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12 Apr 2017 By

René Redzepi’s done a pop-up, vending machine meals are a thing and the dollar is relatively strong—all in the Land of the Rising Sun. What more do you need to convince you to take a trip to Tokyo?

The misconception persists that everything in Tokyo is outrageously expensive, but the truth is you slurp noodles at a stand-up udon shop for less than $5, and it’s possible to spend a night on the town bar hopping or fine dining without breaking a Benjamin (or a 10,000 yen note, as the case may be). But there are Tokyo bars (institutions!) worth seeking out—and sometimes splurging on—from strict traditionalists defending ancient methods of sushi and soba, and innovators pushing boundaries. Whether you’re looking for European cheese in a department store basement or a shop specialising in regional ramen, you’ll find it all in Tokyo. Here are some of our insider faves.

kazua-uyeda tender bar tokyo

Get a Taste of Pre-Prohibition America at Tender Bar

Tender Bar

(銀座 テンダー)
6-5-15 Ginza
Chuo, 104-0061

While American cocktail culture was stunted by Prohibition, dedicated Japanese bartenders kept it alive and ended up cultivating a style uniquely theirs. Clad in a pristine white tuxedo, Kazuo Uyeda (above) mixes drinks with his signature “Tokyo hard shake.” His original recipes may be too subtle for some Western palates, but classics are flawless. Be warned though: There’s a steep cover charge, but it’s justified by unparalleled service. $$


Sip Flowers, Herbs and Vegetables at Bar Gen Yamamoto

Bar Gen Yamamoto
1-6-4 Azabu-Juban
Minato, 106-0045

On the cutting edge of the cocktail scene in Tokyo, Gen Yamamoto, a New York bar veteran and sole bartender at this subdued Roppongi bar, serves innovative yet subtle drinks highlighting the season’s best ingredients. Pro tip: Make your reservation at least a month in advance for a liquid tasting menu at his eight-seat bar, which is carved from 500-year-old oak. $$$


Knock Back Seasonal Brews at Baird Taproom Harajuku

Baird Taproom Harajuku (ベアード・タップルーム 原宿)
+81 3-6438-0450
1-20-13 Jingumae
Shibuya, 150-0001

Though the small industry is growing, you have to really search for craft beer in Japan. This Shibuya bar has 15 seasonally rotating taps, along with typical izakaya dishes, like yakitori. After a visit to the nearby Meiji shrine or a hectic shopping spree through Harajuku, retreat here for a relaxed atmosphere and a cold, frothy one. $$


Pair Sake with Snacks at Moto and GEM by Moto

Moto and GEM by Moto (ジェム バイ モト)
1 Chome-30-9 Ebisu
Shibuya, 150-0013

Experts consistently recommend Moto (standing room only) and its offshoot GEM by Moto (seating available) for a thoughtful selection of small-batch sake—served without pretension in this set of Shinjuku bars. Ask the bartender to pair otsumami (drinking snacks) with your beverages for a transcendent drinking experience. $$

tokyo sake

Down Artisanal Sake at Nozaki Saketen

Nozaki Saketen (野崎酒店)
3-19-4 Shinbashi
Minato, 105-0004

You could easily mistake Nozaki Saketen for just another raucous izakaya on a street lined with them—and in many ways, it is—but this Shinbashi watering hole is a temple to artisanal (aka traditional) sake. Ultra-rare bottles are poured with the same casual generosity as pints of light lager. And decent izakaya fare, from sashimi to karaage (fried chicken), encourages extended drinking to make your way through the 100-bottle-strong list. $$


Order a Round of Shochu at Motsuyaki Utchan

Motsuyaki Utchan (もつ焼 ウッチャン)
1-2-7 Nishishinjuku
Shinjuku, 160-0023

Popular with the younger crowds, this tiny but packed izakaya is a reliable source of reasonably priced drinks and smoky yakiniku. Start or end your night here with a snack like batons of charred tsukune, ground, seasoned and grilled chicken, and a glass of shochu or a whiskey highball. $

By Hannah Kirchner. Read it at Tasting Table

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