Beer · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo Eats – Baird Taproom Harajuku

In the morning, our group checked out Harajuku in Shibuya. The area is known for shrines, art museums, parks and what was once a fashionable shopping district. Most of the group took off to Takeshita Street, a gaudy shopping strip packed with tourists taking selfies. Takeshita Street is home to a large Daiso, a dollar store popular with well… everyone but L and I. For this post, let’s listen to Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani in honour of her controversial Harajuku Girls.

One thing I never get tired of doing is walking through the evergreen forest to Meiji Shrine. The air smells of pine and damp dirt. The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. I’m not into deifying people or the dead. However, I did pay my respects to the sake and beer barrel walls.

Harajuku

Cáscara suggested we try Japanese craft beer at Baird Brewery. Unfortunately, that meant we had to walk through Takeshita Street. If you look at the bottom of the photo, you can see me with an expression similar to the famous Expressionist painting – The Scream – by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

Harajuku entrance

Baird Brewery is on the second floor at the end of one of the quieter corners of Takeshita Street. The decor is very Japanese – consistent with cute and quaint details throughout the taproom.

all beers
L, Cáscara, TJ and I selected a flight of three beers ($1000 Yen). I wasn’t keen on any of them. Most of the options included lagers, ales, and IPAs. The one wheat beer – Wheat King Wit – tasted flat and one dimensional. I counted about 16 beers, three of which were seasonal.
three beers.jpg
TJ ordered Beer Battered Chicken (700 Yen). I ordered Pork Bowl (700 Yen). The pork was thinly sliced and the edges were curled from grill. Delicious, but delicate and paper thin. Proportionally,  there was too much steamed rice to the six slices of pork. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded if the rice wasn’t wet. The rice tasted like it was taken out of the cooker before it had time to set. The grains were still hard. I should have ordered what I saw the locals eat – beer infused edamame, raw vegetables and yakitori.
karrage
Beer was decent, but not as good as the two I tried at Towa. Would I return? Yes, not for a meal but for a chance to rest my weary body and soak in the cheery atmosphere.
Bars/Lounges · Beer · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo Eats- Towa

On a humid afternoon, L and I went to Taitō to buy a yukata for our nephew – Jack the Lad. Taitō is best known for its zoo, parks, museums and bustling street shopping. After we picked out a new kimono, we sought refuge from the heat and crowds.

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 8.05.56 PM.png

I searched Yelp for a nearby bar and found Towa. Towa specializes in craft beer and soba noodles. Located on the second floor, the restaurant is tucked under Ueno train station. At 2:00 p.m., the restaurant was packed. In Japanese, L politely requested two seats. As there were no empty tables, the bartender told us we would have to wait up to half an hour. We nodded and said we would be happy wait. In less than ten minutes, we received a spot at the bar.

I could hear the train rumble overhead. The ceiling shook slightly from the vibration. For this post, let’s listen to The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

The restaurant was filled with locals, though tourists have gotten wind of this place. At 2:30 p.m., we saw a couple come in with a baby. They made no attempt to speak any Japanese and they insisted on a specific table in the back. I could tell that the employee didn’t really want to seat them. He told them it would be half an hour for a table and he couldn’t guarantee the table they wanted. The couple sighed and left without the courtesy of a bow and a sumimasen. I guess they couldn’t find another restaurant because they returned. The server ignored them for ten minutes and then coldly seated them in the back, which was by this time completely empty.

Beer.jpg

There were two pages of Japanese craft beer. I picked #262 Mahoroba Wheat Kai –  Ushitora Brewery (1150 Yen) and L picked Struggle IPA – Isekadoya Brewery. My beer was clean and refreshing. L’s beer had a refined hoppy note to it.

Soba

We saw locals dining on cold soba noodles along with sides of tempura and sashimi. After our beer, we indulged too. I picked soba with grated radish (670 Yen). The soba was chilled and chewy. As instructed, I poured the cold soba sauce over the crisp vegetables and wet mound of white radish. Then I dipped my noodles into the sauce before slurping away.

Mountain radish

Service was lovely after we attempted to order in Japanese. My advice for foreigners? Not learning a few basic Japanese phrases (which is rude), being demanding, and expecting locals to speak English doesn’t get you very far. You can expect to be denied service through various excuses, such as you need reservations or they are all booked up. L and I would happily return to Towa again. The food was well-priced and refreshing on a hot day.