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 Minato-ku (13)

Friday
Jul052013

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

Wednesday
Apr172013

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

 

03-3406-0464

Ghungroo

Wednesday
Apr102013

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 

03-3475-6099 

Aoyama Janoja

Monday
Jan282013

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.

 

03-3405-4515

Torimasa

Monday
Jan142013

Toshian, Shirokanedai  利庵、白金台

A venerable soba joint on Platinum Dōri just a couple of minutes walk from Shirokanedai station, Toshian is both popular and worth a visit.

Lunchtimes are especially busy, and on high days queues are to be expected.

Not a large shop, the interior is traditional and sitting face-to-face with strangers is the norm. 

The menu is comprehensive, the service a little brusque, and the food excellent, although the tempura is of the heavy/ oily type rather than the light and crisp variety I’ve come to prefer.

Both the tendon and tempura soba were excellent, the soba being particularly good.

The tamagoyaki, seemingly a dish for which the shop is loved, was fluffy and sweet. 

Not the cheapest lunch around, but thoroughly enjoyable.

 

03 3444 1741 

Toshian

Thursday
Aug302012

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.

 

03-3478-2200

Selan

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