...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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Hasegawa Kanbutsuten, Shibuya  長谷川乾物点、渋谷

Situated on the decidedly snug 5th floor of the Wako Building, itself located on the street to the right of Shibuya’s Mark City, one block back from Dogenzaka, Hasegawa Kanbutsuten is worth remembering when in need of quick meal en route elsewhere, or when at a loss for something handy near the station. 

Usual wooden counter, basic furnishings and bottle-lined walls. Service provided by a chirpy young lass and a master with the appearance of a fading rocker – a Motley Crue fan of old, most likely… (The mascara gives them away, you know.) 

Cheap beer drew us in, and then kept us a while longer. Not exactly heaving, the small space presented no problems. 

Food ranged from poor – the karaage (small, oily, tough) – to good – the sashimi (way better than we’d have expected) – with the salad proving to be prolific, if unrefined. The fries were nice and big, but so oily.

The spicy sweet and sour ebi filled the last corner but felt somwwhat processed. 

The pickles were a bit crap really. The otoshi of vinegared fish in light batter was tasty though.

Did this post back to front, didn't I.





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. 





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. 





Sakanaya, Ebisu  肴や、恵比寿

A chain, not ubiquitous but settling in for a while by the looks of things, Sakanaya specializes in low prices and above average portions – washed down with super cheap (¥190) icy beer.

The two I’m familiar with (both in Ebisu, not far from the station) have deceptively narrow looking “front rooms” behind hanging vinyl sheets, furnished with plain wooden tables and chairs.

The upkeep of the interiors varies; I watched a ceiling mounted speaker come crashing to the floor, missing a diner’s head by a hair’s breadth on one occasion…

Both have Tardis-like interiors. Should you be beckoned to the inner sanctum (usually by a south east Asian baring a badge purporting a native Japanese name – think HSBC call center staff only with beer) you’ll be confronted with a cavernous space, most likely filled with trestle tables and benches, around which hoards of thirsty, ravenous youths or white shirted salarymen feast.

It can be disconcerting.

Service is pretty hit-and-miss. So is the delivery of all besides the beer.

The food isn’t going to win any awards – it’s not intended too.

Big chunky otoshi of maguro sashimi, bulging seafood nabe and lethal but delicious deep fried gobo are good enough, if unrefined. 

The daikon salad is impressive, you need climbing gear to tackle the beast. Doesn’t taste of much though. 

The rest is just big, and basic. Better than a kombini dinner, worse than you could do yourself, probably.

It’s about the beer. Best visited in the heat of summer, without an appetite. A couple of thousand yen should suffice.

Which is not to say there’s not a place for this kind of izakaya in the pantheon.





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


Amiyakitei, Chitose-Funabashi  あみやき亭、千歳船橋

If you happen to be in the Chitose-Funabashi area, and both Hisaya and Sazaya are closed – or even Zanpa no Kaze for that matter – you might (and it’s a BIG might) want to give Amiyakitei a try. Housed in what used to be one of those box-like Royal Host family restaurants, Amiyakitei is a roadside yakiniku-ya on Kampachi Dori, about 10 minutes from Chitose-Funabashi station. It’s big, green and has plenty of parking spaces underneath it, making it perfect for families with those big white people carriers to pull up and feed their hungry kids.

It feels pretty much like a family restaurant. Lots of tables, semi-private booths really, done in dark faux-marble with the grill set into them, and even a raised tatami area that seems popular for parties. The size of the place makes it feel somewhat uncomfortable, like being in a big factory cafeteria I suppose.

Just inside the entrance, near the drink, salad and cake bars (sounds like a Harvester doesn’t it?) are posted upon the wall certification of the meat being served that day. It gives the region from which it originates and an official tracking number, so that all may be assured that they are eating good honest Japanese cow, and not anything imported from dangerous foreign farms (no, not those in Miyazaki prefecture…) that might cause mutation – or worse – if ingested.

The service is fairly brisk, allowing the place to deal with a lot of customers. As mentioned, it’s popular with families, so there are plenty of kids and thus plenty of noise. Bizarrely, your first order must be made by filling in an order slip. You just tick the boxes and hand it to the staff. Perhaps they use this data to analyse customers’ preferences. From what saw, most have a preference for the all-you-can-eat salad bar, complimented by several plates of oily, fatty meat, and followed up by several visits to the all-you-can-eat cake bar.

The menu provides the usual yakiniku staples as wells as plated of vegetables and rice dishes such as bibimba. Each table is provided with a dizzying array of dipping sauces and condiments, along with helpful instructions on which sauces go best with different cuts of meat, and how best to mix them. I suppose this says something about the declining knowledge of national food culture among younger generations…

When I visited, back in October of last year, the place had only recently opened and as such they were throwing away promotions with reckless abandon. I ended up with a voucher entitling me to a full-sized bottle of shochu, Satsuma Kobiki, on my second visit. Not particularly good, but free is not a bad thing either.

The salad bar offers up lettuce, daikon, seaweed, sweet corn, potato salad, egg salad, tomato, cucumbers and some fruit, such as pineapple. All, except the fruit, were a little too vinegary. It’s tabehodai, although they politely request you eat all that your pile your plate with, so as not to cause waste.

Prices are reasonable, although to my mind the cuts of meat were on the small side. At the time, I felt Amiyakitei didn’t compare favourably with Genkaya, but in recent months even that once splendid yakiniku-ya seems to be trying to increase profits by serving less.

And what of the meat? The tongue was bland, and even the lemon juice failed to bring out any flavour. The sanchu, big green leaves in which to wrap your freshly grilled meat, were not the freshest I’ve seen, although there was plenty of it. The rosu and karabi were both adequate, but too oily. The salmon onigiri were very salty, and no better than those bought from a convenience store. The cake bar, offered “cute” little cubes of cheesecake, and other flavours such as chocolate and strawberry.

Not the best yakiniku I’ve had, but then again not the worst either. Not in any rush to go back.