...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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Entries in Beer (51)


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




Kin no Kura Jr., Jiyugaoka  金の蔵Jr、自由が丘

What better post on April 1st than Kin no Kura Jr., an izakaya scraped from the bottom of Jiyugaoka’s culinary barrel?

The brainchild of Sanko Marketing Foods (of Tsuki no Shizuku fame, for example), Kin no Kura Jr. can be found all over greater Tokyo, being easily recognizable thanks to the garish, bright yellow signage loudly proclaiming that all of the hundreds of dishes and drinks on the (touch-screen) menus are a mere ¥270 each.

By all accounts, this particular chain was one of the first to bring the “B-class gourmet” one price fits all concept to the izakaya dining scene. It may well have had its day, and for students and freeters is probably a destination of choice, but these days far better food and drinks can be found for similar prices – and indeed more cheaply – at izakaya such as Sakana-ya.

Everything about Kin no Kura Jr. felt thin, half done in order to reduce costs. The hand wipes were half size, rendering them practically useless. The “beer” was watery and the Hoppy and shochu set consisted of a thimble full of liquor. 

The eda mame were passable, as was the yaki-ika. The yakiniku salad was pretty limp, and the hokke had the taste and texture of soap.  The highlight of the meal was easily the eihire

Better cheap eats can be found.



Kin no Kura Jr.


Noa, Tokiwadai ノア、常盤台 

Like most snack bars, Noa - just a few strides from the south exit of Tokiwadai station - is a time capsule. Although the unwitting pedestrian has no idea what lurks within, he need only step over the threshold to be confronted by Showa. Showa style, Showa songs, Showa decor and Showa fashions. Oh, and lots of nostalgia, for the Showa era. 

Not that it’s not entertaining. A sizable otoshi of stewed pumpkin, seemingly endless bottles of chilled Kirin beer - served by a charming Mama-san and/ or the affable gent behind the bar (the Papa-san?) - old guys crooning enka about long missed home villages and the pains of being far from the farm and left adrift amidst the big city, older gals chain smoking and guzzling Cutty Sark. 

The Mama and I did an Eric Clapton duet. Great days. 




Kappa-chan, Ebisu  かっぱちゃん、恵比寿

After a week of Kushiwakamaru overkill, a visit to Ebisu Yokocho’s Kappa-chan came as a welcome change while offering the opportunity to try someone else’s yakitori

On the west side of Ebisu station, next to Seven-Eleven, Ebisu Yokocho remains popular after opening its doors to the public 3-4 years ago. Essentially just an alley - running through the ground floor of an old apartment building - lined with small, yatai-like stalls serving various staples such as yakiniku, oden, okonomiyaki, and yakitori, with a wine bar thrown in for good measure. 

Always busy, the atmosphere is in the faux-Showa vein, with hanging lanterns, Hoppy posters and beer crate-seating aplenty. Kappa-chan is the first establishment on the right as you come though the entrance. Not spacious, but we still managed a party of five without any discomfort. 

The food was pretty good. Not Kushiwaka good, but still delicious - the cherry tomatoes surprisingly so. Perhaps a little dainty, though.

The sasami topped with wasabi was lethal. We like wasabi, but all but one of our party nearly had a funny turn after experiencing it here. My favourite of the night was the sasami with yuzu-kosho (citrus and pepper). 

Worthy of a second visit. 







Ahiru, Kichijoji  あひる、吉祥寺

According to tabelog.com, this little bar and wine store goes by the name of Ahiru Beer Hall, which is probably pushing it a bit. It’s located (a few yards from Ko-Panda) amongst the increasingly well turned out bars and eateries that occupy what was once a warren of ramshackle, decades old retail spaces huddled under rusting corrugated iron across the road from the bus rotary outside the central exit of Kichijoji station.

Many of these popular, if small, establishments are run by the now almost ubiquitous (in Kichijoji at any rate) Mishima – easily spotted by the little red lanterns outside each of their businesses. The ground floor bar, through which the upper floor with its chipboard furnishings is entered, is rather attractive; the far wall (as is that of the stairs) being lined with shelves full of tempting wines.

The service can be either extremely good or excruciatingly bad. The Gin & Tonic they serve is, however, beyond reproach.


Tel: 0422-20-6811



Tachikichi Gyōza, Shibuya  立吉餃子、渋谷

The gyōza at Tachikichi Gyōza are fantastic. Hefty, juicy and delicious, whether boiled or fried. Certainly in a different league than the rather paltry dumplings served at the immensely popular Harajuku Gyōza Ryō.

Tachikichi’s gyōza differ from the norm by not having garlic in the meat mix. This allows the flavour of the pork to come through. For those, like me, who love the taste of garlic, quite excellent garlic gyōza are available. The gyōza skins have a thicker more succulent feel than usual, akin to Chinese dumplings.

Prices are good – about ¥100 a piece, with discounts when ordering in sets of five or ten. A range of other simple izakaya classics are available although apart from the cabbage and shio kombu salad I’ve yet to sample them. Beer at ¥390 isn’t bad, but the glasses are small.

Friendly staff and customers – a nice mix of young and old, male and female, smart and scruffy – make for a relaxed, cozy atmosphere at this hole in the wall eatery.

Funky decoration and ornaments add some flavour to an otherwise plain interior.

The location works well, too; on Meiji Dori, just a few minutes from the east exit of Shibuya station over the pedestrian bridge.

The open front allows for a spot of people watching while quaffing beers and tucking into the tasty dumplings. Perfect for lunch, a light dinner or just a beer-break on your way to the station.

Update 17/10/11: A recent visit at lunch time revealed the lunch sets to be of excellent value. Three gyoza, along with some kimuchi, leaf salad topped with potato salad, soup and finished off with sweet tofu desert. 

My dining parnter ordered a plate of ten gyoza as an extra, only to find his eyes were bigger than his belly. 

Furthermore, a recent attempted visit revealed that Tachikichi is closed for refurbishment. From the glimpse I caught, the planks of wood clamped to metal frames that once served as tables are being replaced with purpose built furnishings. Great to see the place doing well enough to be more permanantly fitted out. Just hope none of the charm of the place is diminished in the process! 

UPDATE 26/10/11: Revamped and renamed "Kitchen Tachikichi," the interior fittings are better, the wall mounted counter-tops, especially, much improved. The playfully kitch deocrations are sadly no more, and with them much of the atmposphere has disapeared, too. In all fairness, Kitchen Tachikichi now feels like a blank canvas, perhaps more a work in progress. With luck, the young masters will add some of the old sparkle atop the new lick of paint.   

But - Honolulu starbright - the food remains the same.







Cafe & Bar Square Hedges, Nakameguro  スクエアヘッジズ、中目黒

Nakameguro has plenty to offer – ever the more so as its gentrification proceeds. As such, Café & Bar Square Hedges has its work cut out for it. How to differentiate from the many other fashionably artsy, left of center café-bar and arts spaces?

The location, three blocks left and three blocks up from the bridge over the Meguro River if you head straight over the road out of Nakameguro station, provides a chance to stroll through rarely visited Kamimeguro back streets.  The café itself, all pale blue walls, white wood and airy ceilings brings to mind a beach house. As much Devon as it is Tokyo.

The shop front, dominated by a large window, provides a lush green view by summer, and by spring a little known cherry blossom-viewing site. Spread across two floors, by day the first floor offers a relaxed, comfortable and thankfully unpretentious lunch venue amidst an eclectic mix of knick-knacks, framed by a breezy bar and made welcoming by the affable attentions of the lady of the house, Ms. Nawata. By night the second floor is opened, offering a more bar-like experience, as well as a space for parties, events and exhibitions.

The menu offers simple, home-cooked dishes covering Asian Fusion, Brunch, Mexican, Sandwiches and Vegetarian categories. The lunch sets, all coming in at under ¥900, offer particular value, being comprised of salad, soup, hot or cold drink, rice and main dish. 

My dining partners and I settled on the Gappao, Red curry and Avocado salad (which, due to soaring lettuce prices thanks to recent typhoons, hot weather and radiation, was based on cabbage, as most salads seem to be of late). All were fresh, tasty and filling.