...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 Meiji Dori (8)


Sakura, Jingumae  神宮前

Not far from where Volantaire used to perch, Sakura is a tastefully appointed modern izakaya/ dining bar in Jingumae’s B6 building, more or less opposite the many faceted Audi showroom.

Dark interior, stylish yet simple furnishings and a decking veranda that must be great when it’s not raining (a rare chance of late!) combine with brisk, friendly service, quality cooking and an intimate, quietly convivial atmosphere to create a pleasant dining experience. 

The menu covers the gamut of izakaya staples, with each seemingly prepared from quality ingredients with an equal focus on presentation and volume.

Although my dining companion and I were too absorbed in conversation to delve deeply, those dishes we did enjoy were delicious, although, and as others have noted, the sashimi is okay rather than great, despite looking pretty.

The salad was plentiful, possessed of a delicious sesame-enfused dressing and both soft and crunchy textures. The takenoko, being in season, was very good, too.

The best, or at least most memorable, dish of the evening was the otoshi. Served on elongated platter, at least half a meter in length, it presented us (to our glad surprise) with an array of different flavours, textures and cooking styles, from simmered to deep fried, with pickles and chewy snails in between. 

Good stuff, and deserves further investigation. There’s another Sakura in Shibuya’s Sakuragaoka district, too.





Osteria Beverino, Ebisu  ベヴェリーノ、恵比寿

Open only a few weeks, Osteria Beverino is the latest eatery to try its luck on the perilous stretch of Meiji Dori between Ebisu and Higashi.

The space is pleasant enough, although at this time of year the vaulted ceiling doesn’t make for a cozy atmosphere. 

Lunch sets at ¥1,000 a pop were the order of the day. 

A pile of truly dull salad, and a coffee included, the mains were sizable, too. The Pasta del Giorno, essentially mushroom and tuna spaghetti, was immediately offered in its super-sized format.  

My dining partner’s lasagna received no complaints. If anything were lacking, it was soup.

As far as weekday lunches go, this Italian restaurant is worth a visit while it’s still in business. 



Osteria Beverino



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.







Noroshi, Higashi 狼煙、東

Some dining venues are fun, even when the food isn’t up to much. Noroshi, a cheap and cheerful yakitori joint halfway between Shibuya and Ebisu just off Meiji Dori (near the bicycle shop), is just such a place.

Simple interior, vinyl (for the unaware – visit a museum or antique shop) spinning either reggae or Latino tunes, cheap beer and highballs, friendly, somewhat brusque, service and minuscule yakitori standards from ¥120.

Easy to find better yakitori elsewhere, but the atmosphere works, especially if you take a beer-crate table outside.


Ostumami 2.

Chicken liver – little dry, and a little little.

Chicken – on a stick.

Cheese stuffed mushrooms.

Potato salad – infused with curry powder. Tasty, but way too small.

Chicken and leak. 

Baby corn and more liver. 

Tsukune with tare sauce.

Sasami topped with plum sauce and nori. 

French fries – better than expected.

Noroshi claims to be “cheap, delicious and good to your body.” They get the first part right.





On The Corner, Shibuya  渋谷

In an attempt to stave off the effects of my affection for iced-Canadian Club my morning commute, weather permitting, culminates in a brisk stroll along Meiji Dori, from Harajuku to Ebisu.  

In doing so, On The Corner – an American-style diner hosting an outpost of the apparently esteemed No. 8 Bear Pond espresso bar of Shimo-Kitazawa – has taken my fancy for months. As if often the case, while others such as The Recently Betrothed, have visited I’ve never quite gotten round to it. Until today. 

As mentioned elsewhere, “American diners” bring to mind apple pie, buxom blondes, pancakes, bacon and maple syrup. Sadly, not a single pancake was to be flipped. 

After waiting an eternity for a table (while witnessing happy patrons being scolded for attempting to photograph Bear Pond’s fare) we were eventually seated in our faux-leather booth amongst whitewashed walls and fashionably industrial ducts and piping. 

By all accounts, the breakfast menu is perhaps the most compelling reason to visit, but the lunchtime spread wasn’t half bad either; reasonably priced, well proportioned. The mojitos were much better than those served here. Service was friendly (photos allowed) especially when needed to make diving catches to save falling French fries… 

Talking of fries, I wish I’d been warned after ordering a side of them that my BLT would be served with an ample supply of the very same. The BLT itself was okay, but the bread left much to be desired. Such a venue would suggest the availability of something less reminiscent of sliced-white. My dining partner’s herb and watercress green salad was voluminous. The chocolate brownie, served with ice cream and white foam from a can, was tasty. 

Enjoyable, a fun lunch spot, and apparently a place to charge your laptop for free. The breakfast menu (served from 9am to 3pm) seems the best reason to visit. 





Hongo, Shibuya  本郷、渋谷

Hongo looks tempting. It’s a little izakaya nestled amongst variously ugly buildings that line the banks of the “Shibuya river” (actually now little more than a concrete channel through which a couple of inches of water and scum flow) and the right hand side of Meiji Dori if you head out of Shibuya station in the direction of the intersection with Komazawa Dori and Ebisu.

Not that the neighbourhood lacks interesting looking places to dine. Dotted around are all manner of izakaya, bars and raman shops (especially on the section of Meiji Dori immediately out of the station), many of which are to be found in the most unlikely – perhaps not for Tokyo – spots. Hongo itself is right on the little bridge over the river, overshadowed by the Toyoko line and drab looking office buildings. You might pass it by without a glace during the day, but of an evening Hongo and the Hongo yakiniku-ya above it, are transformed into a vision of welcome and promised enjoyment thanks to the large glowing lantern at the entrance. Perhaps it’s the family of cats with their little homes set up near the entrance that appeals, too.

The interior is classic izakaya. Lots of dark wood, a polished counter lined with shochu bottles, shelves to the rear of the space housing sake bottles, and a large chalk board describing the recommended dishes. It must be said that over several visits these recommended items have been exactly the same each time. I’ll also point out that I’ve not always been graced with an o-toshi at Hongo. A small point, yet annoying for the inconsistency if nothing else.

The atmosphere is pretty good. Cosy, though not exactly “warm,” especially if seated by the floor to ceiling window looking out over the bamboo, cat bowls and river. Service comes with a snaggle-toothed smile courtesy of the old man charged with caring for customers and is reasonably prompt.

Patrons mainly seem to be salarymen and partners, mistresses, girlfriends and – possibly – their wives.

Despite the good range of shochu and less good range of sake on offer, I’ve stuck to beer at Hongo as my visits happened to fall in the already much missed sultry summer nights of not so long ago. I’d hazard that the sake list wouldn’t excite certain people (you know who you are). I did have the Hiroki, produce of Fukushima, which was drinkable but neither dry enough nor exciting. Price-wise the sake seems a little steep considering the volume.

As for the cooking, the one time my dining partner and I did enjoy an o-toshi it came in the form of chunky pieces of octopus sashimi, a little on the chewy side and yet pleasantly robust, if a little bland. The pickles seem a little lacklustre too. Not dynamic enough, and the vinegar, i.e., pickled, taste was weak. The usual suspects appeared; cucumber, carrot, daikon, aubergine and cabbage. The katsuo-tataki, served with grated ginger and shiso leaves, has been good overall, not too fishy, fresh and of a decent size. The seared edge never seems seared enough though.

The morsels of pork on a stick (can’t remember the name) were tasty, but hardly polished. The bed of cabbage comes in handy as it helps to pad out the meal, which is say portions aren’t large even if they aren’t painfully small. Thankfully, the sanma was much, much better. But then again, even I can turn out decent sanma so no medals awarded. Still, worth ordering.

Salad… This particular example had a kind of smoky/bacon-y flavour despite there being not a slither of bacon therein. Tomatoes, leaves, mushrooms, mayonnaise and bonito flakes did make an appearance. The first couple of mouthfuls were very enjoyable, and yet the strong smoky flavour ultimately become overbearing. The kampachi sashimi was fair-to-middling, too.

Hongo isn’t bad, I actually enjoy it quite a lot, but it’s not great either. It promises more than it delivers, mainly because the chef(s) seem intent on playing it safe. I’ll give the place points for a being a welcome change for central Shibuya, and for the cats. Take a look if you are in the area. If not pleased, drink up quick, try the yakiniku-ya upstairs and let me know what it’s like.


Tel: 03-5774-0055


Sapana, Higashi  サパナ、東

The urge for a curry has been welling up inside again for a while now, and as luck would have it an associate suggested a lunch meeting at the Nepali/ Indian restaurant Sapana, located in Higashi on the corner of the Namikibashi crossing on Meiji Dori halfway between Ebisu and Shibuya. Why not attempt to discuss business while trying not to spray ones interlocutors with naan?

Passed the place a million times, always been tempted but somehow always felt it looked too basic, like a café rather than a restaurant, and utterly devoid of the character that Jau Hai!, another Meiji Dori Nepalese, has in spades. Basic décor and furnishings, but clean and modern.  Service prompt with the option of pretty good English if required. Busy, packed in fact.

Three or four set lunches available at the usually excellent prices. One of the benefits of the Japanese economy’s ability to circulate stale money is cheap lunches. We all went for Set B, ¥990 for unlimited naan – fresh, warm and delicious. Really light, not oily, but I’m still of the opinion that it was less flavoursome than those at Jau Hai! – two little bowls of curry (I had the chicken curry and the daal), some “service” tandoori chicken, a little plate of yellowed, boiled Japanese rice (yuk) and a soft drink.

Okay, not bad for the price but although the naan were pretty good both curries were decidedly thin, watery even, and the chicken one had the tiniest scrags of chicken in it I’ve ever come across. Taste was light, almost nonexistent. Oh, there was a salad too. Corn, cabbage, dressing. Nothing else to say.

If you're there, then you might as well. But Jau Hai! is just five minutes away.


Tel: 03-6419-9095