Ebisu: Izakaya
Ukyo (Ebisu: Izakaya)
Open 6pm-4am daily.
late: Open late
Sun: Open Sundays

This popular and very lively sake-specialty dining bar offers an impressive selection of craft sake from around Japan, accompanied by richly flavored dishes designed to complement the drinks. The chef seems fond of using luxurious ingredients like truffles, sea urchin, foie gras and caviar, along with top-quality meats and produce. Somehow the fancy menu combines with the stylish decor and energetic atmosphere to make this one of the more exciting and fun sake-bar experiences in town.

The dining space is dramatically lit and modern in tone but far from sterile. It incorporates Showa-nostalgic elements like tatami mats under the glass counter, bamboo paneling, and a borderline-kitsch orange wall hanging behind the main counter. Old-fashioned serving bowls that look like they came from someone's grandmother's house lie side by side with stylish stone tableware. Refurbished seventies-era boomboxes sit on the counter for no apparent reason, used as oversized holders for the restaurant's shop cards.

Ukyo is more than just a trendy dining bar though - the sake selection is first-rate. Sake is served in proper wine glasses rather than tiny ochokko, and smaller 90ml tasting sizes are available so that you can taste more varieties over the course of the evening. We also appreciated the fact that half-size sake portions cost exactly half the price of 180ml servings, so you're not penalized for ordering the smaller size.

The food is well-matched to the sake, with enticing dishes like heirloom-breed Daisendori chicken grilled with miso, and grilled pork belly wrapped around plump Kyoho grapes. The twelve-vegetable salad showcases the best produce of the season, with some unexpected surprises like myoga and toasted almond slivers.

Reservations are essential if you want to come at peak dinner hour - we were asked to try to book at least a week in advance - but it's easier to get in as the evening gets later, and the restaurant is open until 4am. Budget around Y5,000-8,000 for dinner with drinks.

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 1-26-13.

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Venue listing from Bento.com5 Star Rating: highly recommended