...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 Pasta (8)


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


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.





Café Suns, Nakameguro  カフェサンズ、中目黒

About 5 minutes walk from Nakameguro station, along Yamate Dori heading towards Ohashi, Café Suns is a pleasant, surprisingly spacious café-bar that ticks all the Nakame boxes – postmodern interior, eclectic furnishing and packed with singletons.

Of a weekend, a handful of lunch sets are offered, comprised of salad, main and small dessert, followed by coffee.

My dining partner and I both had the bacon and mushroom in cream sauce pasta, which could be supersized at no additional cost and proved to be quite delicious.

(Interior shot nabbed from Tabelog.) 


Café Suns


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



Don Italiano, Naka-Urawa ドン イタリアーノ、中浦和

The trio of Don Italiano eateries belong to a sprawling nationwide chain specializing in a variety of cheap fare – mainly steaks and shabu-shabu. No prizes for guessing, but not much chance of a Michelin Star coming Don’s way.

A bit better than a family restaurant, the lunchtime deal is simple. Choose from three set courses, each slightly better equipped than the other at cost increments of around ¥500.

I did the cheapest; salad, pasta and all-you-can-eat pizza, complimented with unlimited access to the drinks bar (fruit juices, teas, coffees, etc.) – although beer was the order of the day on this occasion, at extra cost.

My dining partners had the slightly more extravagant course, replete with Caesar salad and desert.

My standard salad was dull. The Caesar was salad better, especially as it was graced with shavings from a huge full Parmesan cheese.

Annoyingly, our pastas were less fortunate, being topped with crappy shake-n’-vac Parmesan instead.

The pastas were beef in tomato sauce and a wafū seafood effort. Both were edible. Both were too salty. Expect full points on Tabelog then.  

The tabehōdai pizza system is straightforward. You wait at your table and the staff constantly do the rounds with an ever changing variety of pizza. When you need a rest, you turn a little sign atop your table to “rest” and they pass you by until you return said indicator to “fill me up” (or something like that).

The pizza is poor – naturally – but fun all the same. Lots of tomato-based toppings, embellished with auberigine, avocado, mushrooms, mocha and bacon, to name but a few.

There was even a “desert” pizza involving canned cream and bits of banana… My dining partners’ deluxe course even afforded the opportunity to sample a rude cheese cake. Great fun. 





Shakey's Pizza, Ikebukuro シェーキーズピザ、池袋 

This chain is more or less all over the place, although you may not notice them. They just tend to blend in to their surroundings (despite often garish facades), or else are outshone by more youthful offerings. Over the years, and despite being aware of and reported to regarding Shakey’s, I’ve managed (thankfully?) to avoid venturing across the threshold of any of their eateries. Until now that is…

Having navigated the semi-deserted streets my dining partner and I skulked in to entrance and down the flight of steps to yet another basement Ikebukuro establishment. Busy, despite the threat of radiation and repeat earthquakes, it was still clear that having any empty tables at all was an unknown phenomenon for the young staff.

We paid our ¥850 upfront for the all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, although we passed on the opportunity to “size-up” with drinks and salad bar. Swiftly seated in a bland corner of the cavernous interior, we soon navigated the queue and piled our plates with fresh, and not so fresh, pizza – all the usual varieties, as well oddities such as the Kit-Kat Crushed Pizza (the least vomit-educing example, believe me…) – utterly tasteless pasta, one seemingly all about bacon, the other garlic and some Japanese mountain weed. Curry and rice, too, graced our table if not our sensibilities.

Apart from either slightly dry or slightly soggy, yet equally bland, pizza, the only other thing on my mind was, “how can you make pasta that tastes of nothing?”

This chain, and all they offer, has clearly seen better days.





Via Quadronno, Harajuku  ヴィア クアドローノ、原宿

Tokyo “boasts” two Via Quadronno restaurants, one in Harajuku (actually Jingumae) the other in Aoyama. There are others in New York, Miami, White Plains and Hong Kong. I’ve no idea what they are like, but hope they are better than the Harajuku iteration. 

I rarely bother with “Western” restaurants, as I’m usually not prepared (read not able) to lash out tens of thousands of yen for a half way decent meal, and when it comes to the more affordable offerings, I tend to be disappointed, especially as the dull, minuscule dishes that pass for European cuisine here are something I could do better myself, at least when sober.

Anyway, back in the summer, while wandering the back streets of Harajuku/Jingumae, my dining partner for the day happened to notice a sign outside Via Quadronno stating that they had Guinness available. This sold her on the idea of lunch. The interior is nice enough. Lots of wine and spirits on display, and various Italian-looking knick-knacks scattered around. The open shop front was also rather pleasant given the heat over the summer. The Guinness wasn’t cold enough.

The menu was much as you’d expect. The food sounded okay, and prices were not ridiculous. Drinks were over priced, as expected, and the service could be improved. My dining partner and I were engrossed in conversation, and wanted to enjoy that and our drinks for a while before ordering, although the waiting staff clearly had other ideas.

Food wise, my dining partner had the lasagne, while I went for the penne with garlic and a thin, creamy sauce. There’s little to be said. Portions were laughably small, the pasta too soft, the garlic but a hint, and a weak one at that. The experience only served to remind me why I avoid this kind of place like the plague.

Considering that over the last few years we’ve been witnessing a steady increase in the availability of foreign ingredients, foods and wines in even the less salubrious supermarkets, hopefully the need for these overpriced, overrated and overstaffed “windows to the West” will come to an end.


Tel: 03-3486-0821