...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 Toyoko Line (26)


Kokoroya, Nakameguro  こころ屋、中目黒

I first spotted Kokoroya some time last year, probably en route to Kushiwakamaru or Café Carat, and had been meaning to give it a try ever since. Part of a small chain with a handful of Kyoto establishments this one and only Tokyo outpost with its pleasantly understated Japanesque interior and Kyoto cuisine denoted an enjoyable meal, and a welcome change from usual Nakameguro haunts.

Seated at the long counter dominating the dining space, we soaked up the relaxing atmosphere, the chef’s recommendations and a variety of shōchu, the best of which (at least as far as my aching head could recall the following day) was the Nakanaka – an old acquaintance.  

The food itself was okay, but being a little small left us feeling hungry, and somewhat out of pocket. Not that it was bad, the various dishes just weren’t particularly exciting, and of those that worked there was not enough. If picking favourites, the nanoha with su miso was delicious, and then jidori karaage excellent (I could have eaten a mountain of the stuff). Although in season and thus hard to ignore, the takenoko was a bit of a let down, being less flavoursome than anticipated. And these days, after having being spoiled at izakaya such Monzennakacho’s Uosan, dainty little plates of even daintier morsels of sashimi are just an annoyance…

The service was attentive enough, even being overly so to begin with – food orders were requested before the first drinks and otsumami had been delivered, which, considering the relaxed ambience, was entirely uncalled for. Still, not bad overall, but best suited to a (very) light meal and some drinks, rather than a prolonged evening meal.

Otsumami of assorted vegetables 

The menu - Kyoto cuisine, delicately proportioned... 

Nanoha with su miso - a delicious accompaniment to iced shōchu

Sashimi moriawase (for two) - tasty, but not nearly enough

Open kitchen - great for receiving recommendations of the day

Grilled takenoko - the brazier was a nice touch, if not quite hot enough

Jidori karaage - the best dish of the evening, light batter and delicously moist chicken





Komatsuan, Shibuya  小松庵、渋谷

Komatsuan is a small chain of soba restaurants serving up “Tokyo Soba,” based on the traditions of Edo Soba, which is to say they claim to adhere to tradition while adding something contemporary to the mix, too. 

A visit to the Shibuya Tokyu Honten store for a late lunch found the place practically deserted, and lacking in character, as are most department store restaurants.

The menu offered range of set lunches, reasonable priced, with the soba and tempura set being well proportioned and tasty.





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



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.



Tai Kou Rou


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.



Kyo no Shin


Quan An Tam, Jiyugaoka  クァンアンタム、自由が丘

Quan An Tam is my new favourite Vietnamese restaurant – cooking, atmosphere, volume, price – all the boxes are ticked. For dog-fanciers, pets are also allowed.

Located on the second floor balcony of Jiyugaoka’s “Jiyugaoka Depato,” just a hop and a skip for the station on Jiyu Dori, Quan An Tam is certainly one of the more attractive offerings amongst a host of bars, snack bars and restaurants hidden away in the building.

The restaurant isn’t large, and fills quickly. Undoubtedly popular, booking is advised on weekends. The interior is comfortable, clean and less drab than others, such as Giang’s, and feels less touristy and worn out than Huong Viet or Lotus Palace. The cooking beats them all hands down. 

Service is good, and seemed to improve with subsequent visits. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and at time a little camp. Clientele are mostly youngsters and couples.

The menu covers a wide range of dishes, many of which I’ve not seen at other Vietnamese restaurants, making the experience a lot more fun than initially expected. Prices are good considering the size of the portions – every dish is huge, making it difficult to sample more than a few unless you visit as a group (recommended).

Each dish looks, smells and tastes freshly prepared, with none being served suspiciously quickly. The goi cuon (uncooked spring rolls) were as good as those at the aforementioned establishments, while the banh uot (shrimps in moist, cold dumplings) were interesting, if somewhat less exciting than they at first appeared to be.

Not to be missed, the goi bo (beef salad) provided a mountain of delicious fried beef and vegetables, with a nice tangy flavour.

The tiem xao (pork, shrimps, aubergine and cucumber) worked well, although the flavours of the pork and shrimps seemed at odds.

No Vietnamese meal is complete without some pho, such as the delicately flavoured pho ga (pho noodles in chicken broth with fresh herbs), or banh xeo (“Vietnamese okonomiyaki”), which was immense, if a little bland and over reliant of bamboo shoots to pack it out.

Perhaps the most interesting dish of the meal was the tau hu doi thit (fried cakes of minced shrimp). 

We washed this down with Saigon and ba ba ba (333) beer (the latter served in its can), both of which were somewhat overpriced. This is the one complaint I have for Quan An Tam – the food is excellent and well priced, but if you intend to get your drink on, dining here can become expensive.



Quan An Tam


Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental, Motosumiyoshi  元住吉

One of two (the other being in Musashikosugi) seafood-centric izakaya, Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental is a superb dining experience – providing you like huge servings of fresh fish and shellfish as extremely low prices.

Located on the Breman shotengai (out of the east exit of the station, on the left just passed ABC Mart), it’s not a place that jumps out at you, being hidden away on the 2nd floor of an inconspicuous building, unseen from the street. My dining partner and I stumbled upon the place having been tempted by the signs for an okonomiyaki restaurant in the same building.

Oriental, plays the blue-collar, days-gone-by card well – simple, lively interior complete with beer and beverage posters, rough wooden tables and counters, crates, paper lanterns and bucket loads of noisy, happy diners.

The menu was wide-ranging, covering sashimi and sushi, through grilled, baked, fried and stewed dishes, salads and sides, and a smattering of classic izakaya fare not of the sea. Portions were extremely impressive, tasted great, and then even better when we received the bill at the end of the night.

Service was efficient, friendly and informed. Each member of staff knew their way around the menu, and was happy to offer recommendations and advice.

The clientele were a mixed bunch, young and old, and seemed each and every to be having a whale of a time. The atmosphere was lively, although most of the action seemed to be in the (much larger) smoking section of establishment.

A good range of shochu and nihonshu were available, along with draft and bottled beer, Hoppy and soft drinks. Best dishes of the night were the immense nokezushi, and the succulent, flesh-laden tuna jaw, not to mention thick slabs of fresh, if rough-hewn, sashimi

Top stuff.


Sakana no Daidokoro Oriental