April 3, 2019
A casual, cool weekend hangout (that’s also a hostel)
A hostel likely isn’t the first kind of place that comes to mind when considering where to spend an evening. However, Citan (pronounced she-tahn), a seven-story hostel in Higashi-Nihombashi, has an open dining space where locals and visitors can enjoy a regularly updated list of domestic and imported craft beers and wines as well as a modest but well-prepared list of comfort foods and music (courtesy of DJs and live musicians). All of this is contained in the hostel’s basement; pull open Citan’s heavy wooden entrance doors and descend the slatted staircase to enter a cozy, warmly lit space that’s not quite a lounge, not quite a pub and not quite a bar.
Citan (opened in March 2017) is the newest of four hostels operated by Backpackers’ Japan. Each hostel offers accommodation, food, drink and a connection to an aspect of local culture in an atmosphere that pairs a slightly rustic feel with clean, modern details. While the hostel rooms are minimally furnished, the dining spaces are warm and inviting. The interior design at Citan leans toward a kind of moody industrial — the grey of exposed concrete is paired with pops of deep turquoise and dark brown. This is offset with the use of natural wood for accents — a choice that lends warmth to the design. This inviting warmth intensifies as one moves down to the basement lounge.
In the dining area, guests can choose any open seat or can use one of the standing tables. The focal point in the room is the large DJ booth, which is surrounded by a counter where guests can sit or stand. Long, plush sofas beneath dim, glowing lights span the rear wall of the lounge and create a relaxing, intimate area. There’s a row of counter seats looking into the open kitchen — a good spot for solo visitors — and standing space near the main bar. Everything is paid for upfront at the bar; guests receive food at their tables after receiving a number to place at their seat.
With a full bar, all standard cocktails are available. Guests can also peruse the current selection of bottles of wine and champagne from the refrigerators near the staircase. The regular beer menu includes craft beer from domestic producer Baird Brewing and features, from time to time, guest taps from other local brewers. Beer enthusiasts would do well to check the special can and bottle menu on the chalkboard above the bar for roughly a dozen beers which aren’t widely available in the capital.
The food at Citan is comforting and thoughtfully presented. Try the chicken nanban for a juicy, incredibly soft piece of lightly fried chicken served with a side of rice. The generously portioned calamari is served with a pesto and mayo dip; eat while it’s hot to enjoy the full flavor. Try the beet and lotus root salad for a beautifully presented, hearty vegetable plate punctuated with the gentle sweetness of figs.
The most popular item on the menu (and rightfully so) is the beef cheek stewed in red wine served with mashed potatoes. The dish is served in a shallow pan along with its sauces and a smattering of mushrooms. The meat is so tender it can be eaten with a spoon. Consider ordering a side of sliced baguette to make the most out of the rich sauce. Other items of interest are the house keema curry (topped with egg), smoked salmon in an orange marinade and garlic edamame.
Visit on a weekend evening to enjoy a more lively environment; local DJs create the atmosphere for the night and it’s not unusual for some to dance (just a little bit). Music enthusiasts can sit at the counter in front of the DJ booth to get a peek at the tracks being played. Check Citan’s social media pages to find out more about the music schedule; the hostel also has a SoundCloud page where they upload past sets from DJs and live musicians featured at the venue. With the exception of live events, the music forms a great background to the atmosphere in the space.
While the majority of visitors are in their late 20s to 40-somethings, people of all ages and cultural backgrounds are warmly welcomed. The vibe leans toward creative professional. The lounge area is non-smoking but smoking is permitted at the terrace outside (next to Berth Coffee, the specialty coffee shop at the entrance of the hostel).
As food is so reasonably priced, a casual evening for two could cost around ¥5,000 (more if exploring some of the more expensive beverage options). Note that for some music events an entry fee is charged for all guests (refer to Citan’s social media pages in advance for details). It’s easy for solo diners and small groups to drop in for a visit, and the bar remains open until midnight (though the kitchen closes at 10pm). It’s quite easy to forget that Citan is a hostel. For many regular guests, it’s a go-to spot for pleasant dining, nice music and a relaxing atmosphere. With its warm, stylish design and the open-minded, internationally-friendly feel, Citan is certainly a spot worth visiting the next time you find yourself on the east side of Tokyo.
6pm – 12am
(Food L.O. 10pm; Drink L.O. 11:30pm)
8am – 7pm
15-2 Nihonbashi-Odenmacho, Chuo-ku