Wandering around the streets of Dōgenzaka near Shibuya, Tokyo, an area infamous for its high concentration of “love hotels”, we stumble upon a literal “hole-in-the-wall”.
The door looks just big enough for a hobbit but once inside this classy izakaya (Japanese bar: 居酒屋) opens up into a funky space that utilises timber beams and cement-rendered walls to create an air of unpretentious sophistication.
At the counter couples sit enjoying drinks and small meals designed to please-the-palette as much much as fill-the-tummy.
The glass cabinet displays fresh vegetables in a rainbow of bright, bold colours yet the mood is less raucous than my previous izakaya experience. Perhaps it’s because we’re here quite early in the evening?
The spotlight effect created by the stylish halogen lights hanging from above is tempered by the warm, golden glow from below the cabinet.
The booths are comfortable and inviting with leather seats encouraging us to enjoy a lengthy stay as we escape the humid heat and crowded chaos of the noisy Shibuya streets.
We order a round of drinks and some vegetable chips to nimble on. In a word: delicious!
The bowl of boiled peanuts still in their shells is another new experience. Soft and easy to eat they’re a clever appetiser and all the better when they’re complementary.
Looking around I see there’s also an upstairs section so they could easily cater for quite large numbers.
Although it’s very popular with the locals, our American-Japanese host, Robert, who originally hails from Hawaii, explains that they’re steadily getting more tourist business.
We’re impressed that he actually studied culinary arts at university but he’s too modest to call himself a chef.
Given how generous he is with his time making the effort to answer our many, many questions about his background and the quirky vagaries of Pachinko it’s no wonder business is good.
Before we leave we’re graciously treated to a shaved-ice flavoured with yuzu, a delicious Asian citrus that although it’s rarely eaten as a whole fruit, works well in this context.
This is definitely a “go to” spot whenever I’m next in Shibuya.