...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 Yamanote Line (20)


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





Uncle Tom, Ebisu  ウンクルトム、恵比寿

Tokyo is dotted with these old-style Western/ spaghetti “restaurants” serving up antiquated Japanese takes on Italian staples and domestic creations utilizing all manner of seemingly incompatible ingredients.

Uncle Tom, situated a short jog from Ebisu station’s East exit, is one of the better known and loved of the genre.

Usually busy, especially of a lunchtime, the portions are pretty good, the prices extremely reasonable, and the pints of Yebisu beer very cheap. 

The atmosphere is redolent of a rāman-ya, and the interior rather 1970s/ 80s, complete with a collection of prints by John Lennon. 

The salads, although sizable, aren't prizewinners, but the spaghetti is strangely compelling. The asparagus, bacon and egg pasta was certainly moreish, and I have it on good authority that the cod roe and nattō variety is equally tasty…


03 3442 1934

Uncle Tom


Tsubaki, Shinjuku  華椿、新宿

One of many awful budget izakaya in Shinjuku, just up the road from Segafredo on the East side of the station, Tsubaki’s only redeeming feature was a negotiable nomihodai plan.

With a little over an hour to kill with old friends on a short trip to Tokyo, being collared on the street by one of the izakaya’s fluffers proved useful.

An hour of all-we-could-drink silliness for ¥800, as long as we ordered a dish per head. Considering that it was too late for lunch, and too early for dinner, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The building, izakaya interior and service were all instantly forgettable. The food standard for such places. The edamame were okay, the chicken karaage and potato salad edible but not for the delicate of stomach. About on a par with the grub at American.  


Ichiren, Shinjuku  一蓮、新宿

A discovery made by a neighbourhood dining partner who understands that dining should mean food and drink in unequal measures, Ichiren proved to be a competent restaurant serving adequate Korean BBQ supplemented by somewhat mediocre side dishes, and supported by a 3-hour all-you-can-drink plan that, quite frankly, was quite excellent.

We paid a visit to the Shinjuku restaurant, not far from Segafredo and Tsunahachi on the East Exit side, although there are other outposts in Shibuya, Shinbashi and Chiba.

The interior and service screamed “budget chain restaurant,” but overall the set meal we ordered proved to be better than one would have guessed.

Although we went for meat option, the collagen nabe seemed to be extremely popular, especially among the many young ladies frequenting the place.

An appetizer of kimuchi and moyashi (bean sprouts) started the meal – a little dainty but good enough. Salmon carpaccio with fried garlic improved the outlook, as did a bowl full of lightly drizzled green salad.

A couple of risible prawn crackers topped with a shrimp and oodles of sickly-sweet mayo let the show down considerably, but this was soon forgotten once the pork arrived. Fried on the usual metal griddle, with garlic and kimuchi, it was tasty, but would have benefitted from being thicker cut such as that at of some of Shin-Okubo’s better Korean restaurants.

The bibimba was not as expected, but filled the corners. The dessert was unnecessary.

Not a bad destination for dinner and gallons of booze. If that’s your thing…

While on the subject, Maki-san’s recent Korean discovery looks very tempting.





Le Lion, Ebisu  ル・リオン、恵比寿

Being both shocked and dismayed by the queue outside L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, my dining partner and I trundled on over to Le Lion, a small Lyonnaise bouchon-styled French restaurant, in the Ebisu backstreets between Meiji Dori and the station, not far from the excellent Hainan Jeefan Shokudo.

Not large, the restaurant interior looked inviting enough, and the covered terrace area provided for a nice atmosphere (surrounded by surprisingly well behaved pet dogs) on a warm and admirably rain free afternoon.

Although both Tokyoeater and Terry thought well of Le Lion a few years ago, this particular lunch excursion found it somewhat wanting. Either time has taken its toll, or the lunchtime business doesn't do that later in the day justice.   

An amuse of dry bread proceeded our mains; steak and roast beef, respectively, both propped up with a miserly splash of mashed potato and over-cooked, under-represented, vegetables. The steak came with mustard puree that served to moisten the bread a little. Both pieces of meat were of the fatty persuasion so beloved of Japanese diners, and thus too oily and soft-textured for my liking.

For dessert, lemon tart and a delicious, sickly-sweet chocolate mousse that would have faired better after an evening meal.



Le Lion


Kagomi, Ebisu  籠女、恵比寿

Kagomi is an enjoyable izakaya some ten minutes walk from Ebisu station in the direction of Hiroo – near Ebisu 4-chome, to be precise.

Part of a chain, which belongs to a group running a handful of restaurant/ izakaya brands, the emphasis is on good portions, a broad menu – regional okonomiyaki to fusion salads – and drawing female customers, as demonstrated by their ladies’ party plans and, perhaps, the tone the menu strikes. 

If this izakaya has a claim to fame, then it must be the otoshi – all-you-can-eat salad, and a surprisingly good one at that, stuffed full of beans, peppers, radish, lettuce and other leaves. 

The erengi in chives and butter were great, as was the cheese and asparagus bacon roll, although it didn't come anywhere near the molten cheese heaven of Kushiwakamaru’s cheese-stuffed peppers. 

Although tasty, and providing ballast to offset the beer guzzling, the okonomiyaki was somewhat disappointing. This only reinforces my belief that good okonomiyaki are only to found at dedicated okonomiyaki-ya.

Kagomi get’s the mid-range budget izakaya positioning just right, and provides a welcome excuse to visit the side of Ebisu that I tend to neglect.





Raj Mahal, Shibuya  ラージマハール、渋谷

My rave review of Jiyugaoka’s Taj Mahal prompted @japanized to ask, “is it as good as the Raj Mahal, in Shibuya?” Admitting I had no idea, I promised to take a look, in the interest of fairness.

Happily, it was not a wasted visit. Located on the 5th floor of a corner building opposite the Udagawacho police box in central Shibuya, I realized that I’ve passed the Raj by a thousand times without ever noticing.

The shop interior is suitably worn and faded – this place has been in business for some 15 years and enjoys its reputation (along with the others in the small chain) as one of Tokyo’s most venerated Indian restaurants – probably having been quite blingy in its heyday.

The service was good, but not great. Still no complaints in that department. The funny, fish tank kitchen allows diners to watch some of their meal being cooked. At the time of my visit I enjoyed watching doughy naan flying through the air.

The menu offers a wide range of curries (chicken, lamb, shrimp, fish and vegetable) focusing on rich-tasting, oily dishes from northern India, as well as rice dishes, breads and other sundries, along with an extremely tasty looking range of tandoori dishes, some of which are large enough to make a meal of. Indeed, and is often the case at a good Indian, one is best visiting in a party so as to sample a wider range of the dishes on offer.

The aromas coming from the kitchen were mouthwatering. The beers were over-priced, but then you can’t have it all I suppose. The vegetable (predominantly potato) samosa were excellent, the skins robust without being too heavy.

The naan – plain and garlic varieties – were not bad, but certainly nowhere near as good as those usually found in many of Tokyo’s Indian and Napali restaurant these days. In this sense, the Raj Mahal really needs to get with the times. If the naan aren’t the size of surfboards, and incredibly light and fluffy, then they no longer please. The garlic naan tasted faintly of garlic, but none was to be seen… It should have been smothered in the stuff.

The curries, chili chicken saag and a seafood/ shrimp curry, were very good. Wonderfully rich tasting and full of strong spicy flavors, without overpowering the other ingredients. I wished they were a little larger, but this indicates how tasty they were just as much as how greedy I can be. 

Still, when all is considered, the naan, service and interior (not to mention the price of the beer) can’t compete with the Taj Mahal, and although the curry came close, I didn’t experience the same “oh my god I want to order another of those right away” sensation. 

Happy to make repeat visits though, just to make sure… Or to check out the reportedly excellent buffet lunch which they serve daily. 



Raj Mahal