Tokyo Izakaya and Standing Bars

Yamariki

Yamariki

Grabbing a drink after work with colleagues or friends in Tokyo is great fun as there are so many options to choose from. These are some of my favorites from Food Sake Tokyo.

Saiseisakaba

This friendly tachinomi (standing bar) is located on the back streets of Shinjuku Sanchome. Designed with Showa era items, it feels like stepping back in time. The shop features grilled innards, but you can have some items sashimi style. The brains are creamy and the yudetan (boiled tongue) is tender. If you can, grab a spot at the counter and notice how vigilant the staff is at keeping their cutting boards spotless. You can also see everything that’s being grilled and coming out of the open kitchen staffed with young, handsome men.

Saiseisakaba
Shinjuku 3-7-3, Marunaka Building 1st floor
tel: 03-3354-4829
17:00 – 24:00, no holidays
www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ (Japanese)


Sasagin

Near Yoyogi-Uehara station is an upscale izakaya with a great selection of sake in the windowed refrigerator behind the long counter. The menu is diverse, including seafood, and small bites that call out to be had with nihonshu such as nuta, a vinegary miso dressing with seasonal seafood, or grilled ginko nuts.

Sasagin
Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15, Kobayashi Bldg. 1st floor
tel: 03-5454-3715
17:00 – 23:00, closed Sunday and holidays
No website


Yamariki

Since 1925, Yamariki has often been ranked as one of the top ten izakaya in the city. Located in the shitamachi district of Morishita, there is usually a line waiting to get in. There is a second shop down the street and the staff will direct you there. Their signature item is a nikomi made from cow innards, port wine, Hatcho miso, sugar, and bouquet garni. The store proudly says that they have been adding to the same nikomi for over 40 years now. The other house specialty is the yakiton or grilled pork bits on a skewer. What makes Yamariki unique is they have a wine list (French only) and a friendly sommelier, Mizukami-san, who will help you match a wine with your food, as well as, of course, sake.

Yamariki
Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8
tel: 03-3633-1638
17:00 – 22:00, closed Sunday and holidays
www.yamariki.com (Japanese)


Tachigui Sakaba Buri

The walls at buri are decorated with colorful cup sake from all over Japan. There are over 30 different types of sake served in individual cups. A unique sake to try is the frozen sake that is like a slush. The menu is filled with small plates of sake-friendly foods like seasonal seafood and grilled meats.

Tachigui Sakaba buri
Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-14-1
tel: 03-3496-7744
17:00 – 3:00 a.m., no holidays
www.takewaka.co.jp/buri/index.html (Japanese)


Stand Bar Maru

Maru may be one of the best bargains in the city for standing bars. Located next door to a wine shop with about 200 wines, customers can purchase a bottle and have it opened for drinking at a nominal fee. The first floor is standing only (tachinomi), but if you get there early enough, you may be able to snag a seat in the second floor restaurant. Following the tapas concept, legs of Iberico ham are shaved per order, small plates are to share, and the grilled meats are highly recommended. This shop is in an out of the way area and is always busy with local young hipsters and salary-men from the area. The staff at this fourth-generation shop is very friendly.

Stand Bar Maru
Chuo-ku, Hatchobori 3-22-10
tel: 03-3552-4477
17:00 – 23:00, closed weekends and holidays
No website

This article first appeared in the ACCJ Journal.

Antenna Shops in Nihonbashi

Antenna Shops in Nihonbashi

In a recent survey of Tokyoites the main reason why they go to antenna shops is to pick up regional food products. The next popular answer was that it was interesting to explore antenna shops followed by picking up brochures for future trips to that prefecture. The other big answer was that people were longing for foods and products from their hometown so came to antenna shops to pick these up. Click on the name of the shop for each shop’s website (most likely in Japanese).

Nihonbashi Niigata Kan NICO Plaza #2Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-6-5,

Jizake, seafood, and rice are some of the highlights of this antenna shop.

Taisha Tokyo Bldg. 1-2F

03-6214-1612

hours vary

Fukushima Yaesu Kanko Koryu Kan

Fresh fruits, rice, jizake, and sweets.

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-6-21, Santoku Yaesu Bldg.

03-3275-0855

10:00 – 19:00

Kyoto Kan

Minutes from Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit, the wagashi at this shop are gorgeous and exquisite.

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-1-1, Yanma Tokyo Bldg.

10:30 – 19:00 (closed last Wednesday of each month from March to September)

03-5204-2260

Yamanashi Kan

Yamanashi is known for its fruit and for its wine. There is an unusually large selection of over 100 Yamanashi wine at this shop. I suggest koshu, a white grape that is light, fruity, and easy to pair with most Japanese food.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-3-4, Nihonbashi Plaza 1F

10:00 – 19:00 (website says hours may open at 11:00 a.m. to conserve electricity)

03-3241-3776

Oidemase Yamaguchi Kan

My favorite item at this shop is the Hagi-yaki, pottery from Hagi, in pastel colors. I have picked up several teacups here for myself and as gifts. The glaze has fine cracks in it that over time become dark. It is as though the ceramic is alive and aging. This is in the same building as the Yamanashi shop so be sure to stop by both. Nihonbashi Takashimaya is also just down the street from here.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-3-4, Nihonbashi Plaza 1F

10:30 – 19:00

03-3231-1863

 

Nihonbashi Shimane Kan

Shimane prefecture’s antenna shop is located across the street from Mitsukoshi department store. Next door there is also a restaurant, Mondo, that features the local jizake and food of Shimane. Lunch set menus are donburi topped with seafood and cost about 1,000 JPY. The antenna shop posts its most popular selling items, all seafood. Most of it is himono, or fish that is butterflied and air-dried, perfect for grilling and serving with some sake. This month’s top sellers include nodoguro (blackthroat), aji (horse mackerel), and karei (flounder).

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-5-3

10:30 – 19:00

 

A list of antenna shops in the Ginza area.

Ebisu Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi Q

Tachinomi interior

Tachinomi interior

I first came upon this great standing bar about five years ago when it first opened. It had great reviews for being cheap, with great food, and a fun environment. It was exactly that. This is not your typical izakaya with Japanese fare but includes many tapa-style bites. The menu includes home-cured bacon, escargot, smoked butter toast, pork simmered in balsamico, and deep-fried octopus. The drink menu is extensive, including cocktails and whisky, but I stick to wine or sangria as it seems to be the best match with the food. The bar serves seven wines by the glass and is it is a busy place, the bottles are usually fresh. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the station, so perfect to stop by and have a drink and a few small plates if you are in the area.

Q

Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 4-4-2, Kuresuto Ebisu 1F

03-5793-5591

closed Sunday and holidays

17:00 – 4:00 a.m.

Wine Dinners with Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin – Salt

Here is the first upcoming wine dinner with the great Ned Goodwin.

Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wines

■ Jamsheed Winemaker’s Dinner @ Salt

The Jamsheed label began in 2003 with a focus on single vineyard Syrahs and aromatic whites from unique sites in Victoria. The vineyards are selected to demonstrate the versatility and charm of these magnificent varieties. Each wine is made utilising thoroughly natural processes, indigenous yeasts, minimal handling, no fining or filtering to allow each individual vineyard to fully convey its character.

Winemaker Gary Mills will be hosting a special dinner with Ned Goodwin M.W at Salt on Friday September 30th where guests will be able to enjoy 5 of his stunning wines paired with an exceptional menu. To be held in the private room at Salt, this dinner is limited to just 9 guests. This is Gary’s first winemaker’s dinner in Japan so this is a rare treat to enjoy his “new-school” style graceful and elegant wines.

About Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wine Makers Dinner

Date / Friday September 30th
Time / Start 19:00
Venue / Salt Access
6F Shin-Marunouchi Building, 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Charge / JPY 18,000 (including tax and service charges)
Wine Menu / Great Western Riesling Westgate Vineyard 2010La Syrah 2010

Yarra Valley Syrah Healesville Vineyard 2010

Great Western Syrah Garden Gully Vineyard 2010

Yarra Valley Syrah Silvan Vineyard 2010

Reservations /
Please email Sally to make a reservation.Or telephone 03-5786-3280.

Wine Dinners with Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin

Here is the second upcoming wine dinner with the great Ned Goodwin.

Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wines

■ Jamsheed Winemaker’s Dinner @ Tableaux

The Jamsheed label began in 2003 with a focus on single vineyard Syrahs and aromatic whites from unique sites in Victoria. The vineyards are selected to demonstrate the versatility and charm of these magnificent varieties. Each wine is made utilising thoroughly natural processes, indigenous yeasts, minimal handling, no fining or filtering to allow each individual vineyard to fully convey its character.

About Jamsheed Wines

Jamsheed Wine Makers Dinner

saturday 1st october 2011

dinner from 7:30 pm
15,800 JPY per guest

◆ WINES ◆
westgate riesling 2010
sylvan syrah 2010
healdsville syrah 2010
garden gully syrah 2010
la syrah 2010

◆ MENU ◆

hirame amuse bouche
konbu seaweed marinated halibut・kyoho grape

botan ebi gazpacho
hakodate jumbo sweet shrimp・lobster bisque foam

smoky challan duck
roasted beats・feta cheese・grecian kalamata olives

crispy skin salmon
one side sautéed salmon・lens beans & akari mashed potato・harissa ratatouille

char grilled tasmanian lamb
aurora lamb kofte・bulgura wheat ricena

stephane vieux wine dinner special dessert

◆ Reservation ◆

Restaurant Tableaux

Sunroser Daikanyama B1 11-6 Sarugaku-cho Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0033
Telephone:03-5489-2201
Email:tableaux@global-dining.com


Tokyo’s Top Places to Drink

Izakaya 居酒屋 are literally places to have something to drink. When I was working as a sommelier at the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo my shift would end late at night, well after dinner. I would often stop by a local izakaya for a beer and some small bites. What made this one so special was the friendly mama-san. I was always welcomed and the food was all made by okaasan. Good izakayas should be just this, offering good food and drinks, and making the customer feel comfortable.

Tokyo is also home to some of the world’s top mixologists at places like Star Bar Ginza  or Bar Tender. These will be covered in a separate post. For now, here are my favorite places to have a drink in Tokyo.

  1. A popular izakaya in the nostalgic shitamachi district of Morishita, Yamariki 山利喜  was introduced to me by Japan’s first Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin. Ned brought me here one night to drink French wines with izakaya cuisine. Yamariki has a sommelier on staff, Mizukami-san who will gladly pair wine with your order. One night here I ran into John Gauntner, who said the restaurant also has a great selection of nihonshu. Yamariki is also known for its nikomi, soy-simmered innards, which has been made with the same broth for over forty years. It is also known for its yakiton or grilled pork bits (like yakitori but made with pork instead of chicken). Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8.
  2. Sasagin 笹吟 has one of the better selections of nihonshu in the city and exquisite fare to go with it. Best of all, if you ask them to help you select interesting ones to try they will. It is very popular so reservations are highly recommended. Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15.
  3. For wine I love Maru マル because of its value. Next door to the standing bar is a wine shop. Pick up a bottle there and the corkage fee is only 500 yen at the bar. It feels a bit like a European wine bar with food like cured ham and cheese but there is also a grill station on the second floor for grilled skewers. There are also seats on the second floor. Chuo-ku, Hatchobori 3-22-10.
  4. Buri is a popular standing bar near Ebisu. I come here for the one cup sake, a selection of about 30 to choose from. Small plates to share, seasonal seafood, and some grilled meats. Ask for the frozen sake which is almost like a slushy. (I don’t think the brand I had was Hakutsuru, but this video shows you what the slushy looks like.)  Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-14-1.
  5. Everyone needs at least one reliable place for beer and my go-to bar is The Harajuku Taproom. Delicious craft beer by the talented Bryan Baird and kushiyaki (grilled meats and vegetables). It is also conveniently located just off of Takeshita Dori, a few minutes’ walk from Harajuku station. There is also a location in Naka-Meguro. To educate your palate, try small cups of a variety of his beer. You won’t be disappointed. Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-20-13, No Surrender Bldg. 2F
  6. Saiseisakaba 再生酒場 is the place to go if you are into innards. From sashimi to simmered to grilled, you’ll find a wide selection to choose from. My personal favorite shop is in Monzennakacho but there is also a branch at the Shin Maru Building near Tokyo station. Alternatively, the Shinjuku branch too is a lot of fun. I usually drink shochu as it is a great partner for the offal. Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-7-3. www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ 
  7. Located in the heart of Ginza, Sake no Ana 酒の穴 is on John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. I came across it as I was looking for a place to try a variety of nihonshu over lunch and this was the only place that was open. I called ahead and was told that there was a kikizakeshi (sake sommelier) on staff and that he would be there for lunch. Sakamoto-san gave us exactly what we were looking for, a variety of different nihonshu. The evening menu is also available at lunch if you ask for it. Traditional izakaya bites like grilled himono (salted and air-dried fish), natto omelet, and much more. Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8.
  8. It is a bit of a journey to Ikejiri Ohashi, but well worth it to get to Tsukushinoko つくしのこ. One of my favorite nights out learning about nihonshu with beer writer (and nihonshu aficionado) Bryan Harrell. It feels very local and cozy inside and the selection of nihonshu is great. Staff are also very knowledgeable and can help guide you through a variety of sips. Typical izakaya fare – ask for a nabe (hot pot) in the winter time, you won’t be disappointed. Meguro-ku, Higashiyama 3-1-11.
  9. If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate an occasion then the New York Bar & Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo is on top of my list. Perhaps you’ll recognize it from Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The high ceilings and the spectacular views from the 52nd floor are breathtaking. My recommendation is to go just before sunset so that you can see the lights come up on the city as it sparkles below you. I used to work here, and I am even more convinced that this is one of Tokyo’s special places. Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2.
  10. A good martini and burger can be found at beacon in Aoyama. One of Tokyo’s top chefs, David Chiddo not only makes a great burger, he also knows his martinis. David’s Perfect Martini is made from one of my favorite gins, Hendricks. Parent company T.Y. Express is also the owner of the brewery TY Harbor, making really good beer, which is also on the menu here at beacon. Solo diners can sit at the bar and enjoy their martini and burger. Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5.

Five Questions for Japan’s First Master of Wine Ned Goodwin

Ned Goodwin is Japan’s first Master of Wine. Ned is also one of the most passionate sommeliers in Japan. Ned graciously took me under his wings when I moved to Tokyo to work as a sommelier. His generosity and guidance helped me tremendously. Ned has had a great impact in the wine world in Japan with innovative wine lists and staff training. Here Ned shares with readers some of his favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo and more.
1. Congratulations on becoming the first Master of Wine in Japan. Tell us about the Master of Wine and how it is different from a Master Sommelier. What all did you have to do to become a Master of Wine?

On average the MW demands around a decade of study and is a mutli-disciplined course that examines vineyard work, vinification, marketing / business and contemporary issues such as Global Warming, the rise of China et al.  These sections are woven around four-days of exams that constitute the ‘Theory’ section of the exam. Each day consists of three one hour essays aside from the final and fourth day, which consists of two essays.

In addition, each morning over the first three-days, one sits the ‘Practical’ section of the exam. The ‘Theory’ follows in the afternoon. The ‘Practical’ constitutes a white, red and ‘mixed bag’ (often fortifieds and sparkling, but not necessarily) paper; each 2 1/4 hours long with 12 wines across each discipline.

These two sections are then followed by a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject pertinent to the market that one works in. Diss was on Jap. sommeliers & whether the wine by-the-glass in a tightly defined tier of restaurant chosen by them, had physiological synergies with a tightly defined customer type that both drinks wine and goes to the defined ilk of restaurant. In other words, are sommeliers here giving customers what they like, or do Japanese prefer (possibly) other similarly priced wine by-glass styles, that for some reason or other, are not popular here (Gruner, Rose etc.).

The Master Sommelier is more service-focused without the overall range or discipline across many facets of the wine world, that the MW demands.

2. What are some of your favorite places to drink wine in Tokyo?

Shonzui in Roppongi (Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-10-2)

Buchi at Shinsen kousaten (Shibuya-ku, Shinsen-cho 9-7)

Fiocchi in Soshigaya-Okura (Setagaya-ku, Soshigaya 3-4-9)

Tharros in Shibuya (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-5-2, Shibuya SED Bldg).

3. What are your favorite retail wine shops in Tokyo?

I mostly get my wine directly from producers, wholesalers or importers albeit, if I were to purchase wine at a retail level, Tokyu Honten (Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-24-1) is very good.

4. In a Japanese magazine you wrote about pairing rose with yakitori. Any other general recommendations to pair wine with Japanese food?

I think pairing wine with Japanese food is relatively straightforward given that the dominant flavour profiles are sweet/salt, with and subtle textures an important part-at least with traditional Japanese fare. The major stumbling block is the rather ethnocentric and closed mentality of many Japanese chefs and even sommeliers when it comes to matching wine with anything Japanese. True, there is of course beer and Nihon-shu, although wine offers a different and equally fun experience. Izakaya-styled food is particularly good with a slew of rose styles although, perhaps due to their perceived simplicity, rose has not really taken on here as a category. Umami and its yeasty, savouriness lends itself well to wines that have spent time on lees, such as many Chardonnays and bottle-fermented sparkling wines.

5. Any wine trends you see in Tokyo or in Japan?

Recessionary pressures mean less expensive wines and the rise therefore, of imports from places such as Chile. There is an overall lack of dynamism in the market and the power of China, Hong Kong and other SE Asian markets has usurped Japan’s muscle, to a great degree, on the world stage. I believe that many Japanese still want to drink quality at a better price rather than a cheap price, however. Yet because selling in a western sense is foreign to most Japanese and their attention to ‘face’ and ambiguity / lack of direct sales techniques; wines that sell themselves (cheap and/or from mainstream regional brands such as Chianti, Chablis etc.) are relied on instead of sommeliers and salespeople actively suggesting real value across, perhaps, lesser known regions. Salespeople in Japan rarely engage the customer, but play to a love of pomp and aesthetics in terms of sertvice styles. Unfortunately, these approaches often fail to get good wine of value in glasses!

Ned’s links include:

The Institute of Masters of Wine

Asian Correspondent

Twitter

UPDATE as of December 15, 2012:

ned1

ned2

Ned has made two wines under the “Good Wine” label. These Australian wines are perfect for entertaining or for your new house wine. Pinot Grigio and a Cabernet & Shiraz blend. E-mail me for details for delivery in Japan.