Here I am at the Park Hyatt deciding between Teppanyaki in Shinjuku or Shabu Shabu in Roppongi and I’m tired and hungry after touring all morning in Tokyo without stopping for lunch and now it’s 4 PM which is making a simple decision really complex. You see, I’d plan to spend my night investigating two whisky bars in Shinjuku so I wanted to stay in this neighborhood but Shabuzen restaurant is nicely priced and in a fun location.
[Later] Ahh, let me talk to the concierge and have him make my reservation (I also asked him to write the name of the restaurant and address in Japanese so I can give it to the taxi driver for clarification) at Seryna Mon Cher Ton Ton and after freshening up, it was a mere 5 minute taxi ride (730 but I broke the ‘no tipping rule’ cause he was pleasant even though it was such a low fare) to the Sumitomo building and took the elevator up to the 52 floor where Seryna (and other restaurants) is located – wow what a view! So yes, I chose teppanyaki. I won’t go on about this restaurant; you can read my review here.
One ‘perk’ of traveling solo is that people are usually curious about you and so you get to meet a lot of people, or maybe they feel sorry for you! Anyway, I’d met quite a few people on my tour and I invited two of them to join me for drinks.
Bar Zoetrope it is! This bar is located on a back street in Nishi-Shinjuku tucked away on the third floor of nondescript building with just a little sign pointing out the location. I actually doubted Google maps but then there it was. The three of us just barely fit in the elevator – we got very up close and personal!
Bar Zoetrope is a well known whisky bar flocked by tourist and locals alike. Its has the feel of a Japanese speakeasy, dimly lit, so you can hardly make out the amazing whisky collection that is arguably the best in the city. Clearly the selection is mainly Japanese, but that’s what we are here for, however, the thing that makes this bar superior is the the wide selection of current and out of production whiskies on hand.
Japanese bars are usually tiny, holding between 6 -20 people and they do charge a cover but there is no tipping so it evens out, I think.
As soon as we stepped in the bartender asked how many, we replied three and he said hold on. He went and set up a table in the corner, right by the screen. He gave us the menu, told us about the ¥600 cover per person and left us to decide while he attended to the other customers. There were already about 9 people in the bar and so it was reaching its limit.
Atsushi Horigami, the owner, reminds me of that episode in Seinfeld – “no soup for you” as many would-be customers were first asked how many then were either allowed or denied entry. This was funny to us, better than watching the silent black and white films and cartoons that were playing on the screen next to us with the most eclectic music, from hip hop to metal playing faintly in the background. Apparently the owner is a huge whisky and film buff and his bar completely reflects his personality and interests and we were happy for it.
I already knew it was going to be a Suntory kind of night and I was anxious to begin. We decided on the Hibiki 17 yro, neat, with water back to start. Similar tastes huh? Kanpai! (Japanese word for cheers), I smelled the aroma and it was amazing and tasted as good as it smelled -quite smooth with great coloring. What a way to start! If you ever get a chance, try the Yamazaki 18 yro – you will understand why its won so many awards.
Although I was prepared to go it alone, you see the number-one rule for drinking in Japan is that you should never drink alone, and I’m very happy that I didn’t break this rule because the social experience greatly enhanced the whisky experience.
Remember the plan was for two whisky bars in the evening? Well let’s just say the night evolved to Scottish whisky instead of Brillant Bar (as planned) but sometimes you just gotta flow with it.
P.S Atsushi introduced me to this little gem of american whiskey – Ole George Whiskey and I can’t wait to buy my own bottle when I return home.
P.P.S Contact me for details on my customized Japanese whisky tour