Mr. Zoogunzoo--wine bar in Aoyama, Tokyo
A friend and I were in the mood Friday evening for a couple of glasses and wine and some pasta, and I remembered having heard good things about Mr. Zoogunzoo from Robb S. and others. It's hidden away in a basement off of Aoyama-dori, between Aoyama Gakuin and Shibuya, in a location where you almost have to use one of those dreaded pedestrian bridges to get there. However, I think it's worth both the hike and the hunt.
They've got an impressively long list of all Australian and New Zealand wines, as well as a good food menu, with an emphasis on seafood from northern Japan. The majority of the list is bottles, but there are also wines available by the glass. The policy seems to be that they'll open one bottle of each type of wine (eg, one Chardonnay, one Cabernet Sauvignon, one Sauvignon Blanc) for drinking by the glass, so if you're lucky you'll actually get to pick which wine.
We started off with glasses of a sparkling red, d'Arenberg's Pepperming Paddock Sparkling Chambourcin. Our reasons for choosing it were 1) neither of us had ever had a sparkling red before (rose yes, red no) and 2) neither of us had heard of Chambourcin. But aside from the oddity factor, it was also a very nice wine--a full-bodied, very fragrant, sparkling red. For me, this was the pick of the evening, out of the three wines I tried; I also had a perfectly decent, but not memorable, Sauvignon Blanc, and a glass of dessert wine, the d'Arenberg Noble Riesling.
For food, we shared a sashimi salad,with a nice variety of seafood in it; a plate of pasta with a basil pesto, my least favorite dish of the evening simply because it wasn't basil-y or garlic-y enough for my liking; a very nice whole roast fish with herbs and mushrooms; and a good plate of cheese (both of us would have preferred some slightly stronger stuff mixed in, but it wasn't a bad assortment).
Despite being in a basement, the ceilings are quite high, and it's decorated in a very cool way--clay daubed on the walls, paper light sculptures, wooden furniture that looks like it's imported from Indonesia. They have a tatami room in the back that looked pretty cool. My one complaint is that the air freshener in the bathroom was gaggingly strong, and had a tendency to waft out whenever anyone opened or shut the door. Had I been having one of those 60,000 yen and up bottles of Penfold Grange Hermitage, I would have been very displeased...
Our bill for the evening came to around 17,000 yen, not cheap, but considering we had nine glasses of wine between the two of us, not so bad, either. One could certainly get out cheaper by drinking less, or going by the bottle rather than the glass.
Another plus: they serve food until 11pm, and are open until 2am as a bar.