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 Oimachi line (10)

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

Saturday
Aug112012

Quan An Tam, Jiyugaoka  クァンアンタム、自由が丘

Quan An Tam is my new favourite Vietnamese restaurant – cooking, atmosphere, volume, price – all the boxes are ticked. For dog-fanciers, pets are also allowed.

Located on the second floor balcony of Jiyugaoka’s “Jiyugaoka Depato,” just a hop and a skip for the station on Jiyu Dori, Quan An Tam is certainly one of the more attractive offerings amongst a host of bars, snack bars and restaurants hidden away in the building.

The restaurant isn’t large, and fills quickly. Undoubtedly popular, booking is advised on weekends. The interior is comfortable, clean and less drab than others, such as Giang’s, and feels less touristy and worn out than Huong Viet or Lotus Palace. The cooking beats them all hands down. 

Service is good, and seemed to improve with subsequent visits. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and at time a little camp. Clientele are mostly youngsters and couples.

The menu covers a wide range of dishes, many of which I’ve not seen at other Vietnamese restaurants, making the experience a lot more fun than initially expected. Prices are good considering the size of the portions – every dish is huge, making it difficult to sample more than a few unless you visit as a group (recommended).

Each dish looks, smells and tastes freshly prepared, with none being served suspiciously quickly. The goi cuon (uncooked spring rolls) were as good as those at the aforementioned establishments, while the banh uot (shrimps in moist, cold dumplings) were interesting, if somewhat less exciting than they at first appeared to be.

Not to be missed, the goi bo (beef salad) provided a mountain of delicious fried beef and vegetables, with a nice tangy flavour.

The tiem xao (pork, shrimps, aubergine and cucumber) worked well, although the flavours of the pork and shrimps seemed at odds.

No Vietnamese meal is complete without some pho, such as the delicately flavoured pho ga (pho noodles in chicken broth with fresh herbs), or banh xeo (“Vietnamese okonomiyaki”), which was immense, if a little bland and over reliant of bamboo shoots to pack it out.

Perhaps the most interesting dish of the meal was the tau hu doi thit (fried cakes of minced shrimp). 

We washed this down with Saigon and ba ba ba (333) beer (the latter served in its can), both of which were somewhat overpriced. This is the one complaint I have for Quan An Tam – the food is excellent and well priced, but if you intend to get your drink on, dining here can become expensive.

 

03-5701-0302 

Quan An Tam

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

Friday
May042012

Kushikatsu Tanaka, Oyamadai  串カツ田中、尾山台

Kushikatsu Tanaka is a small chain of izakaya, specializing in deep fried kushi, providing surprisingly tasty food and a lively atmosphere at bargain prices.

They’re dog-friendly, too, so should you be inclined to dine with your wan-chan you can do so. They tend to request that your dog be clothed, but being a gaijin, my dining companion politely declined to plumb the depths of Japan’s canine apparel industry, instead pointing out that as the pooch was short-haired it shouldn’t be a problem.

These izakaya are immensely popular – certainly the Oyamadai shop is packed every night of the week with a mixture of students, families feeding their kids on the cheap, and local salarymen. Although the interiors are rather basic, the ambience is warm, welcoming and a lot fun.

The menu focuses on meats, seafood and vegetables deep-fried in bread crumbs, along with a smattering of less usual dishes, such as banana, and sundry dishes ranging from potato salad to basahi. The kasu-udon are worth a look, too.

Drinks are cheap – mostly beer, shochu, whiskey highballs and extremely potent Hoppy and shochu sets.

Upon sitting down to eat, diners are presented with a bowl of raw cabbage and a tub of rich-tasting dipping sauce with which to spice up the kushi. The house rules state that in the interest of hygiene each morsel can only be dipped once.

Potato salad

Renkon, ham, asparagus, beef and fish kushi

Octopus

Tomato, garlic, sausage and shrimp kushi

Kasu-udon

Hoppy and shochu set

Nikomi

Kimuchi

Rakase (cooked peanuts)

Chicken wings 

Ham and bacon kushi 

Pickled cucumber 

Basashi

 

03-3701-3228

Kushikatsu Tanaka

Saturday
Apr212012

Giang’s, Futagotamagawa,  二子玉川

Located amongst an increasingly interesting cluster of bars, cafes and restaurants behind and beside Futagotamagawa’s Takashimaya department store, Giang’s is a classic mom and pop Vietnamese eatery.

Not the prettiest restaurant, but the cooking was good, the portions ample and the pricing fair. On this particular visit the majority of the patrons were Vietnamese or visiting Vietnamese-American family.

The husband and wife team man the kitchen and dining floor, resulting in a somewhat hurried approach to initial order taking and then over-long waits for drink delivery. Last orders at 9pm on a Saturday night didn’t go down well either…

Such minor gripes aside, a very pleasant meal marked by subtle flavours and fresh ingredients.

The stars of the meal were the papaya salad and the beef pho, while the spring rolls were not the best my dining partner and I have encountered – certainly not as tasty as the ones they serve at Huong Viet.

The bahn xeo, “Vietnamese okonomiyaki,” didn’t come across as well as those at Lotus Palace, either, although it was certainly much less oily and probably more authentic.

The 333 beer (served in a can) was good, too. 

 

03-3700-2475

Giang’s

Wednesday
Apr042012

Taj Mahal, Jiyugaoka  タージマハール、自由が丘

Although any concerns over the lack of decent curry – of the Indian or Nepali variety, rather than the Japanese stuff – in these parts have long since been dispelled, only a few truly deserve praise.

The Nepali restaurant I unswervingly admire is of course Manakamana, closely followed by Kathmandu Gangri (although this eatery is let down badly by the décor and lack of ambience).

On the Indian front, until now, it would have to be Dhaba India for quality and flavour, with Priya second.

Happily, after 19 years in business, Jiyugaoka’s Taj Mahal still beats all. Well, more or less. In some ways it’s unfair to compare Manakamana with a dedicated Indian, but if the judgment is based purely on the desire to reorder everything a second time, no matter how bloated one feels, then Taj Mahal is king. 

Upon entry, the intoxicating, spicy aroma makes the mouth water. Luckily, beer and menu are close at hand.

The interior is decent enough, pinky-purples and off-white softly lit. Service is excellent – friendly, knowledgeable and available in both Japanese and English. One complaint in this area would be that although the Indian staff are keen to recommend “real,” Indian dishes no matter the spiciness, should you be served by one of the Japanese staff, they immediately herd you towards the sweet tasting, Japanese-friendly dishes.

Poppadums and chutney are proffered unrequested (as they ought to be) and are good, if not excellent.

The menu offers an impressive array of dishes, covering the whole gamut of curries demanded by any self-respecting British lager lout.

The inclusion of Madras (the chef hails from the region) and Vindaloo dishes is welcome indeed. The portions are generous, too, which tends to result in feeling rather stuffed by time you’re done. The tandoori chicken, for example, is not only sizable but perfectly succulent and utterly devoid of horrible gristly bits.

Delivery is timely, but not heralded by the ping of a microwave, and the sumptuous dishes spread before you never fail to delight. You can see and feel the ingredients, each dish being richly textured, fresh, aromatic and pleasing to the eye. The chicken do piaza and vegetable curry are something to behold, while the chicken madras is so utterly moreish, so intensely pleasurable, that it is an almost indecent dining experience.

The naan, are also excellent. Light, fluffy, not at all oily, and big. The keema version (or “smelly naan” as the staff put it) offers thick, flavoursome lamb, and the garlic iteration plenty of kick, although not quite as vampire-slayingly divine as that once available here. The cheese naan packs plenty of cheese, but came across as a little bland.

An excellent Indian restaurant, worthy of repeat visits, take away orders (they deliver within Setagaya, Meguro and Ota wards) and party venue status.

 

03-5701-1300

Taj Mahal