Shibuya: Kyushu
Tamoiyanse (Shibuya: Kyushu)
Open 11:30am-2, 6pm-2am (-midnight Sat, Sun) daily.
late: Open late
Sun: Open Sundays
decor: Notable decor

Tamoiyanse is serious about shochu. The bar stocks more than fifty varieties of the traditional Kyushu drink, and one entire wall is covered with a giant shochu menu, while another wall is devoted to shochu labels. But even if you stick to oolong tea, Tamoiyanse does some of the best southern Kyushu cooking in Tokyo and is well worth a visit for the food alone.

If you've a novice the friendly staff is ready to help you navigate the menu (although both menu and help are exclusively in Japanese). Shochu brands are evenly divided between Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures; as a rule of thumb, Miyazaki shochu is smoother, while the stuff from Kagoshima is funkier and more intensely flavored. Our favorite of the night was the relatively smooth Kurokoji Mannen from Miyazaki (Y550), which we had on the rocks. Shochu prices range from Y500 for the more obscure brands to Y1000 and more for well-known labels.

The "shochu quick starter menu" offers some wonderful eggplant slices pickled in wasabi, and the simple but satisfying "kyabe-kyu" - raw cabbage and cucumber dipped into the house-special sweet miso paste. More substantial dishes include an excellent tonkotsu-ni, a traditional southern Kyushu dish made from chunks of pork stewed in shochu overnight, until the bone is soft enough to chew. Most of the pork, chicken, fish and vegetables here are flown in fresh from Kyushu, with katsuo (bonito) from the Miyazaki coastal waters one of the specialties.

The decor here is simple but stylishly modern - light stucco walls with dark wood trim, plus stone and bamboo accents - suitable fodder for an interior design magazine. In addition to the large wooden counter there are several low tables with cushion seating on the polished wood floor, plus a small semi-private room with tables seating 6-10. The crowd on a recent night was a diverse mix of after-work businessmen, Shibuya girls, thirty-ish couples and small groups. A budget of around Y5000 per person should cover dinner and drinks. (No lunch on weekends.)

by Robb Satterwhite
Shibuya-ku, Shinsen 10-10.
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Venue listing from Bento.com5 Star Rating: highly recommended