Tamaya has all the makings of a great neighborhood wine bar: a lively but relaxed atmosphere, a well-chosen selection of reasonably priced wines; and tasty, tapas-sized dishes. The only problem is getting in. The bar, which can accommodate a mere 28, is so popular that it can be hard to get a seat without a reservation.
Seating on the non-smoking first floor is counter-only. In the brightly lit smoking section upstairs, a row of small tables is arranged in front of a long red banquette.
The weekly wine list spans the Old and New Worlds, but wines from France, Italy, and Spain tend to dominate. Most of the bottles are priced comfortably in the Y3000-4000 range, and many - if not all - can be seen on the tall shelves behind the bar seats, or in the fridge by the entrance. The list offers a number of easy-drinking, food-friendly wines such as Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne (Y3800) that go well with Tamaya's French- and Italian-inspired bar snacks.
Much of the food menu is comprised of sharable small plates (Y400-), and everything is nicely prepared. A scoop of chicken liver pate, whipped with a generous dose of cream, is light and fluffy, while the pork pate de campagne is satisfyingly dense. Twin skewers of grilled tsubugai, drizzled with garlic oil, have a hint of earthiness reminiscent of escargot. Slices of simply grilled aigamo duck are juicy and flavorful.
An intensely garlicky dish of sausage pasta, tossed with broccoli puree and olive oil may lack subtlety, but Tamaya is better suited to an evening out with friends than a romantic dinner a deux. Budget around Y4000 for ample food and drink.
by Melinda Joe
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 Bento.com.