April 16, 2009
Sip an abundance of off-the-menu concoctions at this Ebisu bar
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2009
Nestled on the first floor of a nondescript apartment building somewhere between Ebisu and Hiroo, Kuu makes a fine first impression with its thick wooden counter and generous spot lighting. Perching on high wooden chairs that look less comfortable than they actually are, we get our bearings as the bartender slides a giant chalkboard in front of us and gestures at the list of “Today’s Fruits.” This, apparently, is Kuu’s makeshift menu—along with a list of suggested beverages, it’s all that the bar provides by way of guidance.
The lack of an actual menu is slightly intimidating, but also oddly exciting. Ordering is a relatively simple process of choosing a fruit from the board and telling the bartender how drunk you’d like to get. Those with a bit more cocktail knowledge can give requests to their heart’s content, but we’re perfectly satisfied with the kiwi champagne and mango gin & tonic the master whips up for us. A more adventurous foray into the produce section gives us something like a bloody martini; served in a beautiful crystal cocktail glass, the sweetness of the freshly pureed tomatoes do wonders in enhancing the alcoholic tang of the vodka.
While the concept of customized cocktails made from freshly sliced fruit is fantastic, the execution isn’t quite as high-brow as the ambience and price would lead you to believe. The fruit is nothing special, and both the mango and the tomatoes are a bit too young (read: unripe) to be drowning their sorrows in spirits. (When asked where he purchased his produce, the master gives a non-committal shrug and says “just around the neighborhood.”)
Despite the emphasis on fresh fruit, Kuu doesn’t actually offer any eats. This makes for a bar that’s gloriously free of stray food smells, but also mysteriously empty until relatively late on a weekday.
That’s a shame, because when the patrons do finally begin pouring in, the atmosphere really livens up. A small paw-print sign on the window signals to those in the know that Fido is also welcome, though naturally he won’t be served without proper ID.
Long and narrow, with only 12 seats—like a Golden Gai dive for the upscale crowd—Kuu doesn’t work well for groups, and the master reportedly refuses parties larger than five. The intimate counter seating makes it a perfect spot for some after-dinner drinks with that special someone, and the lack of a menu with any numbers or yen signs on it will do wonders for promoting that high-roller image. Best to treat only the keepers to an evening at Kuu, however: a menu with no prices may impress, but it might also induce a heart attack if you get carried away.