Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2011

Courtesy Rigoletto Ocean Club

Modeled after a portside bar in San Sebastian, in Spain’s northern Basque region, The Rigoletto Ocean Club is tucked away in Tsuruya-cho behind the Yokohama More’s Building and away from the ubiquitous ¥300 yakitori and beer joints that litter the area. If you were never to turn right immediately after crossing the bridge, you woudn’t find this open, stylish bar-restaurant, abuzz in the evenings with an eclectic mix of fashionable professionals sipping after-work drinks and feasting on seafood dishes and brick-oven pizza.

The curvaceous wood-and-leather counter bar that sits in front of the neon-lit backdrop of chilled wine bottles makes an immediate impact. Our eyes, however, remained stuck on the frozen taps of Extra Cold Heineken (¥900 per pint). Not our favorite beer, but at zero degrees, the condensation ices up on the glass and a thin film of frozen amber goodness makes it a damn fine drop for a parched throat. We also asked for an osusume original cocktail (¥800), and chose a gin-and-tonic-based pink concoction called a Shady Grove. It had little imagination, but could probably be sipped all night by light drinkers.

We ordered up a small dish of wine-steamed mussels for ¥800 and paired it with a glass of the dry, subtly fruity Novellum Chardonnay (¥600) from France. The mussels arrived without much fanfare in an old tin pot. They were a touch dry, as if simmered on the burner a little too long, but the robust, garlic-explosive broth—permeated with steamed wine and green onions—left us fighting each other to sop it all up with a fresh roll of garlic toast (¥300). The Mortadella Frico with three kinds of cheese (¥500) was no match.

Rigoletto offers the best thing about Spain—tapas, of course—and all for ¥500. Uncork one of their many bottles of vino from Spain, America, Italy and Australia (all ¥2,500 per bottle) and match it with something like tuna ceviche, chicken liver mousse, swordfish brochette or braised squid with black ink sauce (just watch your shirt). There is also plenty of bubbly, both on the drinks menu and effervescing among the small parties scattered around the bar. The champagne vibe chimes in nicely with the up-tempo Ibiza lounge soundrack, punctuated with spirited laughter and the busy kitchen’s rattle and clang.

The main area, with its maritime hardwood floor and bulwark beams overhead, opens to a large nonsmoking area with plenty of sit-down space, and one of the best seats in the house—a corner booth of burnt-orange leather that can seat as large a group as you can muster for Friday drinks, or a weekend brunch.

Further in, you’ll find the semi-outdoor lounge with low-slung wicker sofas and coffee tables. From Golden Week on, with the floor-to-ceiling bay windows flung open to the breeze, expect this spot to be crammed with patrons lingering over a bottle of crisp white wine, or literally chilling with an extra-cold beer. Rigoletto gets busy, so get there early (we had to wait for a table at 8pm) or make a reservation for a group. It might not offer the scenic view of a Spanish port, but this stylish hangout tucked just minutes away from Yokohama station is certainly safe harbor from all of the crowded yaki-tachi just a lanyard’s throw away.