Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Kura Kura Ji-Beer House


Sorry, another terrible photo! Today another Kanda area entry. There really are a lot of good places to visit round there at the moment. Kura Kura is a place I have been to a few times and it always seems to be pretty busy, so they must be doing something right! The bar is quite small and on the third floor, with seats for about 18 at tables, and 5 at the counter. It is very much in the tradition of Tokyo Ji-Beer places, offering good beer and good food in a nice location. Next time I go, I will definitely have to check out their extensive selection of sauces for their French Fries as some of these sounded amazing.
Perhaps you may have guessed this from my reference to an extensive selection of sauces above, but there is a distinct Belgian influence to this place. They have a pretty good list of Belgian bottles and a lot of Belgian glassware to serve you these bottles in. Prices are what you would expect for imported Belgian beers though. In addition to these bottles, they have 12 taps. On my last visit they were mostly Japanese craft with a Belgian guest (the obligatory Hoegaarden). There were also some German bottles and a couple of Japanese bottles that I didn't recognise. The Japanese taps included a brewery I don't remember seeing anywhere else (Syuzan Kaido) along with some more familiar names. A good variety of breweries and styles though.
Draught beers come in two sizes, glass and large. However, the size of these depends on beer type and alcohol content. For example, the large Swan Lake Imperial Porter was around 300ml, whereas the large Syuzan was more of a pint size. I understand why they vary these sizes, but do feel that there is something to be said for standardising the serving sizes in the way that somewhere like Craft Beer Market does. That way you know exactly what you are getting. Prices for the glass ranged from ¥750-¥850 and for the large, ¥975-¥1275, so just about normal for Tokyo (although maybe nearer the top end). To counter this perhaps, they have a 'happy hour' from 17.00-18.30 on Mondays, Saturdays and public holidays where all large glasses are ¥1000 (make sure you don't order the large beer that normally costs ¥975 or this could be a somewhat unhappy happy hour).
So, a nice looking place with a nice atmosphere and helpful staff. Given that it seems to be pretty busy most of the time, it may well be worth reserving. However, every time we have visited, we have been able to get a seat for a limited time (before a reservation turns up), so if you are just popping in, you could take your chance. The atmosphere here is certainly very different from Devil Craft just round the corner. I think I was the only non-Japanese person both times I have been here, unlike Devil Craft which is always full of us foreigners. The fact that it is always busy is an indication of how much people like this place, especially given that there is now a lot of competition in the area. Kanda pub crawl!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Syuzan Kaido
Hideji
Aqula
Swan Lake
Sankt Gallen
Ise Kadoya
Shonan
Shiga Kogen
Minoh

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 17.00-23.30
Saturday, 16.00-23.30
Closed Sunday

Location/map
東京神田ビル3F, 鍛冶町 1-4-6, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0044

Directions:
Almost the same as for Devil Craft. From Kanda JR station, head out of the South exit. If you arrive on the metro, to get to this point leave the metro station via exit 1 and walk across the concourse to the East JR exit. If you turn right and follow the tracks you will come to the JR station South exit. From the South JR exit turn right and follow the tracks till you get to the main road. Cross here and carry straight on, but instead of following the tracks, take the left hand fork. Take the second turning on the right and Kura Kura is not very far down on the left hand side. 



Telephone: 
03-6206-8866

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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Himalaya Table

Today, a recently opened Nepalese restaurant in Kanda. Himalaya Table's slogan is 'Craft Beer and Spice' so I guess you know exactly what to expect. Recently, there seems to be a trend of new beer places being restaurants that have good beer (Gar Eden), rather than beer places that have good food. I guess this is understandable given that the Japanese way is to eat and drink at the same time. It is a rarity to find somewhere here that only does beer, and not food. I am still more used to the British way of going out just to drink, and occasionally breaking up the flow of liquid with a packet of crisps.
Firstly, the beer. Himalaya Table has 10 taps of Japanese craft beer. On my visit the styles leaned towards IPAs, lagers and blond beers with just the one stout, but given the food on offer, perhaps this is a conscious decision. Beers come in two sizes, (US) pint and half. Pints ranged from ¥950-¥1050 and half pints from ¥650-¥750, so pretty much average. There were definitely some interesting things on tap (Hidatakayama Stout, which I haven't seen around, and one of the new Romantic Village Grand Slam IPA series), along with some more familiar but equally good stuff. One thing that was particularly pleasing was that even though this is a restaurant, we didn't feel that we were being encouraged to leave when we had finished eating. It seems that it is very much about both Himalayan food and good beer.
The place itself is a decent size, with 5 counter seats and table seating for maybe 20 more. Unsurprisingly, given that it is newly opened, the decor is modern and clean, with a big window looking down on the street below. It wasn't full, but was pretty busy on the night we visited so possibly it might be a good idea to reserve if you want to go there. The lack of a cover charge means that it is a legitimate destination just for drinking (presumably at the bar area), but I would fully understand if they wanted to prioritise seats for those wanting to eat as well. Oh, and I haven't mentioned the food. It was very nice and they were accommodating for us as vegetarians which was much appreciated.
So, a nice place with good food and good beer. Given that it will probably be popular, it's probably not the place you would come to if you just wanted to hammer through pints of beer, but if you want some tasty food and good beers in a nice atmosphere, it's highly recommended. We'll definitely be back, for the food as much as the beer.

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird
Kisoji
Outsider
Swan Lake
Baeren
Hidatakayama
Iwatekura
Kinshachi
Romantic Village

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 11.00-14.30, 17.00-23.00
Saturday, 15.00-23.00
Closed Sunday

Location/map
大同ビル 2F内神田 3-5-5, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0047

Directions:
From the West Exit of Kanda JR station, turn left and follow the rail tracks. When you get to a big junction, turn right (you will go past the St. Bernardus Belgian bar, maybe pop in for one!). Take the second right and Himalaya Table is on the second floor on the right hand side. Look out for the big BEER sign. 



Telephone: 
03-3525-4110

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Craft Beer & Whisky Bar Transit (Now closed)

 NOW APPARENTLY CLOSED, BUT IT'S ALL A BIT MYSTERIOUS

Another one in the Hatanodai area today, and somewhere that it makes sense to visit at the same time as Izuya if you are coming from elsewhere. Transit is a blessing for those of us that want to drink in the afternoon, as it opens from 3 during the week. It also has a nice selection of beers at a good price and really nice food.
Transit is very close to Hatanodai station (hence the name I guess). It is has seating for six on small tables, a sofa, floor table and a counter that seats around ten. So, maybe not the place to turn up unannounced with a large group. It feels very comfortable, and seemed that most people there knew the barman/master. I know I keep going on about this, but I wish we had somewhere like this in Yoyogi Uehara.
Onto the beers. Transit has 8 taps and 2 handpumps all serving craft beer. The line up was mainly Japanese when I visited, but there was one US import and one from Brewdog. The pricing system is very simple, all beers being ¥800. For the most part this meant 450ml glasses. The Fujizakura Weizen was served in a 500ml measure but for the same price. The glasses have quite unusual dimensions, looking like a stumpy but wider mini pint glass. Initially, it didn't look like 450ml, but the fact that I kept drinking and it didn't seem to be going down much supports the size. Also, apparently the glass used is extra thin to enhance the tasting experience. I heard this from someone who had read it on the internet though so can't say for sure. I am easily won over by this kind of thing though so fully support it! Not sure if smaller glasses were available. I suspect so, but they were not listed on the menu.
Breweries and beer styles were a decent mix, on my visit the were IPAs, weizens, a smoke beer, a porter, a pale ale and some fruity stuff available so something for everyone. Breweries represented included Minoh, Harvestmoon, Yo Ho, Aqula, Baird and Shiga Kogen. The master gave me a couple of leaflets for upcoming beer festivals too and was very helpful. I was very happy to see that the food menu included some cheese at a good price. There was also a gorgonzola and potato pate which was really nice and very cheap. I would go back again just for this.
All in all, a really nice place that anyone would be happy to have in their local area. And moreover another good option for a few afternoon beers, which I think is probably my favourite kind of beer. Seems to be getting to the stage where you could go to a different bar every week in Tokyo and never be disappointed from a beer point of view. A very good thing for us beer drinkers!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Baird
Minoh
Shiga Kogen
Yo-Ho
Harvestmoon
Kisoji
Aqula
Fujizakura

Opening Hours:
Monday-Friday, 15.00-02.00
Saturday, 12.00-02.00
Sunday, 18.00-24.00
closed Tuesday

Location/map
旗の台 5-13-12 2F, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 142-0064

Directions:
From Hatanodai station, take the South Exit, cross the road and there it is! Pretty simple. Check the picture above for the entrance, as the bar is on the second floor. 



Telephone:
03-6426-7788

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Izuya

Another beer shop today, a little way out of central Tokyo but worth the trip. Izuya is a Craft Beer and Sake shop in Ebaramachi, not far from Hatanodai. As well as being a good place to go and buy beers to take home, in the evenings Izuya becomes a small standing bar where you can drink on the premises. They have a couple of taps and you can also drink bottles from the fridge. Beware though, drinking on the premises is only is in the evenings, so don't go on a weekday afternoon expecting to have a drink (as I did!). It should also be said that because of them having to make deliveries, the shop is sometimes closed during the daytime, so all in all, best to go in the evening I think, and then you can have a beer whilst you are choosing your bottles to take away.
I would estimate that there were somewhere around 40 bottles in stock to choose from when I was there, mostly Japanese Craft beers, with a few Belgian and US imports. Japanese bottles are priced from around ¥400-650. The imports are a touch more but not too much. If you want to drink a bottle on site in the evening, ¥100 is added to the price. The two taps on my visit were the new Coedo hoppy beer and Minoh's Dark Lager. These are around the ¥500-¥600 mark too. Apparently they do new beer release parties every month where something special is available on tap. There are details on their facebook page. Japanese breweries in the fridge included Hitachino Nest, Coedo, Sankt Gallen, Shiga Kogen, Minamishinshu, Minoh, Hideji and Umenishiki. Some of these breweries had four or five different beers on offer, so a good selection.
So, a nice beer shop with decent prices where you can drink in the evening. I wish this place was a bit closer to my house. Even so, I will definitely go back from time to time, possibly for one of their new beer nights. Like I said, beware of going during the day, as it might be temporarily closed. Best stick to the evening to be safe. Oh, and one final bit of useful information, the shop is set back off the street so when you are looking for it you will only find a door. Look out for the beer bottles on display outside and check the photo above to see what the doorway looks like.

Japanese breweries available when I visited:
Coedo
Shiga Kogen
Minoh
Umenishiku
Sankt Gallen
Hitachino Nest
Hideji
Mimanishinshu

Opening Hours:
Monday - Saturday, 11.00-22.30
Sunday, 15.00-20.00

Location/map
中延 5-3-8, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 142-0053

Directions: 
Izuya is very close to Ebaramachi station and only a short walk from Hatanodai station. From Ebaramachi, leave the station by the main exit and walk to the road. Turn right and then a quick left at the lights. Izuya is on the left hand side a couple of shops along.



From Hatanodai, leave via the South Exit. Turn left, cross the train tracks and carry on along the shopping street for about 500m. Izuya is on the left just after a set of traffic lights where there is a Sukiya on the corner.




Telephone:
03-5749-1545
 

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Gar Eden

Today, an Italian restaurant with great beer. Gar Eden has only been open about a week and is run by a former manager of Craft Beer Market Jinbocho, so it is only natural that it has good beer. Located between Omotesando and Gaienmae on an apparently up and coming fancy street, it is another welcome addition to the ever growing list of places to get a good beer in this area. If it was solely a restaurant, it would probably still merit an entry, but we were assured that going just for the drinks is fine.
Unsurprisingly for somewhere that has recently opened Gar Eden is a good looking place. Split over two floors with a selection of table sizes, it is definitely foremost a restaurant, but there are five seats at the bar which will do very nicely if you are just drinking. In a similar vein to Craft Beer Market, the beers are very reasonably priced. Everything comes in two sizes, 310ml and 473ml, the glass costing ¥580 and the pint ¥880. (Edit: because of the recent increase in consumption tax, these prces are now ¥650 and ¥950). (Quick update about some new prices. They now serve all the craft beers in one size only, the volume of which seems to vary from beer to beer at ¥750. Basically for the stronger or rarer beers, you'll probably get a little less. Difficult to tell if you're getting more or less for your money than before. I think this is in line with them wanting the place to be a restaurant with some good beers rather than a budget beer bar with nice food). Out of the ten taps, nine are craft, and the other Super Dry. Included in these nine were two Italian Craft Beers from Birra del Borgo which I don't think I have seen in Japan before. These taps will rotate too and it looks like they will put their tap list on their facebook page, so maybe have a look beforehand. There was a ¥300 cover charge, but we were eating. Not sure, but I would imagine if you sit at the bar and drink you won't be charged this, but just in case, better have a few to make up the charge anyway. (Update: I went in yesterday, said I was just drinking and was still charged, so not the place for just one drink!)
So, probably not so much else to say. The food was very nice and the beer selection and prices good. Can't really ask for more. Worth popping in for just a drink or making an evening of it and eating too. Even though it is pretty new there were still quite a few people there, so might be worth reserving. There seem to be new places opening every week in Tokyo at the moment and they all seem to be good at the moment. We are spoilt for choice. Still nowhere in Yoyogi Uehara though! Please someone open something!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Swan Lake
Baird
Coedo
Shiga Kogen
Doppo

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 11.30-15.30, 18.00-23.30
Saturday, 11.30-23.30
Sunday, 11.30-22.00
closed Tuesday

Location/map
神宮前 3-6-6, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001

Directions:
From Omotesando station, leave via exit A2. Almost immediately after you leave the station take the first right. At the end of this short road turn left and then right again. Carry on for about 400m and Gar Eden is on the left hand side. 



Telephone:
03-6721-1444

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Monday, 6 May 2013

The Hangover

Today, a new bar located in Nakano. The Hangover has only been open just over a month and feels a bit different from some of the other places on this blog. Recently Ji-Biru places seem to have got a lot fancier. There are now a lot of places where you can drink fantastic selections of beers but in a slightly sterile atmosphere. The Hangover is not that kind of place. The feel is very much of a local pub, relaxed, friendly and the big advantage of this local pub is that it has plenty of good stuff to drink.
Onto the beer. There are five taps split between Japanese and US craft. The recent increase in import companies means that it is now very common to find good quality US craft beer in Japanese bars. When we were there, the Japanese options were Swan Lake's Golden Ale and Outsider's Belgian white, but if you check their facebook page you will see that the choice changes quite often. They are served in pint and half sizes. The pints are huge though, must be UK pint size, which is very welcome. Prices for the two Japanese lines were ¥650 for the half and ¥900 for the pint. Very good! Imports were a touch higher understandably. Think the highest came in at ¥1100 a pint, so still very much average for a US import in Tokyo and cheap when you consider the size of the serving. They also normally have a 'happy hour' from 17.00 to 20.00 where you get ¥200 off pints.
In addition to the taps, there is a good selection of bottles. I don't think I have seen bottles priced so reasonably in a pub here before so that is very welcome. It seems that when they get stock delivered they only take a few of each line, ensuring that the beer is always in good condition and nothing gets stuck at the back of a fridge for months. Bottles were from a variety of Japanese, US and Scottish micros. It is also quite rare to see Japanese bottles for sale in a bar. This was again very welcome. Japanese breweries represented included Iwatekura, Minoh, Hitachino Nest, Shiga Kogen and a few others. Bottle prices ranged from ¥650-¥800 which I thought was really good. Also every Wednesday is 'Bins and Tins night' where there is ¥100 off all bottles and cans.
The place is pretty much normal size for a Japanese bar seating for about about 20 on a few high tables and a counter area. There is more seating out front on a covered patio area which also doubles as the smoking zone. Pleased to see that the smoking and non smoking areas are separate as I have recently been in a few places where it is all mixed and it definitely affects your enjoyment of the beer and the evening. They also serve food which is a decent mix of pub grub and reasonably priced too.
I really enjoyed my evening here. There may only be 5 taps, but the choice was good and the bottle selection more than made up for it. I think you would have to be pretty picky to come here and not find something you wanted to drink. This is a nice pub foremost, which also happens to have a good beer selection. Some other recent places maybe have it the other way round, too much focus on beer selection but limited atmosphere. There are other places with more taps nearer to where I live, but I think the Hangover's feel gives it an edge. Of course the good prices help too, especially when you take into account the 'happy hour' and the 'Bins and Tins'. One thing though, I think I will have to come up with another name to refer to it, as generally I don't really want to think about the hangover before I start drinking!

Japanese breweries on tap when I visited:
Outsider
Swan Lake
(bottles from Hitachino Nest, Minoh, Iwatekura, Shiga Kogen and more)

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Thursday, 18.00-03.00
Friday, Saturday, 17.00-05.00
Sunday, 17.00-24.00
Closed Monday

Location/map
カーサビアンカ1F, 中央1-51-4, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, 164-0011

Directions:
Guess there are two ways, either from the metro at Nakanosakaue or the JR at Higashinakano. From Nakanosakaue, leave the station via exit 2, turn left and carry on round the corner, you should go past a couple of convenience stores. Carry on along the main road for around 400m and you will come to a large junction where you are going to turn right. Cross the road and go down the street for about 150m and the Hangover is on your right.



From Higashinakano JR station, leave via the West exit and make your way towards the main road Yamatedori. Turn left onto Yamatedori and walk south about 500m. Turn left at the junction and the Hangover is on the right hand side after about 150m. 



Telephone:
090-3721-6982

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