Shimbashi: Izakaya
Ishii (Shimbashi: Izakaya)
Open 6-11pm (LO). Closed weekends.
no smoking: No smoking

If you're a sake afficianado you'll be delighted by the stellar selection at this unpretentious little izakaya. Chances are you'll make some interesting discoveries, and perhaps even meet a brewer who's dropped in for a drink while visiting Tokyo. The sake list changes weekly, and features many limited-edition, seasonal bottles from small craft breweries - the kind of selections that are seldom sold in retail stores.

Mr. Ishii's food menu is eclectic, focusing on simple dishes prepared from good ingredients. Everything seems to have been chosen to go well with any kind of sake, so you don't need to worry about pairing strategies here.

Our prix-fixe omakase menu during a recent visit started off with sayori (halfbeak) tempura served with its spine deep-fried until crunchy, followed by a practically greaseless Kyushu-style satsuma-age (deep-fried fishcakes). The sashimi platter wasn't quite so exciting, but the well-prepared dashimaki (grilled omelette) made up for it.

Then we moved on to the hardcore snacks - tofu marinated in miso, cream cheese marinated in sake lees, plus a trio of smoked items - baby squid, oysters and chicken - all well-suited to a relaxed evening of sake exploration.

The atmosphere at Ishii is quite casual - it's hidden in a tiny alleyway near Shimbashi station, and there are only sixteen seats, including six at the counter (so reservations are essential). The background music tends toward bouncy eighties pop. Budget around Y5000-8000 for dinner and drinks.

[Photos by Ake Nordgren.]

Minato-ku, Shimbashi 2-15-10, Ishibashi Bldg 1F.
Tokyo Beyond Sushi - the guidebook
Tokyo Beyond Sushi
Explore the hidden side of Tokyo dining
Charcoal-grilled pork on skewers, udon noodles in curry-flavored soup, octopus dumplings, deep-fried beef cutlet -- there's a whole world of exciting food in Tokyo that food-loving visitors often miss out on.

This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From
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