Friday, November 12, 2010

Tokyo bar-hopping and Ueno

The night Hunter arrived, we met with our guide for the evening, Charlie of Bespoke Tokyo. British by birth, Charlie has some business interests in Japan, including arranging interesting tours. Our request was simple:show us some fun bars. Charlie delivered. We began with a stand-up sake bar in Shibuya, where we wedged in and enjoyed a drink in what might have been one of the most narrow bars I've seen. We headed down the road to an unassuming restaurant with great food. We enjoyed fish-liver foie gras, amazing eggplant drenched in a white and black miso sauce, and huge baked oysters. We wandered from there to a couple of other really different bars, including one that spans three floors but can accommodate no more than five people per floor. It was in a rickety-looking old building on a street lined with similar structures and we had a ball. Of course, several glasses of sake helped. Our nightcap was on a patio of an office tower bar, forty two stories up, with spectacular views of the Tokyo skyline.

Hunter and I popped up the next morning and took the train to Ueno, an area of Tokyo we had not visited before. We enjoyed the temples in Ueno-koen Park and the famous Shinobazu lotus pond. We finished up in Yanaka, on a street probably no more than eight feet wide and lined with shops and restaurants. This local market, which looks like a movie set, is known as the Yanaka Ginza, an allusion to the high-end shopping district in Tokyo.

The evening brought us to Seryna restaurant in the Rippongi district. Hunter enjoyed toro tuna as an appetizer and I had the unattractively named, and unattractive but delicious, horsehair crab. The main course, Kobe beef sukiyaki, was spectacular. The first delicate slices were served with onions, followed in order by tofu, mushrooms and rice noodles. And, of course, a raw egg for dipping. Oh, and everything washed down with a great sake.

We went for a few drinks afterwards, enjoying the view from Mori Tower in Rippongi. We followed with a drink at a small bar, on the second floor, that Hunter spotted from the
street. The waitresses at Bar Blu spoke little English but were attentive and the decor was cool--an aluminum topped bar and tables, all framed in black. The bar faces the street through a wall of glass interlaced with white shelving holding all the bottles of liquor, and everything was bathed in the glow of soft blue lighting. We enjoyed a nightcap and went back to the hotel, ready for a night's sleep and looking forward to visiting the temples of Nikko.

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