...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 Tokyodrinker (50)


Toritetsu, Tokiwadai  とり鉄、常盤台

For some reason I’d got it into my head that Toritetsu was a local affair. Actually it’s a sprawling chain covering much of the archipelago. It seems somehow less formulaic than many of the better known, much reviled chains that spring to mind. 

On the night my dining partner and I ventured in, it was packed. “Must be good,” said I. Turns out that the crowd had gathered to take advantage of an “everything for ¥100 night,” the menu’s specials included.  

Truth be told, Toritestu does a lot of “special” nights. There’s ladies’ night, men’s night, pensioners’ night, Thursday night, Friday night, etc. You get the picture. 

Bubbly staff and a cozy atmosphere went a long way to making the evening an enjoyable one, despite the length of time between orders placed and orders served... 

The food - for the most part yakitori standards - isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not going to put you off the stuff either. I should know. After a month or so of almost nothing but yakitori I should be sick of the stuff. 

The otoshi, a very soft, creamy dollop of tofu, was quite tasty but almost impossible to eat with chopsticks. On the verge of punching someone after five minutes with it, spoons seemed in order.  

Many of the skewered morsels were on the teeny side. The ginko nuts especially so. The liver was tender, but pretty tasteless, too.

As far as budget yakitori goes, the sasami - plum and wasabi-topped - wasn’t bad. The tsukune was reasonable, and the slices of raw chicken flesh safe but a little bland. 

Better than Watami, not a patch on Kappa-chan.







Noa, Tokiwadai ノア、常盤台 

Like most snack bars, Noa - just a few strides from the south exit of Tokiwadai station - is a time capsule. Although the unwitting pedestrian has no idea what lurks within, he need only step over the threshold to be confronted by Showa. Showa style, Showa songs, Showa decor and Showa fashions. Oh, and lots of nostalgia, for the Showa era. 

Not that it’s not entertaining. A sizable otoshi of stewed pumpkin, seemingly endless bottles of chilled Kirin beer - served by a charming Mama-san and/ or the affable gent behind the bar (the Papa-san?) - old guys crooning enka about long missed home villages and the pains of being far from the farm and left adrift amidst the big city, older gals chain smoking and guzzling Cutty Sark. 

The Mama and I did an Eric Clapton duet. Great days. 




Kushiyaki Bar Char-Co, Tokiwadai  常盤台

This pleasing little kushiyaki/ yakitori joint has only been in business for a few months, so it’s difficult to to see what lies in store for it and the young gentlemen running the place. It, and they, deserve to do well if for nothing more than opening one of the better looking, more considered establishments in this neighbourhood. 

Simple decor, mostly in a nice black-grey charcoal theme (kind of blackboard-like), and the warm, welcoming counter around the open kitchen provide, in combination with some energetic service, a relaxing setting. The young chef, in combination with his small charcoal brazier and mountain of refrigerated, skewered morsels, provides simple yakitori with some interesting kushi and other dishes available thrown into the mix for good measure.  

Not the best price to volume ratio, for either the food or drinks, but not bad. The beer list deserves mention, as Guinness and Hoegaarden, among others, are rarely seen in this neck of the woods.

The standout dishes were undoubtedly the sanma no hone sembei and the sanma shiso maki with leek, both of which were delicious. The Halloween parfait proved to be popular, too.

Sanma no hone sembei.

Chicken liver with tare sauce, and chicken and leek.

Bacon wrapped tomato. 

Tsukune and hearts.

Bacon wrapped cheese.

Sanma shiso maki 

Spicy celery. 

Halloween parfait.

One of the go to places at this station.




Kappa-chan, Ebisu  かっぱちゃん、恵比寿

After a week of Kushiwakamaru overkill, a visit to Ebisu Yokocho’s Kappa-chan came as a welcome change while offering the opportunity to try someone else’s yakitori

On the west side of Ebisu station, next to Seven-Eleven, Ebisu Yokocho remains popular after opening its doors to the public 3-4 years ago. Essentially just an alley - running through the ground floor of an old apartment building - lined with small, yatai-like stalls serving various staples such as yakiniku, oden, okonomiyaki, and yakitori, with a wine bar thrown in for good measure. 

Always busy, the atmosphere is in the faux-Showa vein, with hanging lanterns, Hoppy posters and beer crate-seating aplenty. Kappa-chan is the first establishment on the right as you come though the entrance. Not spacious, but we still managed a party of five without any discomfort. 

The food was pretty good. Not Kushiwaka good, but still delicious - the cherry tomatoes surprisingly so. Perhaps a little dainty, though.

The sasami topped with wasabi was lethal. We like wasabi, but all but one of our party nearly had a funny turn after experiencing it here. My favourite of the night was the sasami with yuzu-kosho (citrus and pepper). 

Worthy of a second visit. 







Ahiru, Kichijoji  あひる、吉祥寺

According to tabelog.com, this little bar and wine store goes by the name of Ahiru Beer Hall, which is probably pushing it a bit. It’s located (a few yards from Ko-Panda) amongst the increasingly well turned out bars and eateries that occupy what was once a warren of ramshackle, decades old retail spaces huddled under rusting corrugated iron across the road from the bus rotary outside the central exit of Kichijoji station.

Many of these popular, if small, establishments are run by the now almost ubiquitous (in Kichijoji at any rate) Mishima – easily spotted by the little red lanterns outside each of their businesses. The ground floor bar, through which the upper floor with its chipboard furnishings is entered, is rather attractive; the far wall (as is that of the stairs) being lined with shelves full of tempting wines.

The service can be either extremely good or excruciatingly bad. The Gin & Tonic they serve is, however, beyond reproach.


Tel: 0422-20-6811



Japan Eats Podcast 13: In Praise of Izakaya

The recording of a beer-fuelled, izakaya related conversation - ranging from chain restaurants to Donald Richie - with Messrs. Lovitt and Pellegrini of Japan Eats fame is now available here:


and in iTunes here (Podcast 1):


Recorded last month while dining at Koikuchiya, Shimo-Igusa. 



Khana, Nishishinjuku  カナ、西新宿

Khana is simply a small, rather nondescript Indian/ Pakistan eatery in Nishishinjuku 6-Chome, tucked away in the shadow of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, roughly halfway between the Nishishinjuku and Nakanosakaue stations.

Nothing much to look at from the street – if not for the menu displayed on the pavement you’d miss the shadowy entrance – the interior is basic, too. The TV, loudly displaying stupefying variety shows, dominated proceedings. 

No need to go out of your way to try this place, and certainly not for an evening meal. But, if you are in the area at lunchtime, you could do worse. 

For around ¥780 the various lunch sets provide a filling, tasty meal mainly based around a small bowl of salad (poor) and rice (average), light fluffy naan (good, but not Nepalese restaurant good – i.e., not the same size as a skateboard) and a fair sized bowl of curry, all served on a platter.

Two of us had the chicken curry, and one the spinach and cheese curry. No complaints, not much chat, didn’t last long and suitably fall when we left. The service was friendly, in Japanese or English. 

The website shows lunch sets consisting of more than they actually do.