Boozehound: Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome
I may be stealing Marcus Lovitt’s thunder by reviewing this little gem, which he recommended to me, but he’s busy with Japan Booze, Blind and all that food porn, so I got dibs on the aptly and simply-named Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome.
This mid-sized beauty of a bar strikes just the right balance between class and kitsch, with plastic palm trees realistic enough to not be mere symbols of tiki-bar-ness, but fake enough to allow for a hint of irony. It’s funky-shaped geometric tables are balanced by the traditional long bar and lights that are bright enough to read a bit under, but dark enough to make you want to stick around for a while.
The soundtrack is American and British pop and rock drawn entirely from the mid-’50s to very early ’60s, making Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome one of the very few bars in Tokyo, nay Japan, nay the whole of Asia, to have music and lighting that match the decor and the menu.
The menu suits the bar: cocktails from simple to fancy, some a bit novel, but none really over the top. This is what I would call a high-end (as opposed to an assembly-line) bar, which means the folks here pay attention to detail: whisky on the rocks served over a glass-filling hand-carved ball of ice, Moscow mules served in small copper mugs, even the head on the draft Heartland being thick and creamy, retaining better than usual.
They do interesting things with light meals, too. Again, nothing revolutionary, but enough to hold your interest.
The service was in the same vein – polite and attentive, but by no means cloying. Call it highly professional, yet youthfully exuberant. Kind of how I like to imagine I was as a young barkeep myself (even though I know the truth is somewhat less flattering. Let a man approaching his midlife crisis pretend the youth he might set out to recapture was a s glorious as he likes to daydream it was!)
Everything on the menu has two prices: one for the hoi polloi and one for members. I immediately dropped the nominal fee for membership, knowing I’d want to be back, and over the course of a couple of rounds, the savings made my investment worthwhile.
My drinks ranged from 430 yen for a draft Heartland in a squat, solid mug to 740 yen for a Gargery Stout (tasting of coffee in a good way) in the requisite two-piece flute, with a 580 yen Ballentine 12 y.o. along the way. Cocktails and food are in the same range.
Shimo-Igusa Ni-Chome is, of course, in Shimo-Igusa Ni-chome. Go out of the South exit of Shimo-Igusa Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku line, turn left, taking you towards Seiyu, past the bakery. You’ll see a sign looking like a beer mug on your left, overhead – before the Family Mart.