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Pirouette's chef Naoya Kobayashi grew up on a farm in Nagano, and he has a keen appreciation for what top-quality farm-fresh ingredients - particularly vegetables - should taste like. After training at a couple of highly regarded restaurants in France, he brought his talents to this beautifully appointed Toranomon dining room, where he offers a creative, modern take on French cuisine.
Highlights of a recent visit included fantastically soft and tender beef cheeks, braised in red wine after being marinated overnight in miso and juniper berries. A lovely cold broccoli mousse started things off on an adventurous footing, and our pate de campagne - not always the most exciting dish on a French menu - came in well above average, with lots of meaty flavors balanced by tart fig and apricot pastes.
The restaurant is divided into the more comfortably furnished bistro side in back, with prix-fixe menus from Y5000 (+10% service), and the less expensive cafe area up front, where you can sit on high stools and order lunch or dinner a la carte. The wine list focuses on the more upscale French regions, with many bottles in the Y10,000-20,000 range but not much under Y8000. (Wine by the glass starts at Y700.) Lunches are priced from Y3000 in the bistro and Y1200 in the cafe.
This tiny shop serves as a standing bar, specialty liquor shop and gourmet grocer, with a bit of art gallery thrown in for good measure. Five taps serve craft beer from Japan and abroad (Y500 for a smallish pour), or you can bring in your own growler to fill up and bring home. Located just a minute from Ebisu Station, the shop is on the ground floor of a small residential building.
On the retail side Night Owl carries a limited selection of obscure beers that are hard to find elsewhere - Moa from New Zealand and Mountain Goat from Australia among them - mostly priced at over Y1000 for a small bottle. You can also find artisanal bitters, various absinthes, expensive chocolates and other gourmet foods. Note that in spite of the name, Night Owl closes at 9pm (8pm on weekends).
Late-night eateries are relatively scarce in this part of town, so it's worth knowing about this popular American chain restaurant if you want to grab a meal or a drink after 10:30pm. The kitchen turns out decent bar fare - cheeseburgers, buffalo wings (and the somewhat tidier boneless buffalo chicken), and nachos with voluminous servings of guacamole.
The bar seems to specialize in exotic cocktails like the "Ultimate Strawberry Banana Colada" (Y1190), and the "Ice Cream Sandwich" (Y940). Lunch is served until 4pm, and happy hour runs 4-7pm.
A popular yakitori chain known especially for their signature spicy chicken wings, Toriyoshi stay ahead of the curve by offering an appealing selection of seasonal items and original dishes, such as maitake tempura and seafood salad wrapped in spicy kimchee. Budget around Y3000 for food and drink at dinnertime.
A cozy neighborhood izakaya, Abuzo specializes in charcoal-grilled beef, pork, chicken and ocean trout, with a decent sake list alongside. The white chicken livers, fresh every day, are a revelation, as is the grilled vegetable salad.
Many of the menu items - dried fish and shrimp, fresh vegetables - are simply grilled at your table, perhaps with a coating of olive oil that you brush on yourself. Budget around Y4000-5000 for ample food and drink (includes Y600 table charge).
Possibly Tokyo's narrowest sake shop, Echizenya stocks a deep range of sakes from various craft breweries - some highly regarded, some rather obscure. (Their selection of Dassai sake from Yamaguchi Prefecture is particularly thorough.) If you're a sake fan, this place is definitely worth browsing on your way home after a pilgrimage to the contemporary art museum or Blue Bottle Coffee.
A brightly lit, spacious basement, Tokyo Porks attracts a lively after-work crowd with its cheap drinks (beers are Y289) and simple but competently prepared izakaya-style grilled pork dishes. Organ-meat fans can choose liver, heart and other cuts at Y120 per skewer, while the large-size spareribs are a bargain at Y380.
Budget around Y2500 for dinner and drinks, or choose a party plan with open bar (from Y3000) if you're in a festive mood. Lunch averages Y750.
A huge selection of craft sake from Ishikawa Prefecture is sold in the basement of this three-story shop - well over 100 varieties, including some two dozen sakes in convenient one-cup serving sizes. The basement also houses a budget-friendly dining counter where you can order a five-item set menu of local Kaga-ryori for just Y1500.
Fresh and frozen ingredients, candies and other prepared foods are sold on the main floor, with a small cafe area up on the second floor. Upstairs you'll also find a huge variety of local Ishikawa-ken crafts - colorful Kutani-yaki pottery, beautiful lacquerware, wood and paper crafts, and items covered in gold leaf, a major local industry.
The basement dining area is open 11am-3, 5-8:30pm (LO), closed Sundays. The cafe is open 10am-8pm.
A very pleasant combination art-gallery and cafe space, La Chimica looks like a place you'd find in the backstreets of Daikanyama rather than the Ichigaya business district. The barristas here are very serious about their coffee, serving, among other drinks, a special iced coffee that's steeped over the course of eight hours.
Furnishings are stylish and comfortably separated, with a constantly changing selection of art on the walls to enjoy, as exhibitions here run for two weeks at a time. If you're hungry there are light desserts, and a selection of wines (roughly Y5000/bottle) and beers during bar time, which is after 6pm when there's an exhibition on.
Imported food and drink from Taiwan are sold here, with a tiny restaurant corner up front where you can order tea and dumplings or desserts. The freezer cabinets are well stocked with various frozen meat- and vegetable-filled buns, while shelves are laden with myriad hot sauces, sweet soft drinks, leaf teas, plum and litchi liqueurs, and fruit-stuffed miniature cakes.
Note that the restaurant area is open 11am-2pm and 4-7pm.
Like the original Marzac in Aoyama, this stylish two-story cafe near the Meguro River serves up nicely prepared grilled-meat dishes and reasonably priced wines by the glass or bottle. The open kitchen on the ground floor helps establish a warm, friendly atmosphere. Budget around Y3000 for food and drink.
Cafe Hai, closed for dinner but open all afternoon, is a nice, arty spot to drop in on for a casual Vietnamese lunch. The small, pork-heavy menu features pho noodles with pork cakes, fried-pork banh mi sandwiches, fried spring rolls, and "Com Tron Rau Thit" - steamed rice with ground pork and fresh vegetables - plus sweet, strong Vietnamese coffee.
Our tasty banh mi sandwich struck nice a flavor and texture balance between fatty, juicy pork, crunchy pickles, copious amounts of cilantro and lemongrass, and sides of shrimp chips and vegetable-tuna salad (Y1000). Located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) building, the cafe is just upstairs from the museum shop.
The concept behind El Chiringuito is to recreate the menu and atmosphere of a casual Andalusian beachside restaurant. Spanish wines start at around Y500 per glass, and most of the food is simple and rustic, with quite an assortment of sardine dishes. Seating may be a bit cramped if want to spend a whole evening here, but it's fine for a quick drink and snack on the way to or from Ichigaya station, which is one minute away.
Pleasantly modern in its decor, Pump Craft Beer Bar is quieter and more low-key than the other craft beer bars in Ikebukuro, offering a decent selection of both imports and domestic beers from its ten taps, along with a fairly ordinary pub menu and a rock music soundtrack.
Perhaps the most appealing feature is its closeness to Tanakaya (at Mejiro station), one of Tokyo's best retailers for imported craft beers, making it easy to drop in here for a pint after doing some serious beer shopping.
Ef Cafe isn't a cat cafe, it's simply a cafe with a resident cat which also happens to exhibit cat-centered artwork on the walls, serve drinks in cat-themed glassware, and sell a small, tasteful collection of feline-focused knick-knacks. During the day they serve espresso beverages, teas, mini-pizzas and other light snacks, switching to a more alcohol-centered bar menu after six pm.
Attached to the back of the cafe is a traditional kura-style warehouse, which the staff give guided tours of. The kura is frequently the venue for musical performances (usually traditional Japanese music) and art exhibitions. Open until 2am Fridays, 10pm Sundays; gallery hours are earlier.
Most Shimbashi drinking spots close before midnight, but if you've somehow managed to miss the last train, Dedesuke is certainly worth knowing about. Open until 4am, this casual izakaya serves budget wines, a handful of well-chosen sake, and great charcoal-grilled pork, chicken, and A5-grade beef. Budget around Y2500-4000 for food and drink.
This lively after-work bar is one of the "Cerveza Gym" quartet of specialty beer bars, devoting their two to four taps to American craft beers from breweries like Sound, Diamond Knot and Maui. Just as interesting though is their impressive line-up of more than sixty bottled and canned beers, representing a who's who of US craft breweries.
Draft beers are Y1000 per pint for draft, with similar prices for bottles and cans. Theres's also a full - if oddly eclectic - food menu centered on Hawaiian-style dishes like lomi-lomi salmon. A Hawaiian musical soundtrack completes the picture, with friendly service and enthusiastic beer advice if you're looking for it. (Open from 3pm Sundays.)
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.
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