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 Setagaya-ku (24)

Wednesday
Jan092013

Akaoni, Sangenjaya 赤鬼、三軒茶屋  

Akaoni, the lauded Red Devil of Sancha, is said to be one of the best nihonshu focused izakaya in town, famed for its list of 100 or more sakes – with a particular focus on smaller local breweries’ jizake – and quality food, both of which have been enjoyed by loyal patrons over the last three decades.

In my humble opinion, Akaoni enjoys a reputation better than it deserves.

Sure, the sake list is impressive and competitively priced. The food is good, but nothing mind blowing, the portions a little stingy (always leave feeling hungry) and the speed with which it is served at times agonizingly slow. 

My first visit, almost a decade ago, left me feeling that the place was a little unfriendly and lacking in warmth – an impression that remained on subsequent, infrequent visits.

A bonenkai there with Moxie, Woody and Tobi-chan in December of last year confirmed my previous assessment as far as the drink and food goes, although the welcome and service was much friendlier… perhaps too much so, as the lady of the house was in full sales mode, to the point of being overbearing.

Such gripes aside, Akaoni is still a good little izakaya, and worth a visit, as long as your aim is to drink plenty of sake and nibble as an afterthought.

When you do nibble, the sashimi moriawase is a good bet, and can be had at a discount (i.e., an extra fish is added) if you order when making a reservation. 

The towering stewed daikon was another favourite, as was the grilled lotus root.

On the other hand, the salads and nabe were pretty dull. 

If sperm sacks are your thing, then the shirako might please, being particularly soft and creamy of texture.

Don't believe the hype, but don’t neglect to stop by either. For a more thorough appraisal, look here and here.

 

03-3410-9918 

Akaoni

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

Thursday
Aug162012

Tai Kou Rou, Jiyugaoka 泰興楼、自由が丘  

Tai Kou Rou is a small (3 establishments) chain of venerable Chinese restaurants – the original (Tokyo/ Yaesu) restaurant having been in business since 1949. 

Famous for their gyoza more than anything else, after several dining partners sung Tai Kou Rou’s praise it seemed foolish not to take a look. The Jiyugaoka outpost is on the outskirts of the town, with an Okusawa address. The building is fairly unassuming, although through the glass façade it’s easy to see that the place is packed most nights. 

The second floor is much more interesting in terms of décor, with the faux old-Beijing interior adding to the experience. The service isn’t great… Watching the waiting staff gathered around the kitchen-hatch gossiping while you are desperately trying to place an order is simply annoying. Nevertheless, the food is good, very tasty actually, and the portions more than fair. The menu offers a wide range of Chinese dishes, but the gyoza are the stars of the show.

Simply put, they are immense, juicy, flavoursome, chewy, and perfectly fried so that the outer skins are browned almost all over. Better than those at Kitchen Tachikichi, but only just.

The spring rolls were also huge, and thakfully not too oily. Good though they were, they didn't set the spine tingling. 

My dining partner and I also had the pork fried rice (a veritable mountain of it) and the chingensai (fried greens) both of which were excellent. Delicious though this was, we ended up too full to try the sui-gyoza (boiled gyoza).

Oh well, reasons enough for a return visit.

It’s not the cheapest Chinese in the area, but given the quality and the size of the portions it very reasonable. Best visited in a group so as to enjoy more dishes.

 

03-5706-1014 

Tai Kou Rou

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

Sunday
Jul222012

Bowery Kitchen, Komazawa Park  駒沢公園

Apparently the establishment that brought Tokyo’s post-modern café genre into being, after 15 years in business Bowery Kitchen remains an excellent dining spot, whether for lunch or dinner. 

Situated on the edge of Komazawa Koen (on Komazawa Koen Dori), it is also one of the better pet/ dog-friendly establishments I’ve come across. This also means that queues, as well as canines, can be expected on weekends.

This should not deter a visit, however, as both the ambience and food are thoroughly enjoyable. The interior – all tiles, stainless steel and concrete, off set by exposed ducts and tempting displays of beverages and cakes – is rather cool, and perhaps surprising for a neighbourhood diner. As always, the open kitchen is both entertaining and a central feature.

The atmosphere is relaxed, but busy, with clientele ranging from dog-fondlers to dating couples and oldies out for a bottle or two. The menu covers a range of cuisines, North American through European and Asian, most of which come across as somewhat tapas-y.

The food itself comes in fairly well sized portions and at reasonable prices. The mains aren’t particularly large, but it’s fun to choose several dishes to share with your dining partner(s)/ doggie(s). Overall, the ingredients and resulting dishes are fresh, healthy and tasty.

Drinks are a little pricey, so perhaps not the best location for those intent on binging.

After several lunchtime visits, an evening stroll through the park followed by a meal at Bowery Kitchen proved to be an intimate, low-lit affair, with oodles more atmosphere than during the day. 

Worthy of repeat visits.

 

03-33704-9880

Bowery Kitchen

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