Category Archives: Ikejiri Ohashi

Posts about izakaya, restaurants and bars in Ikejiri-Ohashi, written by Rebekah Wilson-Lye for Ichi for the Michi.

Tokyo Food: Du Barry, Ikejiro-Ohashi – デュ バリー, 池尻大橋

Du Barry. The name immediately inspires images of French history’s most notorious trollop, Madame du Barry. A woman of humble beginnings who brazenly ascended French society, right into the boudoir of the Sun King, Louis XIV. In the spirit of aging disgracefully, a restaurant named in honour such a licentious lady seemed a fitting choice for this year’s birthday festivities. 
Located in the well-heeled residential neighbourhood of Ikejiri-Okejiri, Du Barry opened two years ago at the height of the Neo-bistrot boom. A sophisticated yet affordable restaurant, serving a modern take on regional French cuisine, in a space best described as contemporary Tokyo chic, Du Barry is a welcome relief to the chintzy accoutrements and overblown prices that one so often associates with French dining experiences in Japan.
The kitchen is headed by Katsuyoshi Yamada, a young chef who earned his stripes in Michelin ranked French restaurants such as the two-starred Feu, in Aoyama. His menu is made up of standard bistrot dishes reinterpreted with Japanese flavours and local organic produce. While it is possible to order a la carte, most – us included – opt for the 6 course prix-fix menu, which at ¥4,200 is very good value for money.

Homemade bread and anchovy stuffed olives gave us something to nibble on as we perused the wine list, which was comprised of fairly young vintage varieties from across France and… my homeland, Nouvelle Zelande – quelle surprise!

We toasted with a bottle of Petit Coteau Vouvray lesTuffières Methode Traditionalle – bubbles on a beggar’s budget. 

Apparently, cauliflower was once all the rage at the court of Louis XIV – who knew? Du Barry pays homage to this humble brassica’s regal past by featuring it in various forms at the outset of each meal. We started with an amuse of the King’s preferred preparation: cooked in butter with a liberal sprinkling of nutmeg. 

My friends know me well. This year’s treats included a stinky wheel of Burgundian Vieux Chambolle (similar to an epoisse), and a sliver of Roquefort Papillion, from the excellent Tokyo fromagier, Fermier, plus wine from one of my favourite New Zealand wineries, Ata Rangi. Cheers my dears!

We progressed onto a carpaccio de poisson et d’aubergine parfumé au safran, which I paired with a bottle of Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – and subsequently failed to document. The madai was beautifully soft, without even the smallest trace of connective tissue. The flavours and textures of the dish all worked well together. Yummo!

The next course on the menu was a salmon mousse gateau layered with Tasmanian smoked salmon and basil vinaigrette, however I was able to negotiate substituting this for their signature dish of shirako meunière and brandade from the à la carte menu. Both were decadently rich and well complemented by the dry, refreshing Hugel Gentel 2009 we drank with it.
We followed the Hugel with another Alsace wine, this time a bottle of 2008 Pinot Blanc by Pierre Frick, an Alsatian winemaker who is one of the pioneers of bio-dynamic wine in France. He is also well-known for his virulent attacks on GM crops This aromatic wine, which is vinified without sulphur, was notable for its lovely colour and pleasant stone fruit notes. 

The fourth course dishes of gratin dauphinoise and salade de légumes chaud (grilled seasonal vegetables), were effectively the sides to our main course which was served at the same time. Both were prepared with liberal amounts of butter. Well, if it ain’t artery-clogging, it ain’t French.

The poisson du jour was a pavé of Oita saba (mackerel) in a red peppercorn and balsamic reduction. Perfectly cooked, but could have done with more sauce. 

My companions choose to get their protein in the form of a warming dish of veal cheeks slowly braised in marsala sauce. The meat was so tender that it fell apart with the touch of your fork; no knife required.

The kitchen, once again, obliged my request for an off menu item: a trio of aoi ringo (despite the name is actually a green apple), mango and strawberry sorbet. I know that may seem like the most unlikely choice of birthday ‘cakes’, but for me the clean and refreshing flavours of sorbet are the perfect way to end a rich and buttery meal.

The rest of the table oohed and ahhed over their matcha and adzuki bean mille-feuille with vanilla cream.

A light and fluffy creme D’Anjou, served with our choice of coffee or blended tea, rounded out the meal. 
Well feted and well fed. Overall, my impression of Du Barry is good food and great service, all at a very decent price. Its stylish yet thoroughly casual atmosphere lends itself perfectly to a relaxed weeknight dinner with friends. 

I look forward to dealing with the challenges of the year ahead as I’ve always dealt with life’s challenges: with a strong drink in my hand. On that note, it must be time for some rum. Off to Bar Julep!

Du Barry

Tokyo Bar: Bar Julep, Ikejiri Ohashi – ジュレップ、池尻お橋

Rum, rhum, ron, what ever you want to call it, is a drink that has bewitched me and become something of an obsession. I, of course, am not the first to succumb to the pleasures of this potent brew; it was the preferred tipple of pirate and admiralty captains alike; kept the navy in ‘good spirits'; fueled Hemingway’s bacchanalian adventures; and perhaps even soothed the conscience of Richard Nixon, who drank it with coke. There is, however, a flip-side to all of this inebriety, as man’s thirst for rum was directly responsible for driving the slave trade of the sugar plantations, and worse still, for the production of cheap, factory made swill that was disguised in Malibu laced, smuttily named cocktails and frozen concoctions. It may be churlish to say, but for me, this nefarious history seems to only add to its mystic.

My conversion to the joys of rumbustion began in a bar named, bizarrely, after a bourbon drink – Julep.  Just a short stagger from Owan, Julep is the go-to place for rum afficiandos – stocking over 300 varieties from around the globe. It’s an intimate space, six counter seats and a couple of tables areas for groups of four, with moody lighting, jazzy beats and a chilled out vibe that appeals to the area’s sophisticated demographic. 

Sidling up to the small bar, you will be greeted on most nights by the informed Yamamoto-san, or if you are lucky, by the owner, Sato-san. In either case you are in good hands because these chaps know their rum and revel in an opportunity to convert new devotees. Sato-san is a Ron Zacapa Ambassador, as well as a founder of R.U.M. JAPAN, an organisation whose aim is for “the recognition, propagation and rooting of rum in Japan.” In these dual roles he travels the globe to immerse himself in the culture of the areas where rum is produced, meet local producers and sample as much of the amber nectar as humanly possible. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

Presented with a thick leather bound volume, which constitutes as the drinks menu, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the varieties on offer: Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti, Venezuela, even India and Madagascar are represented. Sensing our bewilderment, Sato-san came to the rescue, “How about starting out with a cocktail?” Okay, lets!

We began with a Havana mojito, which was made with hefty handfuls of fresh mint, and a canchanchara, made with a generous dollop of golden honey and freshly squeezed lime. Both were sensational – a great entree to the proceedings.

With one round under our belts and a bit of Dutch courage, we tackled the rum menu. I ordered the Nicaraguan Zapatera Reserva Vintage 1996, which was dark and full bodied with flavors reminiscent of vanilla, toffee, oak and cocoa.

The Athenian requested the driest rum they had, which turned out to be the Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Millésimé 1997 (10 Years Old), from Martinique. In contrast to the Zapatera this rum has a much lighter amber hue, with rich herbal/spicy notes and a long clean finish. A great sipping rum to take your time over.

For the next round I went with the 23 year old Ron Zacapa, from Guatemala, that I had enjoyed on a previous visit. I was not disappointed. For me this is the epitome of a great rum; deep mahogany in colour, rich and complex flavour of butterscotch, spicy oak and raisined fruit, with a warming aroma of vanilla and roasted nuts. Yum, yum! I feel a sea shanty coming on.

The Athenian ventured to the continent of Africa for her next tipple, a ten year old Vieux Rhum Dzama, from Madagascar. This fragrant aged golden rum had the flavour of caramalised fruit accented with slightly nutty notes and a hint of, err…banana? Well, that’s what my increasingly illegible notes say. 

We sailed back in to the Caribbean (by way of Europe) for our next round; Rum Nation’s Barbados 1995. Rum Nation, the rum division of Italian whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan, started procuring rum in 1999, and specialises in single estate Latino style rums. The Barbados 1995 is characteristic of this Latino style; very sweet and honeyed on the palate, with hints of crushed mint and molasses. 

By now we were well and truly adrift on the sea of insobriety with Sato-san, who shall be referred to forever more as Captain Enabler, as our obliging navigator. I was foolhardy enough to ask, “What’s the strongest rum you have?” Without missing a beat Captain Enabler produced a bottle of Forres Park Puncheon Rum, from Trinidad and Tobago. “Puncheon,” he told me, is used to describe a high proof rum – 150% proof, in this case. Despite the obvious warning signs, I ordered a glass. The fumes that emanated from the glass were so strong that I had to make sure all naked flames were snuffed out before I even contemplated putting it anywhere near my face. The first sip was like a punch in the mouth and completely took my breath away. Yikes! Gingerly, I tried again, and once I was past the intense wall of fumes I noticed that when the alcohol evaporated – on contact with my mouth – it left behind the flavour of fresh, clean cane sugar. A revelation!  For anyone who is foolhardy enough to take up the Puncheon challenge, the company’s website suggests you “Pour it over crushed ice to improve the aroma, then sip slowly to improve your outlook on life. I, on the other hand, would recommend the Sign of the Cross, a round of Hail Marys and a fire extinguisher at the ready – just in case it all goes pear-shaped. You have been warned.

Someone – yes it was me – went off script with the next order: frozen mint mojito. A blasphemy, I know, but it was actually quite delicious. It looks a bit like an alcoholic kakigori, don’t you think?
In need of some respite after all this good grog, we ordered up a selection of nibbles from the limited list of snack options on offer: Smoked cheese, dried fruit and white asparagus pickles. Julep also stocks a comprehensive selection of Cuban and Dominican cigars if you feel so inclined. 

While we didn’t drink it, the Saint-Etienne had the Athenian and I reminiscing about our favourite 90’s house group of the same name, and the halcyon ‘daze’ of our misspent youth. Ahh, wistful tales of younger, more nubile days are always the beginning of the end.
While the Athenian went back to her preferred dry style of Martinique, I indulged my sweet tooth with a Havanese Arecha Elixir de Ron. This rich and decadently sweet drop is more like a rum liqueur than a rum. It is dark, viscous and honey-like in texture – check out the legs on the side of the glass – with warming notes of oak, nutmeg and spice.

Last drinks had been called two rounds ago, and Captain Enabler now became Captain I-regret-to-inform-you-it-is-3:30am by presenting us with a pirate’s ransom of a bill. Time to jump ship.

Back on the street we had warm hearts and lungs full of song, and despite listing dangerously, were keen to splice up the mainbrace one more time.
“Fancy an after drink drink?” 
I guess that’s why it’s called the Demon Water. Hic!

Tokyo Izakaya: Owan, Ikejiri-Ohashi – いわん、池尻大橋

September 13th, 2010

Nestled snuggly amongst the stylish eateries that line a quiet street in Ikejiro Ohashi’s residential area, is Owan. From the street the shop has the appearance of a gallery; the glass frontage perfectly frames shelves of elegantly displayed urushi lacquerware and an interior accented with ceramics.

Upon entering its threshold more details come into view, which reveal the shops true identity; a rustic hand-joined U-shaped counter dressed with natural linen place settings, and, most tellingly of all, a charcoal grill. This is an eatery, a ko-ryoriya to be exact, where chef patron Kondon-san prepares seasonal dishes with passion and elan.

Talking to the master, he says the starting point of the menu is nihon-shu. From there he selects seasonal ingredients to construct dishes which best compliment his favourite tipple. I like his style. So, what’s with all the tableware? Does he have side-line in home interiors? Not quite. To properly enjoy nihon-shu, his wife, a professional food stylist and author, has assembled a selection of urushi, ceramics, glassware and pewter. He believes the feel of the tableware heightens one’s sense of the food and sake. Such attention to detail is admirable and conveys the thoughtful approach Konda-san takes towards his customer’s dining experience.

Taking our seats at the wide counter, we relaxed into our first round of tall drinks and an otooshi of warm, homemade tofu & simmered watersheild seasoned with katsuobushi, while we perused the handwritten washi menu.

The dishes are mostly washoku classics; humble and simply prepared, but with a few flourishes of modern flavours. These contemporary interpretations of home-style cooking bring to mind the fare of a restaurant just a few blocks away. This is hardly surprising as Kondo-san, in his previous incarnation as the head chef, spent many years developing and perfecting his dishes in the kitchen at Kan.

As per usual, we began with the sashimi-moriawase of shime saba, meiji maguro and kochi, minus the basashi (horse meat) – that’s way too surf & turf for my liking, thanks. All were excellent, though the fatty shime saba was the unanimous favourite.

Another favourite, Isojiman Junmaiginjou from Shizuoka, was ordered to wash it all down. Poured from an urushi bowl into chilled glass chokkos, the clean, fresh finish was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the fish.

A side dish of oshinko, which I generally order as a matter of course, was notable only for the inclusion of smoked daikon, which Kondo-san smokes himself using a mix of aromatic teas and cedar wood.

As it was now officially Autumn, though no one seems to have notified Mother Nature about that fact, we ordered sanma shioyaki. From our perch we watched as our dinner was skewered and slowly roasted over the charcoal fire, before arriving, perfectly grilled, on a rustic ceramic platter. The flesh was fatty and rich with a lovely smokiness from the from grill – nothing like the defrosted, tasteless varieties one encounters at less discerning establishments around town.

Potato salad is a dish my eyes immediately skip over when perusing a menu, but my companion insisted – so who am I to stand in the way of a man and his starch? While the inclusion of ham meant that I couldn’t partake in its tasting – (Oh, dear. How sad. Nevermind), I did enjoy taking this pretty little dish’s photo.

Crunching through it’s crispy shell, the filling of the ebi puripuri (fresh & springy) harumaki, studded with sweet shimp & mentaiko (pollack roe), was as fresh and springy as the name would suggest.

From the drinks menu, which stocks a nice selection of shochu, wine and a dozen good quality sake, we ordered Dassai 39 Junmai daiginjou. Sake from this well regarded brewery are pretty prevalent on sake lists these days, thanks to an effective promotion & distribution strategy – but that doesn’t discount the good quality of their brews, which are consistently good. The 39 was fresh and dry, with a nice fruity body and a polished finish – and by ‘polished’, I mean we polished it off fairly quickly and immediately ordered up another round.

Two of the house specialities are: black pork shumai; juicy and delicious, he tells me; and a yuzu infused uni & pumpkin dumpling in a light dashi broth – velvety smooth & delicious.

Kondo-san selected the Soukuu junmai ginjou, from Kyoto for our ultimate round. Light, refined and with the soft flavour profiles one comes to expect from a Kyoto sake.
I hardly need to identify the next dish. It was overindulgent to order it, as we were both fully sated, but I was keen to compare Kondo-san’s karasumi daikon with the dish I had enjoyed previously at Kan. While the dish was indeed pretty and the daikon was cut into perfectly geometric rectangles, the karasumi itself was rather bland and dry. The only bum note of the night.
[I’m cheating here a bit, as this next dish was ordered on a subsequent visit a week later, but had we stayed – and not decamped to Julip for a couple of rounds of aged rum – then I’m sure we would have ordered this hearty meal of grilled sanma and new season matsutake takikomi gohan. It was moreish and perfectly cooked – but, be sure to order it at the start of the night as it takes a good 30 minutes to prepare.]
Overall, the good food, a gracious host and a pleasant ambience made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The service matcha and mizu-yokan were the perfect sweet note with which to finish on. Nicely played, Kondo-san.

Tokyo Izakaya: Kan, Ikejiri-Ohashi – KAN, 池尻大橋

Tokyo in summer is a challenge for even the most robust constitutions. Tokyo in a summer heatwave is down-right insufferable. The air is so thick with humidity that walking through the congested streets of Shibuya is akin to wadding through human soup. Thankfully, there is respite one stop away in the rarified streets that parallel the Meguro river, in Ikejiri-Ohashi. The balmy breeze and chi-chi environs are a welcome reprieve from the ‘heat island’ conditions of Center Gai, and our evening stroll along the river proved to be the perfect way to soothe the senses and restore lethargic appetites. 

There are many well-appointed eateries to indulge in within this leafy borough, but I had one destination clearly in my cross-hairs: KAN, a shop that has been at the top of my wish list since spying a favourable review in Kateigaho. It had continually been nixed due to latent concerns that it was too おしゃれ (stylish), which invariably means that the focus is on the surroundings and not on the plate. As tonight was a 久しぶり meal with the stylist, Big West, the question de jour was: Is it possible to have style and substance? Yes. Yes it is – on both counts. 

Like moths to the flame we were drawn to the light that glowed invitingly from KAN’s striking glass frontage. Within the interior is a study in minimalist elegance; sparse stone and granite tiles juxtaposed with liner wooden accents. A long cedar counter, which seats 14, faces the kitchen and, in the rear, a U-shaped counter provides an adjacent dining area for a further 10. According to our host, the U-shaped counter was also the inspiration for the shop’s name: 凵 – as it is written in kanji; an open box that encloses. While the interior is sparse, subtle lighting, comfortable seating and simple decorative displays of ceramics give the space a feeling of warmth rather than austerity. The ambience is cool and laid back, as are the diners; bright-young-creative-types, who call this neighbourhood home.  

Seated at the main counter, the kitchen was the focus of our attention, and what a sight it was to behold. The three chefs, who look as though they were selected from a music video casting call rather than culinary school, work their designated stations with focus and precision, producing traditional izakaya fare with a contemporary and creative riff – all without putting a hair of their slick quiffs out of place. Watching them turn out plate after plate of stunning dishes, there was little doubt we would be dining well tonight.

Time to re-hydrate. Saisho nama birus were quickly ordered from the comprehensive drinks menu, which offers a range of premium wines, shochu and nihonshu. The sake list is not the longest or the best value, but someone knows their stuff here and the dozen or so brands on offer are of good grade and providence. 

The menu, which comes in the form of a long washi scroll written in attractive cursive kanji text, is a thoughtful tribute to the seasons. Attention to seasonality is such that KAN changes the menu every 15 days to ensure that the quality of ingredients is at an optimum. As it was summer, organic vegetables and katsuo had starring roles on the evenings specials list, along with a tempting array of grilled fish, roasted meat, and aromatic simmered dishes.

First up, our otooshi; a warm broth of tai (snapper), bamboo shoots and new season enoki mushroom, accompanied with a small dish of its grilled skin dressed with a sweet miso dressing. A fine start to the proceedings.

Prepared before us with aplomb by the head chef, Tsuyoshi Yoshida, the sashimi moriawase arrived resplendent on elegant yakimono and featured early season sanma (Pacific saury), skin seared tai, mizu tako (fresh octopus), shime saba (cured mackerel), and katsuo (bonito). All excellent; a testament to the chef’s fish selection and dexterity with a knife. 

The clean and lightly fragranced Hakurakusei (伯楽星) junmaiginjou, served in elegant pewter ware, proved to be the perfect accompaniment.

With the mercury in the high 30’s inside and out, Big West seemed to be testing my internal thermal regulation with the next dish; a piping hot ceramic teapot of matsutake mushroom and hamo chabin soup. The rich and aromatic broth was poured into small chawan, to be supped as we picked the delicately simmered goodies from within the pot. While the flavours were sublime, the warmth of the soup pushed my body temperature to a level I haven’t experienced since the jimjil bangs (sauna houses) of Seoul. 

In a misguided attempt to cool down I pretty much sculled the Hitakami tenjiku junmaiginjou aoyama(日高見天竺純米吟醸 愛山), also from Miyagi, which was served to us in super fine usuhari glassware. I dispatched it so quickly, in fact, that I have neither photos or tasting notes to refer to, but it can be safe to assume that it was, errr… easy to drink. Here’s a photo and some notes pinched from the web.

I must admit I was very apprehensive about the next dish, roasted Kyoto vegetables with an uni bagna cauda sauce, for two reasons: uni; and bagna cauda. Uni and I don’t have a fond relationship, and bagna cauda on menu’s in Tokyo has become a something of a cliche; overworked, overrated and often bearing no relation to the Piedmont peasant dish that gave it its name. This dish, while not an authentic rendition, was, however, an inspired 和風 (Japanese style) interpretation. My hautey distain was shortlived, and I was soon scrapping out the last morsels of goodness from the shell. Yum!

The grilled Tairagai (Japanese razor clam, which is similar in taste and appearance to a scallop), scallions and wakame, garnished with soy butter, was ordered after seeing it presented to the couple to our left, and, in a domino effect, was immediately requested by the diners to our right. A crowd pleaser for good reason: it was a fresh, juicy and delicious. 

Seeing the chef cut perfect slivers of karasumi (salted, dried mullet roe) from across the counter, I decided to indulge my inner 親父 and ordered up a plate of Karasumi Daikon to enjoy with our Dassai 50 junmai ginjou (獺祭 純米大吟醸50). The golden disks of fishy goodness were lightly fried before serving. Umami heaven!

At around ¥7,000 per head, Kan is definitely in the mid-upper price range of izakayas, but given the superior quality of the food and service, it’s well worth it.

With the conversation picking up and our glasses draining it was time for a change in venue. As we were warmly farewelled by the staff into the night, I caught a glimpse of the grill chef preparing taiyaki and matcha as the finale of the course menu: my favourite treat. That sealed it for me. Kan was back at the top of my list of ‘places to go’, and this time there would be no procrastinating. Highly recommended.