...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 Hanzomon Line (8)


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


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


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.





Selan, Kita-Aoyama  北青山

Due to close tomorrow and scheduled to be reborn as Kihachi Honten in the Spring of next year, Selan is a popular lunch spot situated between Aoyama-Itchomo and Gaienmae stations, on the Ginko tree-lined promenade (Gaienmae Ichonamiki) leading into the Jingu Gaien park.

Thanks to the comfortable terrace looking out onto the avenue, and the neighbouring Royal Garden Café, the atmosphere is more European than might be expected.

Sitting out on the terrace in early Spring or late Autumn, looking forward to or desperately hanging onto summer is always a pleasure. 

Although the drinks are a tad over-priced (although standard for the area), the mid-range set lunches offer value for money – three courses followed by tea or coffee.

The food is generally good, although it would be nice if the pasta dishes featured something other than spaghetti.

On occasion, the choice of ingredients combined miss the mark… Smoked mackerel and aubergine in a rich tomato sauce being particularly jarring.

On the whole, Selan is at its best with simpler (perhaps less adventurous) dishes, such as the kyo jidori pasta, or seafood pasta dishes.

The salads are sizable, fresh and well presented, the soups delicious and filling.

Although not exactly stingy with the bread, I can’t help but wish they’d leave a basket full on the table and be done with it, instead of making offerings with each course.

Today, the pate was excellent, but needed something to spice it up a little, perhaps chutney/s and a more robust "home-cooked" style bread. 

When busy, the atmosphere is pleasant enough. The service is okay, but drink orders take overlong to arrive.

Still, not a bad choice for a relaxed lunch. Looking forward to trying Kihachi next spring.





Raj Mahal, Shibuya  ラージマハール、渋谷

My rave review of Jiyugaoka’s Taj Mahal prompted @japanized to ask, “is it as good as the Raj Mahal, in Shibuya?” Admitting I had no idea, I promised to take a look, in the interest of fairness.

Happily, it was not a wasted visit. Located on the 5th floor of a corner building opposite the Udagawacho police box in central Shibuya, I realized that I’ve passed the Raj by a thousand times without ever noticing.

The shop interior is suitably worn and faded – this place has been in business for some 15 years and enjoys its reputation (along with the others in the small chain) as one of Tokyo’s most venerated Indian restaurants – probably having been quite blingy in its heyday.

The service was good, but not great. Still no complaints in that department. The funny, fish tank kitchen allows diners to watch some of their meal being cooked. At the time of my visit I enjoyed watching doughy naan flying through the air.

The menu offers a wide range of curries (chicken, lamb, shrimp, fish and vegetable) focusing on rich-tasting, oily dishes from northern India, as well as rice dishes, breads and other sundries, along with an extremely tasty looking range of tandoori dishes, some of which are large enough to make a meal of. Indeed, and is often the case at a good Indian, one is best visiting in a party so as to sample a wider range of the dishes on offer.

The aromas coming from the kitchen were mouthwatering. The beers were over-priced, but then you can’t have it all I suppose. The vegetable (predominantly potato) samosa were excellent, the skins robust without being too heavy.

The naan – plain and garlic varieties – were not bad, but certainly nowhere near as good as those usually found in many of Tokyo’s Indian and Napali restaurant these days. In this sense, the Raj Mahal really needs to get with the times. If the naan aren’t the size of surfboards, and incredibly light and fluffy, then they no longer please. The garlic naan tasted faintly of garlic, but none was to be seen… It should have been smothered in the stuff.

The curries, chili chicken saag and a seafood/ shrimp curry, were very good. Wonderfully rich tasting and full of strong spicy flavors, without overpowering the other ingredients. I wished they were a little larger, but this indicates how tasty they were just as much as how greedy I can be. 

Still, when all is considered, the naan, service and interior (not to mention the price of the beer) can’t compete with the Taj Mahal, and although the curry came close, I didn’t experience the same “oh my god I want to order another of those right away” sensation. 

Happy to make repeat visits though, just to make sure… Or to check out the reportedly excellent buffet lunch which they serve daily. 



Raj Mahal


Royal Garden Café, Kita-Aoyama  北青山

Conveniently (for me anyway) located on Aoyama Dori (Route 246) in between Gaienmae and Aoyama Itchome stations, Royal Garden Café offers decent lunch sets in pleasant surroundings.

Usually packed, the dining area is dominated by large, robust wooden tables which help create an almost “farmhouse kitchen” feel. To the front of the shop is the in-house bakery - lunch sets come with a small basket of bread, accompanied by olive oil and some leaves.

A smaller dining area is available on the decking outside, from which one can enjoy the local scenery and the marauding TV/ film crews that seem to believe that this particular restaurant is the only location in Tokyo. 

Hamburger in demi glace sauce – ample, rich tasting.

Spaghetti carbonara – tasty, but maybe a little too salty.

Spaghetti, all'Arrabbiata with bacon and aubergine - my dining partner thought it not the best he'd seen.

Stewed beef with onion and anchovy - delicious, moist, flaky meat. 



Royal Garden Cafe