HOME > Chowhound > Japan >

Seeking Retro restaurants in Tokyo - Art Deco cafés, 1960s hotel bars, etc

leebontecou Feb 14, 2012 12:00 AM

Hello Chowhounds,
This is a bit of a strange request, but I figure such a knowledgeable bunch might have a few recommendations. I'm heading to Tokyo for a trip Feb 22-28, and doing a bit of research for an art project on retro architecture/design in the city - not just '60s "themed" locations, but places that are actually leftover from previous design eras and haven't been renovated to death. If you have suggestions of restaurants/bars/cafes that are interesting for this reason (even if the food/drinks are subpar), I'd be most grateful for your ideas.

Some already on my list to visit or revisit:
- Maisen in Harajuku (where the food is actually great, in my opinion, and the decor is just amazing)
- the bar of the Hotel Okura
- Classical/jazz cafés like Violon
and Meikyoku Kissa Lion

Any other ideas on 1920s classical cafés, postwar diners, 1960s jazz cafes, 1970s lounges or 1980s/bubble-era karaoke boxes? My priority is places that are historical, but if there are any noteworthy modern locations evoking these vintage eras, I'd also love to know. Thank you so much in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. n
    Ninisix RE: leebontecou Feb 14, 2012 02:36 AM

    First cafe concept on the old days... Try the Hanaya in Nippori on the vinyl seats, with some mix-offering like ramen, gyoza, omurice(omelet with rice), anmitsu(=Japanese dessert)
    After just walk down on the Dogenzaka, Nippori Nezu Yushima will have some old fashion shops.. that are in fact very charming...

    1. Silverjay RE: leebontecou Feb 14, 2012 03:41 AM


      6 Replies
      1. re: Silverjay
        Silverjay RE: Silverjay Feb 14, 2012 05:33 AM

        There are also a bunch of Showa era cafes in back alleys in Jimbocho/ Kanda area.

        1. re: Silverjay
          jem589 RE: Silverjay Mar 5, 2012 09:23 AM

          I feel weird about these places since they're mostly so old that they feel dirty and not ironically retro like the kids are into these days. Here's one: http://bit.ly/x1182n and here's a ramen place that fits the bill too http://bit.ly/yeOqxW and wait, here's another one http://bit.ly/zYRABY Now that I look back at my notes, the list in Kanda is indeed pretty long.

          The food is never as good as I want it to be though (if that's an issue). I went through a big streak of trying these places, and they're consistently disappointing. If you want the pure, old-fashioned curry or coffee or ramen, there are always young guys trying and succeeding at doing those styles better.

          Although I DO like the food at Sakaeya Milk Hole in Kanda. The outside is super-retro, very picture-worthy.

          1. re: jem589
            Silverjay RE: jem589 Mar 5, 2012 10:42 AM

            I don't know about food quality. I was focusing on the vintage aspect. The places in Jimbocho were packed with people reading and drinking. They weren't just relic dives. I was into this a few years ago and came across many Japanese links on the subject. There are probably books and magazines on it as well.....Bourbon, the place I linked to above, is where Isoroku Yamamoto used to hang out. That blows my mind.

            1. re: Silverjay
              Silverjay RE: Silverjay Mar 5, 2012 12:51 PM

              Whoops, meant to say Bordeaux not Bourbon.

              1. re: Silverjay
                jem589 RE: Silverjay Mar 6, 2012 09:28 AM

                Haha, I still remember Bordeaux as being the single worst experience of my entertainment career in Tokyo. I had such high expectations based on the awesome exterior and interior, but then the service was so weird, and the prices were so, so high, and the quality was low. I can laugh about it now, and it sure is cool to be in there.

                1. re: jem589
                  jem589 RE: jem589 Mar 6, 2012 09:31 AM

                  Also, Cafe de l'Ambre is right on the other side of that block, one street towards Chuo. They're got some decent atmosphere as well as the famous aged coffee beans (1954 Colombia, 1974 Cuba, etc). And it's crowded.

      2. RHplus RE: leebontecou Feb 14, 2012 06:13 PM

        Dunno if this in fact suits your request, but the Kamiya Bar in Asakusa (www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/venue/353/Kam...) still maintains a bit of the old. It's not really a bar, but rather a cafeteria with the original system of ordering and outfitted attendants still in place.

        1. steamer RE: leebontecou Feb 15, 2012 12:24 AM

          The Ginza Lion is said to be the oldest beer hall in Tokyo. it has an amazing sort of fascist/heimat mosaic. Also Bar Lupin in ginza where Osamu Dasai and other writers drank themselves into stupors in the early post war era.

          1. l
            leebontecou RE: leebontecou Feb 15, 2012 08:51 AM

            Fantastic tips so far, thank you all so much! I will be sure to report back with photos from my explorations.

            1. t
              tokyopix RE: leebontecou Feb 26, 2012 06:02 AM

              I'm probably too late to this party since your trip is almost done. But just in case:

              I love International House between Rpppongi and Azabu Juban. I know it's a much maligned area, but I think this place is lovely. I often go for weekend breakfast at the cafe. It is never crowded - mostly just filled with folks who are staying there for some lecture or research project. The staff are charming and friendly.

              The breakfast food is fine - a small selection of Japanese-style (grilled fish, rice, miso soup, pickles, boiled eggs - I really like the miso soup but I warn you I know nothing about misos) and some Western-style (scrambled eggs (not great) or frittata, some pastries (nothing like Tokyo's best) and toast, cereal, yogurt, some cheeses and fruit) a perfectly acceptable pot of black tea, etc.

              But I don't go for the food. The building is so simple but so impressive. The furnishings spot on. The gardens are gorgeous and I'm always charmed that I can wander such a pretty garden in peace and quiet and yet it's just one long block of the depressing Roppongi strip. I just love the building, I could wander the garden and building and stare out the windows all morning.

              They also do lunch and an afternoon tea time service. There is a much more expensive restaurant a level below the cafe (sort of cantilevered over the koi pond), but I've only ever been to the cafe.

              I'm almost afraid to post about it b/c I'm always afraid to maybe see it get awful reviews. But I have such affection for this place and I think it is spot on as far as what you're looking for.

              1. m
                MoGa RE: leebontecou Feb 26, 2012 08:51 AM

                Tokyo Sanuki Club - Azabu Juban
                The photos show the two different areas used. On the left might be evenings only and is the location I had in mind.
                On the right is the main dining room used at lunch time (where you can get literal buckets of udon).
                I'm not a big fan of the noodles (too soft for me) but it's a pleasant place to eat and good value. Check at reception for a range of shikoku foods to take away (broad bean is a speciality and make a delicious snack or gift

                Show Hidden Posts