to be an intimate, low-lit affair, with oodles more atmosphere than during the day. 

Worthy of repeat visits.

 

03-33704-9880

Bowery Kitchen

Wednesday
Jul182012

Pizzeria 1830, Nogizaka  乃木坂

Considering the decent reviews scattered around the web, after a lunchtime visit to Nogizaka’s (across the road from Nogizaka station post office on Gaien Higashi Dori) Pizzeria 1830, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. 

A pleasant enough little restaurant, although both the atmosphere and cooking are more in the café-diner vein, but considering its location (more or less on top of Tokyo Midtown) one could be forgiven for expecting the place to be heaving of a Saturday, where as in fact it was practically deserted.

The menu was certainly wide ranging, which perhaps hints at the pizza being more mass-market than those of other, more dedicated restaurants. There were plenty of antipasti, pasta, and so on, available, too. Lunch sets comprising of pasta/ pizza, salad and drink are also served, although considering the size of the pizza, it’s probably best to order straight from the main pizza menu and make the most of it.   

Those that my dining partner and I ordered – the Margherita and Francescana (prosciutto and mushroom) – were certainly sizable, if not mind-blowingly complex in terms of texture and flavour.

The prosciutto was too thin, almost translucent, and a little bland. The mushrooms screamed, “just out of the tin.” The Margherita was marginally the more flavoursome of the pair, but was still let down by the base, which was neither chewy nor doughy/ salty enough, and watery tomatoes.

These weren’t bad pizzas per se, merely uninspiring. Far better can be had for a smaller investment at establishments that also offer much more in the way of atmosphere and character.

Still, if in the area, Pizzeria 1830 is worth a look. It’s just not one of the Tokyo pizza pantheon.

 

03-3402-1830

Pizzeria 1830

Tuesday
Jul172012

Toyoda, Yukigaya-Otsuka  とよだ、雪谷大塚

Another of Tobi-chan’s recommendations, Toyoda is a nice little bare-bones izakaya within spitting distance of Yukigaya-Otsuka station (Ikegami line).

Certainly old-school, and packed to the gills with old-timers busy about their shochu and bottled Kirin beer, the interior is in better condition than the lantern-lit façade might lead one to believe.

The front section of the izakaya is taken up by a long, L-shape counter, the middle by a dining floor with a half-dozen or so tables, and the third, rear section made up of a zashiki area with low laying tables and the aching limbs they induce.

The menu is broad, covering the gamut of typical izakaya fare, the prices extremely reasonable (although the portions are at best average), and the quality of the cooking acceptable given the overall flavour and price point of the establishment.

The oden and chicken karagage were the best dishes of the evening, with the most disappointing being the chijimi.

Happy diners are served by bustling old ladies with beaming grins and croaky voices. The atmosphere is convivial, and at times rather lively.

Around 10pm, a younger - mostly male - crowd swarms in just as the ojisan are bidding their keep-bottles farewell.

Asupara-maki

Tebasaki

Excellent fun, especially for nomikai goers more intent on drink than food. Expect to leave with plenty of yen still in your pocket.

 

03-3720-3338

Toyoda

Saturday
Jul072012

Yakiniku Peking, Motosumiyoshi  焼肉北京、元住吉

A crossing on a major road somewhere in Motosumiyoshi (Toyoko line) marked by two imposing looking yakiniku restaurants on either side road.

Deciding between the two came down to Yakiniku Peking having more customers visible through the 2nd floor window, and the nice way the neon signage looked on a dark, humid, rainy night.

This atmosphere carried through to the shop interior itself. Clearly a relic of the bubble years, there was something “classic” about the place.

The tabletop grill was in a style I’ve yet to come across, and indeed, my dining partner informed me that the grill with which we were confronted was all the rage in the eighties.

The food itself was a little fresher. None of the meats offended, being tasty and reasonably proportioned.

The best of the evening was the cucumber kimchi and the tongue.

Not a bad restaurant overall, but no better than cheaper chain offerings, such as Genkaya.

 

044-411-7716

Yakiniku Peking

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