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Lamb kebabs and incredibly cheap wines from around the world are the attractions at this casual Yotsuya dining spot. Wines start at under Y1000 per bottle, thanks to their policy of marking up wines by only Y100 over retail prices. If you're feeling adventurous, many of the choices represent lesser-known wine-producing countries like Uruguay, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Croatia.
We found a South African cabernet that we didn't mind sticking with, but it's easy to explore the rest of the list since all wines are available by the glass or half-bottle, and there's also a six-wine tasting set priced at Y1050. Imported beers follow the same policy of Y100 markup over retail, so you can find brews like Stone IPA and Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout for around Y650 a bottle.
Highlights of the food menu include various shish kebabs (the Peruvian ones are surprisingly spicy), and a pleasantly garlicky sauteed spinach. The menu also offers many other lamb dishes from Asia and Europe, and a page of Cajun dishes, although we found these to be more hit-or-miss.
As far as atmosphere goes, we were treated to a rather loud Queen concert video as background entertainment during two separate visits. Budget around Y3000-4000 for dinner with drinks, or perhaps less if you stick to the Y1000 per bottle wines.
An Italian restaurant with a good craft-beer selection is a nice find, but if you're not hungry you can come just for the beer. The ten taps dispense an assortment of Japanese, US and European craft beers, with some unusual finds (a Swiss sour ale!) that we haven't seen elsewhere.
In addition to table seating there's a comfortable five-seat bar on the ground floor, suitable for a casual quick drink. US pints are Y880, and there's a Y300 cover charge. Open from 11:30am weekends.
Very spicy, down-home Thai cuisine is what draws the customers to this extremely casual hole-in-the-wall spot, located inside an ancient basement arcade next to Asakusa subway station. The wide-ranging menu includes standards like curries, noodles and spicy salads, plus many dishes from the Isan region of northern Thailand. We'd recommend a thorough perursal of the menu (in Japanese and Thai), paying special attention to the page of chef's recommendations.
With its rickety tables and utilitarian stools, it seems like the kind of place that would welcome walk-in customers, but in fact reservations are essential. (We were lucky enough to get a spot just after opening time if we promised to leave before 7pm.)
Most dishes are priced in the Y700-800 range, similar to those popular Thai chain shops in town, but the food is definitely a cut above. If you're not in the mood for beer, Spanish wine runs Y1800 a bottle; budget around Y2500 for dinner and drinks.
A half-dozen beers from San Diego's Stone and other craft brewers are served on tap here, at prices ranging from Y980-Y1300 per pint. There's also a well-stocked retail shop with some fifty microbrews from both Europe and the US, ready to take home or drink here (after adding a Y400 bottle charge).
Located on the second floor at the top of a rather narrow staircase, the bar area is spacious, with a big counter and a handful of small tables. Indie rock plays in the background, and there's a decent assortment of bar food - pizzas, fish and chips, Buffalo wings, haggis, and home-smoked cheese, fish and eggs. If you're not in the mood for beer there are around forty or fifty different whiskeys to choose from.
Belgian frites (fried potatoes) - prepared by a former chef at the Belgian embassy - are the specialty at this casual standing bar. Frites are priced at Y550 for a medium-size portion (actually fairly hefty) and Y650 for an even larger ration. They come with a choice of plain mayonnaise or several other dips (although some of the extra-special dips run an extra Y50). If you're very hungry you can add on small side dishes like meatballs in tomato sauce or Flemish carbonade, a delicious beef and onion stew made with brown beer.
This being Belgium of course there's beer, in this case a few unusual brands we haven't seen at Tokyo beer bars. Draft beers are Tongerlo brown beer, Primus lager and Seefbier, while the bottle list offers Tongerlo Blond, Affligem Blonde, and the tangy Lindemans Cassis lambic beer. Frites and side dishes are ready to take out.
One of the better-stocked ethnic grocery stores in town, this spacious second-floor shop carries a wide range of prepared foods and ingredients from Thailand. Shop for fresh vegetables and tropical fruits, spicy sauces and fermented fish elixirs, packaged spice mixes and fresh herbs, shrimp chips and candies, soft drinks and beer - it's all here.
At the front of the shop is a section devoted to Thai cookingware and oversized mortar and pestle sets for grinding your own spices. There's also a good selection of magazines, CDs and DVDs from the old country.
We've tried our share of beef tongue - a culinary specialty of the Sendai area - and this unprentious Yotsuya izakaya serves some of the best that we've ever had. It's not exactly a secret though - there's almost always a line outside, so call ahead to reserve your spot.
Shinobu's braised tongue (yude-tan) in particular is the pride of the kitchen and the shop's best seller - incredibly tender and richly flavored, and perfectly complemented by a small dab of wasabi. The very tender charcoal-grilled tongue is another standout - served with excellent pickled hakusai, it somehow packs in more flavor per bite than the grilled tongue we've tried at other shops.
Tongue stew and a few more tongue variations round out the small menu, along with some nice vegetable dishes like stewed daikon and broccoli ohitashi. Sake is limited to one cold and one hot variety, so beer might be a better choice. The atmosphere is lively and service is friendly, although seating, especially in the non-smoking counter area, is rather rudimentary. Budget around Y5000-6000 for a full meal with drinks.
Known for their good food, lively atmosphere and reasonably priced craft brews, the Craft Beer Market chain has been growing quickly, and this fifth branch is their first foray into a residential neighborhood rather than an after-work business district. Similar to the downtown branches, CBM Koenji pours a well-chosen lineup of mostly Japanese craft brews from its thirty taps, along with a few ordinary lagers and wine by the glass for those who don't yet fully enjoy the pleasures of craft beer.
While the front section of the bar is as lively and bustling as CBM's other branches, the rear of the house seems much more relaxed, with more comfortable table seating and lots more space. Prices are consistent - most beers are Y780 a pint or Y480 a glass - while the wide range of snacks like shrimp ajillo and flounder carpaccio also offer good value for money.
Last order for food is 10:30pm; 11:00pm for drinks. Open from noon on weekends, with lunch served until 4pm.
If you were a creative chef who had read about burritos and seen pictures, but had no idea how to make them, this is what you might come up with. Tandoori lamb, sloppy joe filling, brown rice, curry-flavored sauce - these are just some of the surprises in store, along with dessert burritos and soy-milk smoothies. All in all a novel experience for Y750, although we would have preferred a much bigger portion of meat filling.
Conveniently located just above Ningyocho station, Wanchan serves good, original Thai cuisine, prepared by a former chef for the Thai ambassador. In addition to the usual curries and other crowd pleasers, the menu offers some unusual dishes that are rarely found in Tokyo, and all the dishes we've tried have been distinctively flavored.
On a recent visit we enjoyed tasty Isan-style raw sausages, quite piquant and nicely spiced, as well as very good curry-flavored sausages. The whole fish we ordered was smothered in garlic and a spicy sauce and was wonderfully crisp and crunchy - several levels up from the street-stall fare generally found in Tokyo's Thai spots.
Our only complaint at Wanchan was the lack of a non-smoking section - the ventilation could use some improvement. Budget around Y2000-3500 for dinner with drinks; lunches start at Y800.
Extreme beers are the speciaty at this cozy little beer bar - heavy on the hops, and generally higher in alcohol content than your average mainstream lager. Many of the beers are made by Thrash Zone itself, with names like "Speed Kills IPA" (7.8% ABV), although on our most recent visit we also saw offerings from serious US and Japanese craft breweries like Coronado, Lagunitas, Scuttlebutt and North Coast. Prices start at Y500 for a medium-sized glass.
The food menu is limited to frites (Y500), but these come with your choice of four sauces, such as Thrash Zone's original coriander mayonnaise. While you're sipping your beer you can enjoy an energetic soundtrack of thrash metal (hence the bar's name) played at a reasonable volume that doesn't impede conversation. The service here is friendly and the crowd is quite fluid, with many people stopping in for a quick drink and then moving on.
This LA-based Cali-Mex eatery specializes in fish tacos, but also serves a range of burritos, salads and bowls. The "wet burrito" (Y890-1050) is a pleasingly hefty regular burrito, which here comes with a very simple filling of mostly meat and shredded lettuce, topped with melted cheese and spicy red and green sauces.
For those who prefer lower carbs, Wahoo's salads come with cheese, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips, and your choice of "protein" - fish, chicken, pork, beef or shrimp. Rice bowl options include Kahlua pig as well as the usual chicken, beef and fish.
The restaurant is located next to the HLNA skate park atop DiverCity, which supplies many of their customers. Take the elevators at the south end of the mall and follow the signs to the skate park.
This lively after-work drinking spot is called "Queen of Chickens" - and what more do you need to know? Well, if you must have details, they serve a lovely roast chicken, flavored with rosemary, garlic and various secret herbs (so we were told), for just Y1880. Wines start at Y2700 per bottle. Your Y680 (per person) table charge sounds hefty, but it entitles you to a bottomless serving of bagna calda, with refills of both seasonal vegetables and the warm anchovy-infused sauce, which doubles as a tasty dip for the roast potatoes that arrive alongside your chicken.
The only downside - Queen of Chickens' very attractive prices mean that reservations are a must, as both the ground-floor main shop and the second-floor "guest house" fill to capacity most weeknights. Budget around Y3000 for ample food and drink.
A relaxed neighborhood hangout spot, Miu serves an interesting original cocktail made from home-made limoncello and home-made ginger ale, as well as the usual wine, beer and snacks. The soundtrack features a lot of Enya, if you like that sort of thing.
Seating at this old-school izakaya may be a bit tight and the air smoky, but the grilled meats are quite tasty, the drinks are cheap and the hours are very, very late.
Modern, upscale bistro fare served in a casual setting is the draw at this neighborhood French spot. The owner-chef trained at La Regalade, the original Paris "neo-bistro," and Parisian bistronomic appreciation of top-quality, high-end ingredients is certainly reflected here. For example, our dinner menu offered Iberico as well as domestic roast pork, along with four different dishes featuring foie gras.
The wine list - not limited to French labels - is quite reasonably priced, with numerous choices in the Y3000-6000 range. Half a dozen cheeses are on offer to round off your meal, a decent selection for a place this small. The tiny dining room is cozy and intimate, with just thirteen seats (including a five-seat counter).
Budget around Y6000 at dinnertime, and bring cash. Generously portioned weekday lunches (served Tuesday-Friday) are Y1000 (Y1300 with coffee and dessert), and weekend prix-fixe lunches are available if you call ahead to make arrangements.
With a history dating back to the 1960s, Scandia Garden is a casual Danish cafe occupying an ancient-looking ground-floor dining room in front of Osanbashi Pier, with a more formal and much more expensive restaurant upstairs. The downstairs menu offers open-face sandwiches and casual but hearty main dishes like roast beef, veal cordon bleu and fried prawns. A main dish plus rice pilaf or bread plus coffee or tea is priced at Y1300 at lunchtime or just Y1400 at dinnertime, which starts at 4pm.
We enjoyed a selection of three mini-sandwiches - herring, cold meats and a mini-hamburger - served with cake as a lunchtime platter. Everything seemed very Danish in flavor, with decent bread, tasty baby-leaf greens and ripe tomato. If you're here for dinner, drink options include Carlsberg beer, Danish aquavit, and a wide range of time-warp cocktails with names like Moon River, Charlie Chaplin, and White Lady.
An eclectic mix of easy-listening music plays in the background - we quite enjoyed a steel-drum rendition of "La Vie en Rose." If you're after something fancier than simple cafe fare, the upstairs dining room serves full-course steak dinners, or an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord (Y6000 per person; minimum two persons). If you want to live it up like a Danish king at home you can get a mixed-herring platter and an almond cake to go (Y2800 each).
Formerly located in Kagurazaka, this small neighborhood bar serves a menu of African and African-inspired dishes like cous cous, peanut-chicken stew, and tasty boerewors sausage. Thrill seekers can sample sauteed camel, crocodile steaks and fried beef lung.
Drinks include cocktails, African beers, and a decent list of South African and north African wines starting in the range of Y3000 per bottle. Be sure to inspect the "Little Africa" diorama while you're here.
Run by the friendly folks at Tokyo Family Restaurant, Good Meals is most notable for their comfortable second-floor "stand" area, where you can pick out some nice imported craft beers from the refrigerators and either take them home or drink them here. (Don't worry, in spite of the name, there is some seating in addition to the standing bar area.)
The twenty or so beers on sale at any given time are clearly chosen by a beer connoisseur, with bottles you don't see every day such as Tiny Rebel Dirty Stop Out, a smoked oat stout from Wales, and Coronado Mermaid's Red Ale. Both US and European craft brewers are well represented, with stock from four or five different importers regularly available.
Most bottled beers are priced Y530-730 to go, with an extra Y300 charge if you want to drink here. There are also a few Japanese craft beers on draft, served in small glasses. You can accompany your beers with food from the third-floor restaurant (unless the kitchen is very busy) - mostly Middle Eastern fare such as couscous and mezze-style dips in appetizer-size portions. The bar also serves espresso beverages and home-made ice candies.
Up in the third-floor dining room you'll find an impressive menu of cocktails made from small-batch liquors and artisanal mixers, plus a handful of mid-range wines.
We were intrigued by the menu categories at this after-work izakaya - charcoal-grilled meats, charcoal-grilled small fish and charcoal-grilled big fish - all of them prepared over top-grade bincho charcoal. Heirloom breeds of pork, chicken and premium wagyu beef make up the bulk of the meat menu, and the ones we sampled were tender in texture and sufficiently fatty to bring out their full flavor after grilling.
Seeing the cedar ball hanging outside the shop we knew to expect a good selection of sake, and indeed the list of twenty or so labels is filled with reliable and well-known breweries like Tedorigawa and Dewazakura, although we didn't notice any especially unusual bottles or seasonal specials.
If you just want to grab a bite after work rather than spend the evening nibbling, Sanjuro offers several inexpensive teishoku sets built around their grilled specialties; there are also full-course prix-fixe menus if you want to splurge. Budget anywhere from Y2000-4000 at dinnertime, Y800-1000 at lunch.
Craft sake from Akita Prefecture is the specialty at this comfortable counter bar, which stands at the front of a chicken specialty restaurant called Honke Abeya. You can just drop by for a quick glass of sake or two, or you can order some skewers of yakitori or even a full chicken-based meal to accompany your drinks.
The drinks selection here is quite impressive, with limited-edition seasonal specials and "prototype" bottles from many of Akita's small craft sake breweries. More than three dozen varieties are generally available on any given day, mostly priced from Y580-880 per glass, although a few items cost a bit more. There's also a variety of kikizake tasting sets (including a seven-glass flight for Y1600) and all-you-can-drink deals.
The chicken here is an heirloom cross-breed called hinai-jidori, prepared as yakitori, oyakodon and - for the daring - several types of chicken sashimi. Budget around Y2000-3000 in the evening for some skewers and drinks. This shop is located in the second-floor Kitamachi Dining complex at the north end of the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, above the Kitchen Street and Kurobei Yokocho dining complexes.
Located at the entrance to Andaz Hyatt Hotel, Bebu serves original burger variations such as Andale-Gringo (cheese, beans, avocado, jalapeno) and Bavarian (pork sausage patty, sauerkraut, curry sauce). Their kofta burger (a lamb burger served with tsatziki and hummus) is a particular standout, with perfectly grilled meat and nicely balanced flavors.
Bebu's decor is rather minimalist, and the soundtrack is loud, bouncy pop music from decades past. There's some outdoor terrace seating for when the weather permits.
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