Salon Tsukiakari

Salon Tsukiakari

A lavish lounge awaits drinkers in an unlikely neighborhood


Originally published on on March 2009


Most people don’t equate Asakusa with sophistication and class. Yet Salon Tsukiakari, an upscale lounge located in the neighborhood’s Asahi Beer Annex Building, has both in spades. Stumbling in with several friends on a recent Saturday night, we were immediately struck by the atmosphere of quiet elegance, akin to a luxury hotel bar. The long counter, beautifully lit and lined with low, couch-like seats, was tempting, but sadly not practical for our group of four. Instead, we were led to a small table in the center of the circular room.

Any disappointment we might have felt at missing out on the action was immediately assuaged by our view of the night skies through a large, round skylight directly overhead.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the otoshi of sweet, ripe figs with fresh whipped cream—a welcome change from the usual beer nuts or solitary olive that justify the service charge at most establishments.

In spite of the location, you shouldn’t come to Tsukiakari expecting to drink beer. The specialties here are whisky and fruit cocktails. The menu has a decent selection of Japanese whisky, Scotch and bourbon (from ¥700). Serious drinkers can tuck into a three-glass whisky tasting set that changes monthly (¥1,000); March’s contains three vintages of Nikka’s Yoichi single malt.

Our eyes were drawn to the more colorful cocktail selection. Tsukiakari features a variety of seasonal fresh fruit drinks in inventive combinations like the blueberry-kocha mojito (¥1,300) or an “iceless” frozen vodka tonic made with hyuganatsu, a Japanese citrus fruit similar to yuzu (¥1,500).

Tempting as those drinks were to our friends, we took one look at the strawberry and port wine cocktail (¥1,400) and knew we had found our perfect drink. We fell in love with port at our first sip back in college, and were interested to see how it would fare when paired with ripe berries. The result was mouthwatering, if not quite what we expected—there was no overt taste of the fortified wine, though its presence helped to mellow the sweetness of the strawberries.

For our second cocktail, we chose a raspberry “Mojito Imperial” (¥1,400), whose cool mint flavor added a refreshing lightness to the richness of the fruit. There was a bit too much ice in the drink for our taste, but the solid inch of fresh, crushed berries waiting at the bottom provided a sweet and satisfying finish.

Homey Asakusa and glittering Akasaka are polar opposites in character, but their tongue-twisting similarity ensures that the two neighborhoods are easily confused. As we descended from the luxurious, illuminated tower of Salon Tsukiakari and strolled along the Sumida River, we had to wonder whether the bar’s owners hadn’t gotten a bit mixed up as well.