Category Archives: Yoyogi-Koen

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

Fuglen Sake Flight | Nature’s Harvest – Autumn 2015

Fuglen Sake Flight – Nature’s Harvest

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As we are living in an era when we are increasingly concerned with the quality and origin of our food, as well as the sustainable, organic cultivation of produce, a return to a regional style of sake which utilises local raw materials has great appeal.

This autumn at Fuglen we will be celebrating nature’s bounty with a selection of three sake made using local cultivated, chemical free rice, and traditional, low intervention brewing techniques.

Savour the unique, terroir-driven flavour of these beautifully crafted sake at our Nature’s Bounty Sake Flight release party on Wednesday, October 21st.

Daina Tokubetsu Junmai Hiyaoroshi

大那 特別純米 ひやおろし

At Kiku no Sato, sake production begins in the fertile fields that surround their kura.  This small family brewery is as equally committed to cultivating their own chemical free sake rice as they are to brewing flavoursome sake with that celebrates the terroir of their local area.

A gentle herbaceous aroma invites you into glass, where you are greeted by the gently matured flavour of sweet grains enlivened by a refreshing acidity. Departs with a clean dry finish and a lingering aftertaste of spicy cedar wood.  Enjoy this sake at a range of temperatures: bright & crisp when chilled, with the flavour of the rice becoming more prominent as the sake is warmed.  A sake to savour under the harvest moon.

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Kiku no Sato Brewery, Nasu County, Tochigi – 菊の里酒造、栃木県須郡

Sake rice: Nasu County grown Gohykumangoku
Rice polishing rate: 57%
Yeast:
Sake Value Meter: +3
Acidity: 1.9
Alcohol: 16-17%

原料米: 栃木県那須産五百万石
精米歩合: 57%
酵母:
日本酒度: +3
酸度 1.9
アルコール度 16-17%

Shichi Hon Yari “Muu” Munouyaku (Organic) Junmai 七本槍 無農薬純米 無有 火入れ 

This rich, deeply flavoured sake captures the spirit of Shiga area’s terroir, as well as the eco-mindedness of its modern craftspeople. Brewed from organic rice grown by the brewery & local farmers, then gently aged for 18 months to allow the flavours to settle & mature.

Ambrosial notes of sweet, mellow rice & malted grains on the nose. Full-bodied with well structured acidity and a dry finish. Enjoy chilled in a wine glass to enjoy its brisk, refreshing acidity, or serve at 45C for a mellower, comforting expression. Pair with lean grilled meat or river fish.

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Tomita Brewery, Shiga – 冨田酒造、滋賀県

Sake rice: Locally grown Tamasakae (by brewery & local farmers)
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: #9
Nihonshudo: +4
Acidity: 1.8
Alcohol: 15-16%

原料米: 滋賀県産玉栄
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会9号酵母
日本酒度: +4
酸度 1.8
アルコール度 15-16%

Daigo no Shizuku Bodaimoto  Junmai Muraoka Nama Genshu

奥播磨 春待ちこがれて 山廃純米 生酒

Made using the ancient bodaimoto brewering method first developed the temples of Nara,  in which the sake is fermented naturally by airborne yeasts, with organic rice which is grown by the brewery in their own fields. Unpasturised, unfiltered, undiluted and completely additive free, this is a pure, artisan sake with a flavour that is beyond compare.

Cloudy in the glass, with a soft creamy hue, its has a heady aroma of pear, yeast and sweet koji rice. Its dynamic flavour of sweet fruit and pickled ume plum, and grapefruit like acidity dance across your palate.  A perfect companion for cheese at the end of an mid-autumn meal.

Terada Honke Daigo no Shizuku

Terada Honke Daigo no Shizuku

Terada Honke , Chiba – 下村酒造、兵庫県

Sake rice: Locally grown organic Koshihihari
Rice polishing rate: 90-93%
Nihonshudo: -40~-70
Acidity: 6-12
Alcohol: 8%

原料米: 千葉県産 無農薬 コシヒカリ
精米歩合: 90-93%
日本酒度: -40~-70
酸度: 6-12
アルコール度 8%

 

Fuglen Sake Flight: The Autumn Harvest

The harvest season is here, and what a bummer crop it is! Around the country we are enjoying the rich array of nature’s abundance; tables heave with with fresh produce, new season rice, ripe fruit, and some of the fattiest, tastiest fish of the year. Autumn is indeed shokuyoku no aki – the season of hearty appetites.

Autumn has also long been regarded as the prime season for drinking sake, and the reason is that as the temperature chills and the leaves turn golden, crimson colours, breweries around the country finally release their fully matured brews.

The fresh autumnal sake is known as hiyaoroshi, and sometimes, more poetically, as aki-agari – ‘the autumn yield’. And like the madness surrounding the release of Beaujolais Nouvelle, there is always a lot of eager anticipation for the arrival of hiyaoroshi, which is officially released on September 9th. Hiyaoroshi, refers to sake that has been pasteurised only once before it is stored & then matured throughout summer. It is prized for its harmony of lively nama freshness and ripe autumnal flavours… the perfect beverage for pairing with the season’s harvest fare.

This month at Fuglen we will be celebrating the bounty of the season with a tasting flight of three rich and settled autumnal brews: Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi, Yamagata Masamune Junmai-Ginjo Aki-agari and Senkin Akatonbo Yamahai Kame no O Hiyaoroshi. Cheers!

Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi

山和 純米吟醸 ひやおろし

Yamawa Hiyaoroshi

A refreshing and easy to drink sake with a mellow, savoury nose and a smooth, supple flavour that lingers in the finish. Its nicely pitched acidity make it an the ideal companion for comforting autumnal fare. Drink it straight from the fridge and then enjoy the subtle shifts in flavour and aroma as it warms to room temperature.

Yamawa Shuzo, Miyagi – 山和酒造、宮城県

Sake rice: Nagano Miyama Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 50%
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 17-18%

原料米: 長野県産 美山錦
精米歩合: 50%
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.7
アルコール度 17-18%

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari Junmai-Ginjo

山形正宗 秋あがり 純米吟醸

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari

A gentle, refreshing fragrance, with faint notes of ripe fruit. The aroma is beautifully complemented by the calm, sweet richness of the Yamada Nishiki rice, which swells and reverberates across your palate.  And the finish – ah! It ends with the clean, sword like cut which is so characteristic of  Yamagata Masamune’s style. Carefully matured at low temperatures, this sake has a wonderful harmony of freshness and soft, settled flavour. 

Mitobe Shuzo, Yamagata – 水戸部酒造、山形県

Sake rice: Banshu A-Grade Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 55%
Yeast: Kumamoto Kobo (Also known as #9)
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.55
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 播州特A山田錦
精米歩合: 55%
酵母: 熊本酵母 (9号)
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.55
アルコール度 16%

Senkin Yamahai* Kame no O Hiyaoroshi

仙禽 山廃 亀の尾 ひやおろし

Senkin Yamahai Hiyaoroshi

Enter the dragon(fly)! The Akatonbo Hiyaoroshi is the latest creation of  Senkin’s genius Usui brothers. And what a stunning debut it is. Comforting notes of vanilla custard, caramel & dried fruits emanate from the glass and infuse harmoniously with the rich & mature flavour.  The palate is juicy with Senkin’s trademark sweet-acidity, and while its got some impact from the alcohol, its a punch with a velvet glove. Warm and nostalgic, this sake evokes images of an autumnal crimson sunset.

*Yamahai-shikomi is a traditional brewing method in which the yeast starter is made in a way that allows wild yeast and bacteria to be present, for a time, in the fermenting mash. It often produces a gamier, rustic flavour.

Senkin Shuzo, Tochigi – 仙禽酒造、栃木県

Sake rice: Tochigi grown Premium Grade Kame no O
Rice polishing rate: 80%
Yeast: Private
Nihonshudo: Private
Acidity: Private
Alcohol: 17%

原料米: 栃木県さくら市産亀の尾特等米
精米歩合: 80%
酵母: 非公開
日本酒度: 非公開
酸度 非公開
アルコール度 17%

 

Fuglen Sake 101: Natsuzake – Summer Sake Flight

When the hot, humid days of summer arrive, brewers around the country wrap up production for the year and take the opportunity to enjoy a well deserved break. By now, the first batches of new spring sake have already been released, and the rest is settling & aging in tanks, so the market goes a bit quiet as everyone waits expectantly for the release of the year’s fully matured sake in October. But fear not, there is still plenty of great sake to look forward to during the summer season. It’s around this of year that pretty blue bottles of lively and intensely fruity summer namazake begin to appear in the refrigerators of good sakaya. These sake tend to be light, refreshing and, due to lower alcohol levels, eminently quaffable – perfect for quelling the meanest summer thirst.

This month at Fuglen, ICHI FOR THE MICHI has selected three breezy summer sake for you dive into.

Fuglen Summer Sake Flight

石鎚  夏純米 槽搾り

Ishizuchi Natsu Junmai Funeshibori*

Clean and refreshing, with Ishizuchi’s characteristic spring water-like minerality. An aromatic ginjo nose, with a light body that spreads nicely across your palate. Beautifully balanced, with notes of sweet rice, flinty stone, and a lingering crisp acidity. Slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune to produce a fine-grained texture.

Ishizuchi Natsuzake

石鎚酒造 (愛媛県)Ishizuchi Shuzo (Ehime) 

Ishizuchi Shuzo is a small, family run brewery founded which was founded in 1920, near Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture. The name of the shuzo comes from Ishizuchisan, a mountain significant for being the tallest in the Shikoku region, as well as the source of the rich spring water which is used to create their sake.

This tiny brewery is run by four members of the Ochi family, who devote themselves to producing a small amount of high quality sake made with time-consuming, labour intensive techniques. Their sake is fermented for 40 days at a low temperature, then slow-pressed using a slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune press. The result of this careful process is a finely textured sake with a smooth, clean flavour.

Sake rice: Locally grown Shizuku Hime
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Nihonshudo: +3
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 愛媛県産 しずく媛
精米歩合: 60%
日本酒度:+3
酸度: 1.7度
アルコール度: 16%

*Funeshibori 槽しぼり – Sake that has been pressed in a traditional wooden ‘fine’ box press.

Taka Natsu Junmai Happo Nigori** Namashu

貴 夏純米 発泡 にごり* 生酒

Lively and delicious! This happo-nigori’s light effervescence and cloudy appearance is reinforced by a fragrance of sweet Calpis and fresh grapes. On the palate the gentle sweet rice flavour swells and then pulls back to leave a refreshing dry finish. It’s delicate bubbles and nicely pitched acidity create a light, cool and refreshing summery feel.  – the perfect partner for convivial drinks on a hot summers night. 

Serving suggestion: Enjoy in a champagne flute, and pair with grilled meat & vegetables.

Taka Happo Nigori

Nagayama Honke (Yamaguchi) – 永山本家 (山口県)

Located in Ube City, at the south-western tip of Honshu, family run Nagayama Honke has been brewing its sake since 1888, with the mineral rich water from Shimofuriyama.

Under the leadership of fourth generation kuramoto, Takahiro Nagayama, the brewery is moving forward with a new, progressive vision. He is also one of the growing number of young kuramoto who are taking on the duel responsibilities of being a brewery’s managing director, as well as its master brewer.

Committed to producing only junmai sake, made with the best of the regions natural resources, Nagayama-san keeps production yields low in order to the quality high. The brewery is invested in supporting local agriculture, and contracts local rice farmers to supply sakamai for the brewery. Nagayama-san has also turned his hand to farming – cultivating his own Yamada Nishiki in the fields that surround the kura.

“Taka” (meaning noble) takes its name from the first kanji of the man who created it. The stylised font of the 貴 character, which Nagayama-san wrote himself, reflects his strength, passion and slightly wild personality. Since launching the label in 2001, Taka has become one of the darlings of the sake world, and for good reason. Its characteristic mellow flavour, and nicely chiselled acidity, favors wide range of delicious cuisine, and lends itself to a night of delicious fun.

Sake rice: Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: +-0
Acidity: 1.6
Alcohol: 15~16%

原料米: 山田錦
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: +-0
酸度 1.6
アルコール度 15〜16%

**Happo Nigori 発泡にごり – Sparkling cloudy sake. Sake that has some residual rice lees – ori -remaining, and has undergone secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker Junmaiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu***

玉川  Ice Breaker  純米吟醸 無濾過生原酒

Ice Breaker by name, Heat Breaker by nature. Don’t be mislead by its fresh, pretty fragrance, this rich and flavoursome muroka nama genshu has plenty of punch. Delicious straight out of the fridge, or it enjoy over ice to soften the impact of its amped up alcohol level. Revitalising, tasty and eminently quaffable – the perfect thirst-quencher for the hanabi & summer festival session.

Serving suggestion: On the rocks. Perfect for enjoying with barbecued fare.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker

Kinoshita Shuzo (Kyoto) – 木下酒造 (京都県)

Kinoshita is an extraordinary brewery. And that’s not so much due to the award-winning Tamagawa sake they produce, or the old school brewing techniques they use, – as it is for their toji (master brewer). Philip Harper has the distinction of being the first and only non-Japanese to attain the rank of master brewer. He’s also responsible for producing Tamagawa’s remarkably intense brews.

Although there may have been some suspicion (and expectation of failure) of a foreigner brewing the country’s national drink, since taking on the role of toji at Tamagawa’s, in 2007, Harper has won over the sake industry and the nation with his flavour driven, masculine sake.

The brewery’s mission is take fine rice, grown by farmers they have a direct relationship with to create their sake. The distinct flavour, for which Tamagawa is so renowned, is derived from Harper’s use of traditional brewing technique called ‘shizen shikomi’ or ‘stontaneous fermentation’, a natural brewing preparation used during the Edo Period, but which is not widely used today. By combining the best natural resources with labour intensive brewing techniques, and an exceptional level of skill, Tamagawa aims to brew great sake with integrity, heart and soul & to strive to produce sake that will delight and inspire.

Sake rice: (Koji) Nihonbare, (Kakemai) Gyohakumangoku
Rice polishing rate: (Koji) 50%, (Kakemai) 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: -2
Alcohol: 16~17%

原料米: (麹)日本晴、(掛) 五百万石
精米歩合:  (麹)50%、(掛)60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: -2
アルコール度 16〜17%

***Muroka 無濾過 – Uncharcoal filtered

Nama 生 – Unpasteurised (fresh) sake

Genshu 原酒 – Undiluted sake

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai, brewed with Hokkaido grown Ginpu sake rice – developed especially for cold climate conditions.

Tokyo Food & Natural Wine: Ahiru Store, Yoyogi-Koen – アヒルストア、代々木公園


Although it opened in 2008, I only came across Ahiru Store last year, when I made note of its strong ranking on tabelog during one of my regular late night trolls for inspiration. A few days later, it was splashed all over the pages of Brutus magazine’s wine bar edition and,  needless to say, as soon as Ahiru Store was given that local style barometer’s seal of approval, seats (and even standing room) at the tiny bistro were immediately among the most coveted in town.

One year on and the buzz shows no sign of abating. From the moment it opens at 5pm till the last orders are called there is a constant line of customers patiently queued outside Ahiru’s door. 


Standing in line on a small backstreet in Yoyogi-Koen, your appetite is teased by the heavenly aromas of roasting meats & herbs that emanate from the small kitchen and a tempting window display of freshly baked breads – it can be a torturous wait. But persevere and the pay off is some seriously good eats.


If you are lucky you can snag a stool at the counter, otherwise you will have to make do with space around one of the wine barrels that double as tables for standing patrons. 

 
Owner and sommelier, Teruhiko Saito, is a busy man. He spends the entire evening in a state of constant motion: turning over tables, taking orders and preparing appetisers. He also runs a tight ship, so be prepared to order your drinks straight away. You can choose from the selection of bottles (mostly French) displayed on the wall, or from the daily selection of four red and white options by the glass (¥800). Although he is a harried man, Saito-san is generous in giving descriptions and helping customers make selections from his vast selection of shizenha (natural) wines; a genre is he obviously passionate about.
 

‘Natural’ has usurped organic and biodynamic to become the latest buzzword in wine.  But what does it actually mean?
 
Well, there is no official definition of natural wine, but essentially its organic or biodynamic wine made with minimal intervention: no additives or tricks of technology. In other words, natural wine eschews commercial yeasts, preservatives and (in France) sugar – yes, it’s considered a chemical in the natural viticulture world. The result is a naturally fermented ‘naked’ wine, low in sulphur, and, as it is made in small quantities from single vineyards, it is said to better capture the characteristics of the terroir and grape.

 
Hipsters, who love to fetishise the authentic, have been quick to champion the natural wine movement for its old school techniques and anti-establishment ethos. In fact, they will probably delight in telling you that they were drinking it ‘before it was cool’…groan! But its popularity can’t just be attributed to Williamsburg residents and the wearers of ironic spectacles alone; for equally ‘on trend’ individuals and restaurants that adhere to a foraging, slow food philosophy, natural wine has been fervently received as the logical accompaniment to farm-to-table cuisine. 
 
 
Japan has become one of the most enthusiastic importers of natural wines (some French makers saying that it accounts for more than 50% of their exports), which is hardly surprising given the public’s concern about the origin and purity of food in the wake of last year’s Tohoku disasters. Another practical reason for its popularity here is that the Japanese have a hard time metabolising alcohol, so the low sulphur levels in make it an ideal choice for their constitution. A cynic like me would also add that it could also due to Japanese consumers susceptibility to aggressive marketing (the annual Beaujolais Nouveau mania being case in point) and a cultural tendency to equate purity with quality.

Natural wine has been heralded by some as the future of viticulture, and dismissed by others as ‘faddish, fault-indulgent hippie juice’, with Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker going one step further by declaring it “one of the major scams being foisted on wine consumers”. It’s hard to disagree with the philosophy and ethics behind the genre, so why does this wine have aficionados so staunchly divided, and more importantly, how does it taste? Well, that’s exactly what I came to Ahiru Store to find out.
 


Intrigued by his description of apples and calvados, I ordered La Treille Muscate’s Vendange Tardive 2008, from the Haute Corbieres area of Languedoc-Roussillion – a blend of macabeu & pinot gris. The wine had a peachy hue, with the taste of over-ripe apples and honeycomb, marred by musty sherry notes and a staleness that I would describe as oxidised. It would seem that Saito-san’s description of calvados was a literal one, as it definitely tasted like a fortified wine – albeit one that had been filtered through an old Gallic sock. Why this was being recommended at the onset of a meal was beyond me. Not a great start to the evening.

On a brighter note the food here is excellent. Saito-san’s sister, Wakako, is at the helm in the kitchen, preparing rustic, home-style French fare with aplomb. 

We started with a basket of their in-house baked breads: potato & rosemary focaccia and a moreish wedge of the onion pain de campagne. Both were outstanding. I should mention that you don’t have to dine-in to sample their selection – it can be bought from the door as take-out.

 

The bread was also put to good use mopping up this simple preparation of haricot beans cooked in olive oil with sage, and a sprinkling of smoked paprika.

A salad of avocado and octopus with a wasabi infused olive oil and garlic dressing. Generously portioned and delicious. 

I still have cravings for the parmesan and sesame studded grissini, which come tied with ribbons of prosciutto ham. Devilishly addictive. 

After requesting something a little dryer, I was served a glass of Cheverny “Les Perrieres” 2011, by Christian Venier. As soon as I put the glass to my nose, I was hit by the pungent smell of wet stone and tarragon vinegar. My first sip only served to confirm my initial suspicion – the wine was spoiled, acetic and all together unpleasant. I didn’t know whether to send it back or toss it over my salad. Of course, I couldn’t send it back as this is how it was suppose to taste; its fermented in a tank with a loose seal to encourage oxidation which, when properly managed, creates umami characteristics – or vinegar, when it’s not.

Down but not out, I ordered a glass of the Cheverny La Pierre aux Chiens, again by Christian Venier (pictured above, next to the La Treille Muscate). It is worth noting that all of the wines at Ahiru Store are served chilled – even the reds – due to their unstable nature and propensity to spoil. It was a smart, light-weight pinot with the flavour of cherry, cranberry and a touch of earthiness. While quite drinkable, it was a little too light in my opinion – more like a grape juice than pinot noir. By this stage I felt like asking, “Can I please have a wine that tastes like wine?

 
I sort solace in a delicious plate of sanma confit. Its slow cooking in oil had rendered the meat meltingly soft, and I greedily devoured it, head, bones, tail and all. 
 

Everything at Ahiru Store is produced in-house, from the pickles to the tasty selection of sausages which Saito-san grinds and stuffs himself. As I don’t eat meat, it was up to my companion to ‘take one for the team’ with a hearty plate of pork and shallot sausage with potato salad. They then proceeded to ignore me as they were transported to piggy heaven. I was informed that it was as substantial in taste as it was proportion.


A subsequent visit resulted in much better luck with the wine. This 2010 Domaine Alexandre Bain Pouilly-Fumé, from Tracy-sur-Loire, had pleasant ripe grape and pear aromas, with a fuller body than one would expect from a sauvignon blanc. It was refreshing with a nice balance of acidity – very drinkable.  

 

There was an audible ‘pop’ on opening of the Vin d’Alsace Laurent Bannwarth Riesling 2010 (second from the left), which indicated this wine was very much ‘alive’. It had a herbaceous nose which opened up to reveal some flinty notes and a touch of calpis (???). The taste was of bright fruit, with a lively yoghurty tang. An unusual expression of riesling, but an interesting one none the less. 

This La Lunotte Haut Plessis, made with a rare Loire grape called Menu Pineau, was a bottle of liquid sunshine. Slighty cloudy in appearance, with aromas of citrus and, err.. sauerkraut. It was light and dry with vibrant acidity that made me wake up and take notice. Something worth revisiting in the hot summer months.

It was the night before a public holiday and, as last orders were called, Saito-san dimmed the lights, turned up the Kraftwerk and popped some bubbles – he clearly had recreation on his mind. Domaine Andre et Mireille Tissot’s 100% chardonnay sparkling Cremant du Jura was fresh and crisp with a complex texture, cut through with a slight acidity and layers of mineral notes. A little more savoury than I like my bubbles, but quite enjoyable.

I applaud the ‘less-is-more’ debate that the natural movement has instigated in the greater wine industry, and believe that a shift backwards, to less chemical intervention and more conscious production, will ultimately be a step forward. Over the past few months, I’ve had some ‘ahh’ moments: well crafted, vibrant wines, such as the Domaine Alexandre Bain Pouilly-Fumé, have definitely opened my eyes to the enormous potential of the natural genre. However, what is stopping me from jumping on the natural wine bandwagon is that when they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are atrocious! A disproportionate number of the wines I’ve tasted were funky (in a bad way), overly acidic and unpleasantly weird. Rather than being pure expression of the terroir, these wines would best be described as micro-bacterial disasters – a result of natural wine makers focusing too dogmatically on the process, and not enough on the quality of the end result, perhaps? So for now, I remain firmly on the vineyard fence.
 
What I am sure of, however, is that Ahiru Store deserves all of the accolades that have been bestowed upon it. It’s a lovely neigbourhood bistro, serving well prepared, produce-driven food at reasonable prices. I love the buzz the informality here. 
 
So regardless of where you stand on the ‘natural vs. conventional’ spectrum, if you approach the wine with an open mind, you will walk away from an evening at Ahiru Store delighted.  
 
NB: Reservations can be made for no later than 6:30pm. 
 
03-5454-2146
 
 

Tokyo Coffee: Fuglen Tokyo – Yogogi-Hachiman, フグレン トウキョウ – 代々木八幡

A Nordic ‘Bird’ has nested in Yoyogi Koen, and if the number of fixed-gear bikes parked at its door is any indication, it’s certainly got Tokyo’s bespectacled hipster set atwitter. 

This new foreign resident is Fuglen, a Norwegian import which, since its opening this past May, has built a solid reputation and garnered a loyal following amongst foreign and Japanese coffee aficionados alike. Originating in Oslo, this multi-concept space is a cafe cum vintage store by day, and by night a cocktail bar where cultures, conversations and design converge.

The retro colours, 60’s modernist furniture and dark wooden cabinetry, which showcase a selection of vintage Nordic ceramics – all are available for purchase – create an aesthetic which is effortlessly cool yet decidedly laidback. Customers can lounge on the leather sofa while flicking through a thoughtful selection of Scandinavian design books and the latest edition of uber-style bible, Monocle, or take a pew at one of the window seats which look out over a quiet residential street. All the while the place hums with conversations spoken in a multitude of languages, and so for a moment it’s easy loose one’s bearings. The reason for this is, explains manager Kenji Kojima, “This isn’t Japan, this is little Oslo.”

Unusually for Tokyo, Fuglen is open from 8am on weekdays (I predict this will be a growing trend as locals cotton on to the idea of a cafe breakfast), and, rarer still, serves remarkably good coffee. Along with Nozy Coffee beans, which are used for espresso, they also offer a selection of Norwegian roasts as fresh brew & aeropress coffee. Again, all are available for purchase – albeit at steep Norwegian prices.

Food is minimal: you can order a smoked salmon sandwich or choose one the pastries that are occasionally displayed on the counter.  But if you’re peckish, don’t dispair – bring your own. Yes, that’s right, one of Fuglen’s charming idiosyncrasies is its BYO food policy – a system it has adopted from its parent store. Bring along some tasty morsels from a local bakery (I recommend Viron and Cheese Stand), or order a takeout from your favourite delivery service. No one will bat an eyelid.

The atmosphere changes at dusk when the dim lights come on and the bar seats fill. Japanese and Norwegian craft beers are popular on a balmy summer’s evening, as are their extensive list of cocktails, all conceived by champion mixologist, Halvor Digernes.

I was fortunate enough to meet the man himself on one of his regular trips to Tokyo to update the staff on the preparation of his bespoke cocktails. His signature Dandy Lion, the cocktail which scored him a victory at the 2011 Linie Awards, is a revelation: Linie Aquavit, Dandelion root, bee pollen syrup, lemon, egg-white and burdock bitter all shaken into a pillowy dream. Sublime.

It is the attention to consistency and quality which really makes Fuglen stand out from the new faces in Tokyo’s burgeoning cafe scene. From the decor to the coffee beans, everything is of exceptional quality and executed expertly by the welcoming & talented crew.

On a recent visit I managed to inadvertently become part of a photo shoot for the popular style magazine, Brutus. So if you see a photo of a girl sipping a Shiga Kogen craft beer while nonchalantly holding (someone else’s) Shiba puppy – you’ll know its me. But be warned, once that publication hits the news stands it will be standing room only at this little bastion of cool.

Fuglen Tokyo
03-3481-0884