...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 Pizza (7)


Es, Ebisu  エス、恵比寿

Es enjoys pretty good, and generally consistent, reviews online, and I have it on good authority that the dining experience on the main floor is enjoyable. On this particular visit we ended up seated outside on the small terrace in front of the restaurant, huddled under a gas heater willing ourselves to be warm. The staff were pleasant, the open kitchen with pizza kiln to the rear of the terrace a nice touch, and the food reasonable in terms of both quality and price. 

The lunch menu provided all the Italian staples, and baskets of bread helped fill the corners. The tuna salad was about as dull as they come, but the corn and potato soup and prosciutto-topped margherita made up for it. Although no longer on the menu, my dining partner mentioned to the staff that she’d once enjoyed a cheese risotto there and had hoped to repeat the experience; the request was speedily accommodated, but the risotto didn’t live up to expectations. 

Obviously better visited once the weather improves if dining al fresco, but I’m curious to try the restaurant proper of an evening.

Tuna salad - dull, limp, uninspired 

Corn and potato soup - smooth and creamy 

Bread and olive oil - a simple pleasure, and replenished if asked for

Cheese risotto - somewhat bland

Margherita topped with prosciutto - moreish





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


Japan Eats Podcast 19: Tokyo's Pizzerie

The recording of another boozy conversation regarding Tokyo's pizza scene, with Messrs. DeOrio and Lovitt of Japan Eats fame, is now available here:


And via iTunes here (Podcast 1):


Recorded earlier this month while dining at an undisclosed chain izakaya in Takadanobaba. 


MLB Café Tokyo, Ebisu  恵比寿

Yet another of Ebisu’s many attractions – this time on the Yebisu Garden Place side - MLB Café Tokyo is far more than its name might suggest.

Housed within a large red brick building, complete with leafy courtyards, the complex includes not only a ground floor café-bar/ diner and baseball memorabilia shop, but also VIP lounges, a restaurant and wedding chapel.

Having been raised on gentlemanly pursuits such as cricket, even the fundamentals of baseball are at best a mystery. Even more mysterious was the connection between the two dominant themes of MLB Café Tokyo’s interior; Major League Baseball, and traditional Japanese pottery.

The juxtaposition of sporting paraphernalia, flat screen TVs and lovingly displayed wabi-sabi teacups and bowls did not, however, detract from the reasonably well-crafted G&Ts, nor the tropical looking concoction favoured by my dining partner.

The menu, for the most part pan-American and Italian classics, was redolent of Frankie & Benny’s. One of its features being the inclusion of “classic ballpark foods,” whatever they might be…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the risotto turned out to be a waste of time, although the salted veggies accompanying it served as a tasty bar snack, as did the fries (very much in the McDonald’s vein) and nachos. The royal milk tea wasn’t my idea (of course), but the chocolate cake made up for it, if only a little.



MLB Café Tokyo


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...



da Isa


Zizzi, Sheffield (英国)

To take the Tokyo dining scene for granted is indeed a privilege. Quality, price competiveness, levels of service and peripheral scenic attributes that others can only dream of are so usual that their absence would be the subject of incredulous outrage.

So it was with trepidation that I ventured back into the post-industrial gloom and steel-addled nostalgia of Sheffield’s admittedly recently more becoming attractions such as the Leopold Square development in which Zizzi, a faux-Italian restaurant cum bar, is situated just a short vomit and a casual beating away from the city’s main thoroughfare. 

My dining partners and I, admittedly, arrived late into the afternoon, and no doubt the lunch staff were already weary and hoping for some down-time, which might explain the neglectful service – starting with the inability to accommodate a baby buggy and finishing with forgotten drink orders and difficulties serving our meals at the same time. It might also explain the dearth of customers.

Despite my worst fears – based upon memories of similar establishments in days gone by – and the claim that one should consider the experience akin to “Robert De Niro with a regional accent,” (Sean Bean?) the food was actually surprisingly good.

The boys went for pizza. Well-sized, decidedly large actually, and oh so authentically thin in the crust department. The Sophia provided a moist feast of spicy chicken, pepperoni and roasted sausage, mozzarella tomatoes and chili. The rosemary was an annoyance; I wanted basil. Yet when all was said and done this went down a treat, even if the over-priced Peroni, or what ever it was, left a bad taste. The Primavera – “a vegetarian feast” – was satisfying thanks to the goats cheese, artichokes and aubergine. 

The ladies had salad, which looked fine, if a little boring.

Poor service, surprisingly decent portions and tasty pizza, made all the more enjoyable when combined with the smug satisfaction derived from the strong yen when visiting faded imperial powers (as apposed to the failed imperial power we usually enjoy). 


0114 2787718




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.