Ejo #63 – Drunk In….. Tokyo

I’m often asked for recommendations on places to eat and drink in foreign cities. I’d go so far as to say that I’m actually a great person to ask for recommendations. Why? Because I’m a helluva researcher. That’s why! When David and I plan to visit a new city, I start googling weeks, if not months, before. Hey, I never said I had a life! It’s actually something I really enjoy doing, and it helps fill my days. So to give you an idea of the amount of research I do, I start by googling, for instance, “best ramen tokyo”. Usually what comes up are lists – blogger lists, magazine article lists etc. And even though they might agree on one or two places, there’s usually a large range of places considered “best ramen tokyo”. A typical search yields about ten ramen joints. So how do I know that bloggers like seriouseats or ladyironchef enjoy the same kind of ramen that I do? Well, I don’t. I don’t know these people from a bar of soap. We could have wildly different tastes, so while I’m happy to check out their recommendations further, I need to do some more research on my own. I then go on to read (on average) five or six more articles/blogs on that particular place (times ten) and then narrow it down to one or two that I’d like us to visit.

It’s, shall we say, time consuming.

But aren’t you lucky?!! I’ve decided to publish a new series called Drunk In….. in which I make my recommendations for awesome little places around the world that you might otherwise miss (because you’re not as anal as I am). And I’m going to start with Tokyo which we’ve just recently visited. I’m not going to include fancy, high-end restaurants (though there might be the occasional fancy bar). The purpose of this series is to clue you in on where to get great food or great drinks when you’re out and about enjoying a new city. Of course one of the best things about being on holiday is the spontaneous discovery – and I always leave room for those. Some of the best experiences we’ve had are in places we just drunkenly stumbled upon. Kampai!!

FUKU YAKITORI
Most yakitori places are a little rough around the edges – after all it’s basically barbecue food (though it feels blasphemous to even make that comparison). Fuku is a slightly classier affair (and even better, a non-smoking affair, a rarity in Tokyo). The chef expertly grills skewers of various parts of… READ MORE

 
ROKURINSHA TOKYO
This is no regular noodle joint. First of all it’s located in the basement of Tokyo Station in a section called Tokyo Ramen Street (and it’s not really easy to find – go to an information booth to get detailed directions). Secondly, they don’t serve regular ramen. This place specialises in… READ MORE

 
NO NAME TEPPENYAKI
We literally stumbled upon this place our first night in Tokyo (it was about ten metres from our apartment). It doesn’t have a sign in English so I have no idea what it’s called, but the food and hospitality are so good we… READ MORE

 
NAGI GOLDEN GAI
So, more ramen. But different ramen. The Golden Gai branch of Nagi Ramen is a second-storey, ten-seat restaurant about the size of your… READ MORE

 
BAR TRAM & BAR TRENCH
These two incredible bars are run by the Small Axe group, and if you are serious about your cocktails, you will most definitely want to make a stop at either (or both) bars. We, of course, in the name of research, went to both. The focus in both places is on… READ MORE

 
GOLDEN GAI
Golden Gai is a small city block (I make it out about 60m x 80m) in Shinjuku, Tokyo that should have been condemned and knocked down about 80 years ago. Within that area there are about 200 tiny little bars each with a capacity of just… READ MORE

Ejo #63 – Drunk In….. Tokyo (Golden Gai)

DRUNK IN….. TOKYO
GOLDEN GAI

Golden Gai is a small city block (I make it out about 60m x 80m) in Shinjuku, Tokyo that should have been condemned and knocked down for being a fire hazard about 80 years ago. Within that area there are about 200 tiny little bars each with a capacity of only a handful of people. You might recognise the name Golden Gai from the baby sardine ramen joint Nagi I mentioned eaerlier but it’s so much more than that. After dark it’s like a Bermuda Triangle of miniscule dens of iniquity and mischief. David and I went one night with the intention of doing a Golden Gai Crawl. Let me tell you how that went. We got dropped off by the taxi and entered the first bar we came to. Hours later we stumbled out of that bar, lost each other and ended up at home at 3.30am and 4am respectively. I don’t even know how I got there. Golden Gai is dangerous. DANGEROUSLY FUN!!!!!

Apparently not all the bars welcome foreigners (a clue to look out for is that if there’s a sign outside in English, you’re welcome). The place we went to (I have no idea WHAT the hell it was called) was run by a sophisticated older lady who coolly welcomed us into her little warren of a bar and served us glass after glass of nihonshu. After the first couple of hours she warmed to us and towards the end we were best friends. And I think I may have sexually assaulted the adorable waitress in a pink cashmere sweater. There was lots of hugging and giggling. I think.

Anyway, Golden Gai has to be seen to be believed. Go after 7pm.

This photo is the only evidence I have that we were ever at Golden Gai.  And I can't remember taking it.

This photo is the only evidence I have that we were ever at Golden Gai. And I can’t remember taking it.

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Ejo #63 – Drunk In….. Tokyo (Bars Tram & Trench)

DRUNK IN….. TOKYO
BAR TRAM & BAR TRENCH

These two incredible bars are run by the Small Axe group, and if you are serious about your cocktails, you will most definitely want to make a stop at either (or both) bars. We, of course, in the name of research, went to both. The focus in both places is on absinthe (and they have an incredible range of the spirit) but the geniuses behind the bar (and they are a true pleasure to watch when concocting their masterpieces) are cocktail experts across the board. Try one of their complex, but balanced, monthly recommendations, like we did. And then try one of their signature absinthe cocktails, like we did. If we had been spending more time in Tokyo I would have tried their entire drink menu. Best thing? They’re within walking distance of each other and serve different drinks.

Bar Tram does double duty during the day as a serious coffee shop. I have never seen drip coffee being made with such intense concentration and focus – one drop at a time. It’s lovely to watch someone so passionate about his art – and then even better to reap the reward by drinking the result. Highly recommended.

Shhhhh!!  The perfect coffee takes crazy concentration.

Shhhhh!! The perfect coffee takes crazy concentration.

Bar Tram - absinthe in the background

Bar Tram – absinthe in the background

David had this beetroot based cocktail in a pewter mug sprinkled with gold leaf stars.  AMAZE!!!!!

David had this beetroot based cocktail in a pewter mug sprinkled with gold leaf stars. AMAZE!!!!!

Mine was one of the most delicious cocktails I've ever had.  But guess what?  I was drunk (in Tokyo) so I can't remember what was in it.  Raspberries and pink peppercorn by the look of it.

Mine was one of the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever had. But guess what? I was drunk (in Tokyo) so I can’t remember what was in it. Raspberries and pink peppercorn by the look of it.

They hand chip the ice with the flick of a knife into an emerald cut shape.  It's all in the details.

They hand chip the ice with the flick of a knife into an emerald cut shape. It’s all in the details.

When we got to Bar Trench they were full so we sat outside in the drizzle.  They brought us out warm towels, took our drink order and served us on a nearby bench.  Hospitality in Japan is second to none.

When we got to Bar Trench they were full so we sat outside in the drizzle. They brought us out warm towels, took our drink order and served us on a nearby bench. Hospitality in Japan is second to none.

BAR TRAM INFO:
1-7-13 Ebisunishi Shibuya Tokyo
(Address in Japanese: 渋谷区恵比寿西1-7-13−2F)
+81 3 5489 5514
Coffee: 1000-1900 (Closed Mondays)
Bar: 1900-0200 (later on weekends)

 
 
BAR TRENCH INFO:
1-5-8 Ebisunishi Shibuya Tokyo
(Address in Japanese: 渋谷区恵比寿西1-5-8)
+81 3 3780 5291
Open 1900-0200 (Closed Sundays)

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