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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.
This huge, garishly lit shop is a veritable supermarket of Hokkaido food and drink. The dairy section is especially well stocked, with a bewildering variety of cheeses, lots of butter, and something called "wild milk." The nearby drinks corner carries around forty types of sake and roughly the same amount of wine. They also stock the excellent North Island craft beer, with four types priced at Y525 per bottle.
Browsing the aisles, you'll run into numerous ramen variations, a surprisingly big assortment of powdered soups, jars of scallops in mayonnaise, pouches of soup curries, pickled melons, lots of dried fish, and of course Hokkaido potatoes in every size and shape.
Novel, fusion-style udon is the specialty here, but what first attracted our attention was the inviting little sake bar standing at the front of the shop. A couple dozen well-chosen craft sakes from around the country are served in taster-size 60ml or full 120ml portions, in your choice of standard sake cups or proper wine glasses (we recommend the latter).
The udon menu features intriguing choices such as udon carbonara and beef-tendon curry udon, with most dishes in the Y1000-1200 range. We enjoyed a very refined, Chinese-inspired tantanmen udon with a satisfyingly spicy sesame sauce, and a compelling Italian-style four-cheese udon that had us scooping up the very last of the sauce from our bowl.
A serving of udon here is filling enough to make a complete meal, but if you're in the mood for starters (or noodle alternatives), you'll find a good selection of charcoal-grilled meats, fish and vegetables that should go nicely with your sake. There are also original dishes like "caprese tempura" - mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil tempura-fried with a light, delicate coating. Budget around Y1500-3000 at dinnertime.
Shamo, a type of chicken that was originally bred in Thailand for cockfighting, is prepared here using the traditional "warayaki" cooking method, where meat and fish are quickly seared over burning straw at temperatures of 800-900C. The izakaya-style restaurant also serves warayaki-grilled katsuo (bonito), and plus a nice selection of craft sake from Aomori Prefecture.
If you're just here for a quick and inexpensive meal after shopping, the menu offers various donburi and teishoku options starting at around Y1200 and featuring grilled chicken or fish along with rice, miso soup and side dishes. Or you can treat the place as an izakaya, sampling the excellent grilled wings, sasami (chicken breast) grilled in ume paste, and crunchy tsukune (chicken meatballs) served with a raw shamo egg.
The fast grilling process leaves the center of the chicken meat tender and juicy, and imparts a nice grassy aroma. Crunchy chunks of raw cucumber in garlic dressing make a nice side dish. There are five varieties of Aomori's Mutsu Hassen sake served by the glass or ichigo-sized flask, to go with your food, along with the usual shochu and beer. Budget Y1200-3500 at dinnertime.
The five or six varieties of fresh-roasted coffee beans sold here start at around Y1890 per 250-gram bag, and you can taste samples before you buy. Each bean purchase also comes with a free cup of coffee. There's a tiny bench outside the shop, although most customers get their coffee to go.
There's a nice selection of some three dozen craft sake to explore at this stylish little bar, with an unusual fish and seafood-centered food menu to accompany your drinks. It's run by a Shizuoka-based purveyor of shiokara (fermented shellfish guts), and connoisseurs of this delicacy can choose from thirty different varieties, including unusual dishes like shiokara bruschetta. If you're not a fan, you can fall back on the reliable sashimi platter of the day, featuring three or five different fish depending on your appetite.
The menu also offers some interesting sushi items, such as fish marinated in yuzu kosho and an excellent grilled anago that goes well with the sake here. The setup is informal enough that you can just pop in for a round of drinks and a snack, or stay longer if you find more sake that you want to try.
The arched, high-ceilinged space under the railroad tracks is part of the JR-managed Maach Ecute complex, a repurposed former train station from the 1950s. Budget around Y2000-3000 for snacks and a few drinks.
This rather large, 110-seat Art Nouveau-style restaurant is a taproom for De Halve Maan, a 450-year-old brewery in the Belgian city of Bruges. They serve a good variety of beers from that brewery and elsewhere in Belgium - more than 100 varieties in all.
The food menu covers Belgian standards like frites and mussels, and the very meaty charcuterie platters are worth a try. Open until 4am Friday and Saturday nights.
This charming, traditionally appointed izakaya near Ichigaya station offers an enormous selection of craft sake, shochu, and Okinawan awamori. The sake list includes a dozen or so specials of the day (always a good sign), plus deep selections from a number of well-regarded breweries - for example there are twelve different labels from the excellent Fukui-ken brand Kokuryu.
The eclectic food menu covers a lot of ground too, with standard dishes (grilled meats on skewers, Okinawan pork stew) served alongside original creations such as their ambitious tofu lasagna and deep-fried basil-cheese rolls. The food quality is decent, but it doesn't overshadow the sake. Budget around Y3000-5000 for dinner with drinks.
Located under the JR railroad tracks, this very casual drinking spot serves great charcoal-grilled beef on skewers, including a variety of organ meats. Surrounded by similarly inexpensive and informal shops, it makes a nice stop on a bar-hopping tour of the neighborhood. Budget around Y2000 for food and drink.
Casual Hawaiian cuisine, tropical cocktails and pancakes are served at this open-air restaurant in Yokohama Bay Marina. The Sam Choy's platter (Y1130) is probably the most interesting menu choice, with tasty helpings of garlic shrimp, ahi poke and Spam musubi.
Serious coffee fans in the Toranomon area were happy to hear about the opening of this office-building branch of the cult-favorite Omotesando Koffee in Aoyama. The polished-wood decor is quite minimal, the better to focus attention on the laboratory-like coffee-brewing area.
Hot and cold espresso beverages and drip coffee are served to drink here or to go, with hand-dripped coffee served from 3-6pm. An exclusive Toranomon blend of beans is available at Y650 per 100-gram bag.
Fresh produce from Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku can be found in ample quantities at this well-stocked antenna shop, which also supplies local Kichijoji residents with regional specialty foods such as jars of tiny kibinago (silver-striped herring) fillets, and candied deep-fried fish bones. Wheat-gluten (fu) snacks come in flavors like ginger, yuzu and strawberry.
Out in front of the shop we found several varieties of peppers and radishes, tomatoes and carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, yams, rucola, scallions, snap beans, ginger and lemons. Yuzu is another big import, with juices, jams, candies and many other products made from the popular citrus fruit.
Well-selected and reasonably priced craft beers and wines are complemented by simple Middle Eastern fare (tajines, dips, falafel) at this tiny drinking spot. Located next to a sister shop called Kujira Curry Bar and across from a Vietnamese BBQ stall, Whale is one of more than a dozen bars and mini-restaurants making up the Dai-ichi Ichiba restaurant arcade, a retro-style, indoor "food alley" just north of Koenji station.
Craft-beer drinkers can find Punk IPA from Scottish brewery Brew Dog on tap, along with several more of their beers in bottles and cans, plus some less commonly seen European and US microbrews. During a recent visit we discovered some excellent beers from Dutch craft brewery De Molen and Norwegian outfit Nogne. The wine list is also eclectic and budget-friendly, for example Sokol Blossor's "Evolution" white blend is Y4,000 per bottle.
Our otoshi turned out to be a good-sized portion of home-smoked bacon served with cumin bread, a great match for our first round of IPAs. Equally beer-friendly are the baba ganoush and other mezze-style dips, which come with tasty home-made pita bread, and the crunchy falafel balls, served with a spicy yogurt sauce.
Service is friendly and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is very casual. Most bottles of wine are priced in the Y2800-5000 range, with some outliers. Budget around Y2500-3000 for a few rounds of high-quality drinks and snacks, or just drop in for a quick drink and otoshi before you explore the rest of this lively arcade. (Open from 2pm on weekends.)
Unlike regular Starbucks branches, this "Inspired by Starbucks" cafe serves wine and beer along with the usual coffee and dessert drinks, making it a popular evening gathering spot. The atmosphere is very relaxed, with comfortable seating, tasteful decor, and a few outdoor spots to sit when Tokyo weather permits.
Without a doubt one of Tokyo's best Mexican restaurants, the festively decorated Tepito offers a wide menu of regional dishes and Mexican standards prepared south-of-the-border style. Mexican wines start at Y1800 per carafe, or you can choose from over one hundred kinds of tequila, many of them available in tasting flights.
On a recent visit we enjoyed starters of surprisingly piquant stuffed rellenos peppers, along with crunchy quesidillas topped with dollops of fresh, very tasty guacamole. Our jaded palates were appeased by the novel flavors of our Yucatan-style pork and cactus salad, although the salad would have been even better without the unnecessary smoked salmon. We were also quite happy with our waiter's tequila recommendations, and we look forward to engaging in further research in this area. Budget around Y4000 for dinner with drinks.
Mutton-focused Uyghur cuisine from Western China is the unusual specialty at this neighborhood noodle shop. Handmade leghmen noodles, long thick noodles topped with stir-fried meats and vegetables, are perhaps the most famous dish of the region, but the real standouts here are the beautifully spiced lamb and other kebabs.
The meat pies (gosh nan) are also worth a try, as is the voluminous wonton soup, filled with plump and meaty dumplings. Service is friendly and casual; budget around Y2500-3500 for dinner with a few drinks.
Italian-inspired novely ramen is the attraction here, with cheese-based "fromage" ramen and cold cherry-tomato ramen. The ham-and-cheese ramen comes with prosciutto and a small portion of noodles - let them know when you're done with your noodles and they'll bring a bowl of rice to soak up the remainder of the very buttery broth, resulting in a risotto-like finale.
Wine by the glass is Y500, with tickets sold in the vending machine up front. Open 11am-10pm Saturdays, noon-9pm Sundays.
This compact but well-stocked retail and mail-order shop mainly sells food and drink from Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. If a recipe calls for coconut milk you'll find a surprising variety of it here, along with shrimp paste, fried onions, rice noodles, tropical fruit drinks, Bamboe brand spice mixes, various chili sauces, packets of instant ramen, frozen meats, gado-gado dressing and peanuts.
There's a lot of good yakitori to be found in the izakaya-lined alleyways of Arakicho, but Doramine grills up some of the best. The chicken here is good enough to eat raw, and indeed the shop's chicken sashimi dishes are among our favorites, as are their chicken liver skewers, also served quite rare. Your daily vegetable requirements can be met with appealing side dishes like corn kakiage tempura, with a decent selection of sake to complement your meal. Budget around Y4000-5000 at dinnertime - a bargain for this level of quality.
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