Eat organic, drink expensive at this Ebisu nightspot


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2010

photos Courtesy of C’s Cinq

Call it a sign of the times. Tetsujin, an Ebisu izakaya that used to specialize in salaryman-friendly teppanyaki, has gone and reinvented itself as an organic eatery with the mellifluous name of Hahori Nehori.  Forget steak and yakisoba: the staff now even includes a vegetable sommelier. That’s right: sommelier.

Across the corridor, you’ll find 831, a sister venue that shares Hahori’s food menu but boasts a better—and pricier—selection of booze. The place was clearly designed with nijikai group bookings in mind, and a glassed-off room for private parties comes complete with karaoke equipment and a ¥2,500 nomihodai plan.

In the main bar area, the plush wraparound chairs and subdued lighting aim for executive lounge chic, but the mood is undercut somewhat by the large TV and projector screen that dominate the wall. On the night of our visit, these were showing an international soccer match between Japan and Venezuela (nil-all, if you’re interested), followed by Disney’s Bolt. Er, classy.

Heineken is available on tap (¥700), but we opted instead for bottled Heartland (¥700), which the bartender poured out into tall chilled glasses for us. We followed up with 12 Year Hibiki on the rocks—a “shibui” (sophisticated) choice, according to the other, female bartender. We might have taken that as a compliment if she hadn’t swiftly revealed that she didn’t actually like, or know much about, whisky. Either way, the menu didn’t tell us how much the drink cost and we didn’t ask; that wouldn’t be sophisticated at all.

The vegetables from across the way turned out to be pretty good, even if they did a commendable job of confirming all the stereotypes you might have about organic dining (for which read: dinky portions). The housemade tsukemono pickles (¥580) got things off to a good start, though the assortment of grilled vegetables—served with soy sauce, miso and sesame paste (¥880)—was more minimalist than we would’ve liked. Hankering for something more substantial, we ordered a plate of spaghetti with dried tomato, cabbage and anchovy (¥1,080), which hit the spot nicely. Unlike similar renditions of the dishes that we’ve had elsewhere, it didn’t feel like chomping on a saltlick either.

The cocktail shakers lined up on the bar were starting to look a bit lonely by this point. “Surprise us,” we demanded of the male bartender, and he rather sheepishly mixed a “girly drink” that turned out to be vodka and cranberry juice. When we asked for something manly, we got what was apparently a gin Collins, though I suspect was closer to a dry martini. Either way, it was good. Again, we didn’t ask about prices, which might explain why our bill for two ended up on the wrong side of ¥10,000.

That’s a sophisticated price, though we’re not convinced that 831 did enough to warrant it. Next time, we might go next door instead.