Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on July 2012
Walking west from Futako Tamagawa station along the Tamagawa river’s verdant park belt reminds you that Tokyo isn’t all tarmac and high rises. In fact, this area is lush and green this time of year and if Japan observed Daylight Savings Time (See “The Last Word,” Metropolis #952) it would be swarming with people in the evenings on summer nights.
The perfect time and place, then, to enjoy some cold beer, food, friends and lazy summer evenings—the aim of Café Soul Tree.
Café Soul Tree sits in a refurbished garage complete with Route 66-style weathered siding, a big sliding garage bay door and a low-slung wooden deck outside equipped with a gas barbeque. Inside, the spacious interior is open and airy with a high vaulted ceiling. Tables big enough for large groups sit center and smaller ones with leather library chairs dot the periphery. Over the bar at the back, a mezzanine studio looks out over the minimal wood, leather and concrete décor.
Fans of craft beer will appreciate Saitama’s Coedo beer on tap. So first things first, we ordered a round of shiro (white), kyara (original) and shikkoku (dark) for ¥700 apiece to whet our whistle. The shiro, a wheat beer, was light with a citrus zest but verged on sweet, while the dark shikkoku was all burnt chocolate and coffee—very mellow, understated and easy-to-drink. The favorite was the kyara, though, an amber pale ale with a refreshing hoppy taste, but not overtly in your face.
To a soundtrack of acid jazz and easy house music, we selected a spinach, bacon and kinoko salad (¥900) and their homemade “juicy” sausage. While it’s hard to disappoint with a salad, the sausage was another matter. At ¥1,000 yen, we were presented with a single, regular-sized arabiki sausage. Further, the coarse filling had neither spice nor special seasoning.
The homemade smoked wings (¥900), certainly mixed well with the beer, but again, disappointed with a distinct lack of flavor.
Better were the spare ribs in Coedo beer (¥1,200), slow cooked and stewed nikomu style. Definitely the standout of the night: soft, tasty with buttery fat that literally fell off the bone.
As the music morphed to James Brown and soul, we perused the library of pop art anthologies from the US and books featuring Japanese impressions of the highway Americana that inspired the restaurant. Time to get your kicks in Niko Tama.