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Sep 5, 2008 04:55 AM

best bar in Tokyo, Kyoto

Any suggestions for a really outstanding bar for cocktails in either Tokyo or Kyoto? especially partial to drinks with Amer Picon or local specialties. Thanks!

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  1. Man, you ask a tough question! It is like asking where can one find good Japanese food in Japan. Anyway, my favorite is the Bar Radio:

    7 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai

      That looks great Uncle, how's the food?

      I've been wondering where to get a good manhattan lately and Radio seems to be worthy of a try.

      1. re: lost squirrel

        Food is good, but the place is better known for serving snacks and otsumami that varies depending on what you are drinking. Down to a science, actually.

        1. re: Uncle Yabai

          Thanks, I'm excited to give it a try.

      2. re: Uncle Yabai

        thanks! it's on my list. Also read that Maruume is worth visiting, or would you put it below Bar Radio? any suggestions in kyoto?

        1. re: barleywino

          Hey BW, when are you going to be in Japan? Email me...

          1. re: barleywino

            This Maruume place looks good, probably nicer in terms of setting and ambiance than Bar Radio, but I don't know if the bartenders are going to be a match for Ozaki-sensei.

            1. re: Uncle Yabai

              thanks, will put Bar Radio high up on the list then

        2. I wish I were home to confirm but one of my magazines has an article this month about cocktails in Tokyo. Either Saveur or Bon App.

          21 Replies
          1. re: southernitalian

            Yes, you're right - p 120 of the September Bon Appetit. The article is "Tokyo, Cocktail Capital of the World".

            Some listed are:
            New York Bar and the Peak Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo
            Peter at the Peninsula Tokyo
            Star Bar Ginza
            Little Smith
            Tender Bar
            Bar Wodka Tonic

            Hey, BarleyWino, can I go with you ; ) We miss you, come visit AZ sometime!

            1. re: Rubee

              Rubee, I can always count on you to find the best and classiest watering holes ;) Thanks! guess i have my work cut out for me. GG, i am in Japan now, for the next week, so unfortunately probably won't overlap?

              1. re: barleywino

                Glad I could help!

                In Boston a couple of weeks ago I had a great cocktail with two types of bitters, including Amer Picon - Hoskins - at Eastern Standard.

                The BA is a good article. I'm intrigued by some of the descriptions - Little Smith is a "Barbarella meets Casablanca scene", Tender Bar is an "old-school Tokyo speakeasy", and at Shoto-Club, they play Edith Piaf and the bartenders "sport slicked-back hair and plaid vests".


                Bar Wodka Tonic Tamura Bldg. B1, 2-25-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-3400-5474

                Higashiya 1-13-12 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-5428-1717
                Imperial Hotel Tokyo 1-1 Uchisaiwai-cho 1-chome Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-3504-1111

                Little Smith KN Bldg. B2F, 6-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-5568-1993

                New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, 52nd Fl., Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-5322-1234

                The Peak Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, 41st Fl., Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-5322-1234

                Peter at The Peninsula Tokyo 1-8-1 Yurakucho, 24th Fl., Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-6270-2763

                Shoto-Club Kazama Bldg. B1F, 37-12 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-3465-1932

                Star Bar Ginza Sankosha Bldg. B1F, 1-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-3535-8005

                Tender Bar Nogakudo Bldg., 6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 011-81-3-3571-8343

                1. re: Rubee

                  holy cocktail maid, Rubee, did you type this all in by hand? far above and beyond the call of duty, thanks! i owe you a drink (or two) next time i see you. Tokyo teems with barbarella wannabees but it's fun people-watching. i found Amer Picon (the revised French version, labeled "Picon Biere", considered not as good as the original French version) at the Tsunoki liquor shop in the Nishiki food alley in Kyoto (a food shoppers' dream), also found Suntory Violette at the Cube B1 liquor shop on Teramachi rd near Nijodori rd in KYoto. so far my favorite version of Amer Picon is the homemade version at Teardrop lounge in Portland oregon.

                  1. re: barleywino

                    <homemade version at Teardrop lounge>

                    That sounds fantastic. I'm still searching for a favorite cocktail spot here in Arizona. I wonder if John will be concocting his own version at his new drinking emporium named, appropriately enough, Drink. John says I should do the PR ; ) I'm sure you've heard, but I'll link below.

                    I would love to take the credit, but the addresses for the Tokyo bars were listed on BA's website. Can I still have a cocktail if I just cut and pasted? Be sure to report back!

                    Drink: Barbara Lynch's New Bar

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Rubee, you're just going to have to open your own cocktail bar in AZ... named "RUbee" of course... i consulted Robert's Rules of Bartending for a ruling on on the cut and paste and the offer still holds...

                    2. re: barleywino

                      If you're looking for more Japanese brand liqueurs and such, if you're still in Kyoto, the second floor of Kent Boys has most of the different Hermes liqueurs, etc. It's off Kawaramachi, somewhere between Sanjo and Shijo (closer to Sanjo, I think), on the west side (close to Kawaramachi).

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        great tip, i will try to check it out. my limitation now is how many bottles U.S. customs will allow me to bring back...

                        1. re: barleywino

                          I don't think that US customs has any limits, as long as you pay import taxes on each bottle past the duty-free allowance.

                          1. re: Robb S

                            thanks for clarifying. btw i checked Kent Boys but they said they no longer carry Suntory orange bitters as production has been discontinued.

                            1. re: barleywino

                              i was in the neighborhood of LIttle Smith so i stopped in for a drink. Asked for something seasonal so they made me a fresh pear/rum/grapefruit (some other ingredients which i didn't quite catch) drink which was ok and i also had a plate of uni spaghetti. A bit of sticker shock when the bill came, $50! ok, i thought, maybe there was a lot of uni in the pasta. The bartender showed me the Bon Appetit article and then walked me down the street to another bar with an English speaking bartender, High Five bar (owner formerly at Star bar, and provided info for the article). He made me a couple fresh plum drinks (where he peeled and muddled the plum, the first with apple brandy and the second with Lejay apricot brandy). Both quite simple but refreshing. Bill came, another $50! i figured it was time to call it a night. The bartender walked me out to the street and pointed me towards another bar. Both bars great experiences, very intimate and personal, classy, dim with spotlighted bars and impressive bartending skills, but not for the weak of wallet. maybe tomorrow if my wallet recovers i'll try Bar Radio, Star bar or Tender bar...

                              1. re: barleywino

                                $50! Ouch, sorry about that BarleyWino.

                                1. re: Rubee

                                  i wonder whether these particular bars charge higher prices, being in the posh Ginza district frequented by expense account types. The service was quite professional and outstanding (how many bartenders in the US do you know who would personally walk you out the door and down the street to the next bar?!)

                                  1. re: barleywino

                                    <how many bartenders in the US do you know who would personally walk you out the door and down the street to the next bar>

                                    Heh. I do like the sound of that!

                                    1. re: barleywino

                                      Of course. Ginza is the most expensive place to drink on the planet. In the bubble era, the saying went that you could take a 10,000 YEN note, fold it in half, then fold it in half again, drop it on the ground and the amount of land that the now quarter-sized bill covered was still worth more than the value of the bill itself....These type of bars are all over the city. In Ginza, you're paying a premium for the address, not the service and drink.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        Thanks for clarifying! glad to hear i wasn't being assessed a "service charge" for non-Japanese speaking patrons...;)

                                        1. re: barleywino

                                          You may well have been assessed a service charge, but many bars do this--it's for everybody without regard to linguistic ability.

                                  2. re: barleywino

                                    Uh oh. Bar Radio isn't exactly known as cheap dive either...

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      went to Radio Bar- what a cool bar, just oozes mellowness. loved the nostalgic feel, the stunning collection of vintage glassware, a mixologist's shrine. for comparison asked for a peach drink, instead of pounding it or blending it, they went totally old school and wrapped it in a cheesecloth and squeezed the daylights out of it. Then I requested a fresh fig drink so they made one up of fig, calvados, cointreau and fresh orange, excellent. small drinks but worth the steep prices. The young staff on duty were not very fluent in English but it worked out in the end. Great spot, thanks for the suggestion!

                                      1. re: barleywino

                                        An interesting place to drink in Ginza, for historical reasons, is Bordeaux--> .

                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                          thanks for the tip! sadly i am leaving Japan today but will put it on the list for next time.

                2. hmm. well i do appreciate the fine cocktail bar craze, i get enough of that kind of thing here in nyc.

                  so i was wondering if anyone can rec the opposite -- some favorite dives?

                  i'm interested in the golden gai, or whats left of it. whats good there? any other creative lower rent bar ideas in other neighborhoods? planning to stay in asakusa if that helps. thx.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: mrnyc

                    Start a new thread. This is an excellent topic....Asakusa used to be a red light district many years ago actually. It's not like that anymore, but Tokyo is the dive bar capital of the world I suspect.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      Start a new thread on favorite dive bars in Tokyo? There are as many raggedy ass little nomiya here as there are stars in the sky. Just go forth and get drunk, I'd give the GG a miss though unless you know somebody who drinks there and knows which places to avoid, and even then if I wanted to drink in dives I'd just hang out in my own neighborhood. I'll give you one in Oimachi, it's called Niku no Maekawa, it is a meat store by day and from 4 to 8:30 pm it is home to a truly friendly bunch of local alkies and all manner of non-elite salary men and even the odd ferner.

                      1. re: steamer

                        Hi steamer,

                        That sounds wonderful! :) Do they have a decent selection of Sake at Niku no Maekawa? :)

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          Hilarious question! Yeah, they keep the sake collection next to the pork belly and chicken gizzards. You know it's called a dive bar for a reason!

                          I know this place actually. My buddy lives several blocks away. It was too crowded the last time I was in the neighborhood, otherwise we would have gone in. The first time I passed by, I thought they were having one of those neighborhood association gatherings or something until I realized it was as you say a meat shop by day and tachinomi by night. Oimachi has got all kinds of funky little spots it seems. Right in that same neighborhood, in a really narrow yokocho, there is a building with two "snacks"- Midori Part 1 and Midori Part 2. We always joke about tripping the light fantastic by hitting both Midori Parts 1 and 2 for an evening.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            Hi Silverjay and steamer,

                            Thanks so much for the info! This sounds like such a wonderful spot. (^_^) Do you happen to have the Address (in Japanese and English if possible).


                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Here is the address:
                              東京 品川区 大井 5-2-9 Tokyo, Shinagawa-ku, Oi 5-2-9
                              Drop me a line at my blog if you want to meet there sometime.

                          2. re: exilekiss

                            I don't remember seeing sake there, but there may be some. The usual drink seems to be happoshu/fake beer or oolong tea and cheap shochu. Beer is self serve.They also have yakitori and all manner of raw pig guts served on plastic Snoopy plates. Good shitamachi party atmosphere. The customers and owner are really friendly and make you feel welcome. sadly neighbors complained about the party spilling into the street and about a year ago they boxed the customers into the shop, still good but lacking elbow room.

                    2. Difficult to say. Definitely worthwhile is the Peter Bar at the Peninisula. A friend showed me the bar last Friday. Very nice design and good cocktails. Guess was one of the lucky days, then a live DJ was performing. The staff said that they have now every Friday a live DJ.

                      1. I live in NY. I bartend in the manhattan. I also am the Suntory ambassador for NY. I'm trying to find Japanese bar equipment. Does anyone know a website or any clues on the subject. Cheers

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: brokenliver

                          You could try contacting these guys:
                          Or try getting in touch with Angel's Share or bFlat to see where they get their equipment.
                          Where do you bartend?

                          1. re: brokenliver

                            can you tell us where to find Suntory Hermes Violette in NY (or elsewhere in the USA)? Thanks!