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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Entries in Meguro-ku (21)

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

Friday
Aug242012

Napoli’s Pizza & Caffe, Jiyugaoka  自由が丘

Having been tipped off about Napoli’s Pizza and Café shortly before its opening, and then keeping an eye on the torrent of Facebook advertising and the sudden proliferation of young ladies handing out fliers on the streets of Jiyugoaka, I could hardly wait to give this low cost fast food pizzeria a try.

Located on Jiyu Dori, opposite Monsoon Café, Napoli’s delivers a refreshingly simple, and astonishingly cheap alternative to the more costly (although admittedly more refined) Neapolitan joints springing up across Tokyo. Pizzas range from ¥350 (margherita) to ¥650 (fantasista), with middle-size paper mugs of Carlsberg lager coming in at ¥500. 

The large backlit photographs of menu items above the service counter and bright red plastic trays are undoubtedly in the McDonalds vein, as are the S, M or L fries. The interior is more charming than most fast food joints, with the open kitchen and pizza oven at least giving a nod in the direction of more authentic pizzeria.

A fast food restaurant it may be, but the quality of the food and shop interior (non-smoking) are a cut above those offered under the golden arches.

Each of the pizzas I’ve tried to date have been delicious, the quattro formaggi in particular, given the low cost. The fantasista was good, too, but perhaps a little crowded in terms of toppings. Using the margherita as a benchmark, it was fine, not the best, but tasty and topped with plenty of fresh basil.   

The pizza base itself lets the side down somewhat, lacking the salty-doughy flavour and chewy moreishness of better establishments’ fare. On the upside, each was of a good size – one was more than enough for lunch.

Aside from fries, the side menu covers salads and antipasti, with a small range of desserts available, too. A two hour all-you-can eat plan is available for ¥2,000, which can be upgraded to include all-you-can-drink soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails for an additional ¥800 – a tempting offer.

There’s another branch in Shibuya, with another due to open in Shimo-Kitazawa on September 15th.

 

Napoli’s Pizza & Cafe

03-5726-8873

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

Wednesday
May162012

Fermata, Jiyugaoka  フェルメータ、自由が丘

Having sampled the Neapolitan magic contained within da Isa’s pizza only a few days prior to my visit to Jiyugaoka’s Fermata, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this humble pizzeria situated 5 minutes from the station, just down the road from the Peacock supermarket.

To its credit, the understated façade and simple ground floor interior – a rude wooden counter before an open kitchen and wood burning oven – appeared both inviting and redolent of an authentic pizza experience. The 2nd floor dining space was small, rather Spartan and could have done with either with a lick of paint or a hose, but was busy.

Orders were slow to be taken, but once accomplished my dining companion and I weren’t forced to wait too long for our lunch.

Complimented by under-chilled Asahi Premium, an unremarkable but quite edible starter of ham, pepper, mushroom and leaves drizzled in olive oil soon arrived.

The reason for visiting, of course, was the pizza; a somewhat uninspiring marinara (the base was pretty good, but nowhere near as stupifyingly moreish is those at da Isa, but somehow the tomato did little to excite) and a bacon, cabbage and mozzarella creation, which proved to be far more satisfying than the aforementioned marinara, even if less subtle in design and flavour.

Would visit again, most likely to try the ground floor counter and a margherita by night.

Fermata also has outposts in Kichijoji and Funabashi.

 

03-3718-5084

Fermata

Sunday
May132012

Da Isa, Nakameguro  ダ イーサ、中目黒

The best pizza I’ve experienced was at a perfectly unassuming, quietly dedicated neighbourhood restaurant in the back streets of Torino, Italy, by the name of Totò (being a nickname for people named Salvatore, but also the name of one of Italy’s most lauded actors from Naples: Totò [Antonio Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno De Curtis di Bisanzio Gagliardi], better known as Antonio De Curtis, or so I’m reliably informed).

Back in the day, at Totò 

Totò’s pizza was so utterly divine that I’ve ever since worried that I may forever more owe a debt of deepest gratitude to those most dearest of men and sparkly of dining partners by whom I was introduced to the delights of truly authentic Italian pizza. 

Thankfully, having at last dined at da Isa, the highly regarded and much frequented Nakameguro establishment of world-class pizza chef and Presidente, Yamamoto Hisanori, I feel at least partially confident in my ability to return an introductory favor.

Yamamoto-sensei won the World Pizza Cup – in Naples, the spiritual home of pizza – three years in row, so he’s pretty good at his trade; knocking out mind blowing pizza for hoards of ravenous diners.

Not far from Nakameguro station (about 8 minutes walk down Yamate Dori toward Ikejiri), da Isa is hardly one of the neighbourhood’s best kept secrets. Packed most of the time, queues are to be expected, and evening reservations (if you can) are advised. Weekday lunches can be had for ¥1,000 which, considering the quality of pizza, is a bargain.

The shop interior and pavement dining area look and feels pretty much like the real deal, nothing fancy and (thankfully) not overly adorned with faux-Italian decoration. A team of busy floor staff wait the dining area with great efficiency, and do a competent job of turning tables without ever making you feel rushed.

As @izakayasanpo had pointed out, the drinks err on the small side, although my dining partner (rather sparkly, too) thought they were fine. Drink volume aside, we were in complete accord when it came to the perfection of the pizza.

The menu offers a comprehensive selection of pies, none of which will break the bank, along with a handful of antipasti and sundries. Best of all, all the pizza are cooked by Yamamoto-sensei himself, with the open kitchen providing the opportunity to watch the master work his oven and wooden paddle.

Having placed an order, the pizzas were turned out briskly, and without theatrics – no tossing the dough around or other such party tricks – he simply pummels it into shape, slaps it on the paddle and flings the topping on before shoving it into the oven. Although no expert, I assume the extreme heat and speed with which the pizza is cooked are the secret behind the incredible flavour and to-die-for chewy base that results.

After giving the menu due consideration, we eventually went for the Margherita Alla Roman (pomodoro, mozzarella, basilica and anchovies) and 4 Formaggi (mozzarella, gorgonzola, teleggio and parmiggiano), both of which were unquestionably superb. Moist and gooey without being too sloppy, the cheeses pungent, the base chewy but not too heavy; in sum, totally moreish.

The size of each pizza was more than adequate, leaving us feeling stuffed by time we were done, although they were so delicious that a second round didn’t seem such a bad idea…

UPDATE 09/07/12: 

Repeat visits have proven enjoyable, with da Isa currently remaining my favourite Tokyo pizza restaurant to date, with a few caveats. 

Following Woodster's advice, an evening at nearby Seirinkan revealed a tastier pizza base. da Isa's is gorgeous, but more bitter, and less salty/ doughy than those Seirinkan offers. Overall, however, da Isa wins the contest in terms of topping flavours and varities. 

Similarly, although the much feted L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele (Ebisu) is indeed worthy of great praise (providing the lengthy queue doesn't summon forth the urge to kill) it's neither as magical in terms of taste or atmosphere. On this point - atmosphere - da Isa is way ahead of the pack. Great locale, lively, down to earth interior (authentic feeling, at least) and the pavement dining area is wonderful fun. 

Indeed, although it's worth taking a table inside da Isa at least once, if only to view the various trophies and awards bestowed upon chef Yamamoto, it's actually very cramped, noisy, and nearly impossible to get served. After waiting 20 minutes from the time of being seated to catch the attention of a waiter, and then being told to "hold on just a moment" three more times by three more staff over the course of about another 20 minutes, tempers can start to fray, especially when you've not even been served a drink, let alone ordered any pizza. 

To be fair, the place was packed, and the staff are clearly overwhelmed. That said, the experience when seated outside is much smoother, more timely and certainly more relaxing. 

The antipasti, in this case the Marinata di Pesce, seems to offer somewhat less cost performance than the pizzas do. And while we are on the subject of pizza, the Margherita al Prosciutto was fabulous, once it arrived -- this particular order was forgotten and only after last orders were called and this transgression discovered, was it set aright, albiet in a timely and apologetic manner. 

Worth the wait, though...

 

03-5768-3739

da Isa

Monday
Apr232012

Krung Siam, Nakameguro  クルンサイアム、中目黒

Although intended to be an evening spent enjoying the cherry blossoms, the rain resulted in our seeking shelter – shelter offering food and drinks.

The Nakameguro Krung Siam is likable enough, although not as atmospheric as the Jiyugaoka restaurant or its Attic sibling on the other side of the station.

Hungry and thirsty, we opted for the ¥5,000 course, which included six dishes and two hours of all-you-can-drink frivolity. As far as party-plans go, the food was not at all bad, but the G&Ts were decidedly weak.

Spring rolls 

Sweet salad 

Spicy shrimp tom-yam

Shrimp fried rice

Shrimp noodles stir-fry

 

03-3714-6566 

Krung Siam