Japan Eats

Restaurant Review: Bunryu (Takadanobaba)

Bunryu’s original shop in Takadanobaba has a long and proud history of making good Italian food. Less than

There are always a couple of tagliatelle dishes on the menu.

a one minute from JR Takadanobaba station, this small restaurant has been keeping restaurants happy and coming back for more since the 1973.

While the restaurant itself is not large, there is enough seating for parties as large as 10, and customers dining alone can easily be accommodated at the central island table.

The bookshelves, ceramic lamps, and other assorted classic touches are nice, but the real attraction is the food. Lunch is a great time to try this restaurant out, as it becomes considerably more affordable for the average non-executive or university professor, but be prepared to wait if you arrive right  at noon. While in the queue, you can busy yourself deciding which of the four lunch courses you’d like to try. At 950 yen, the A course gets you a salad, pasta dish of your choice, and post-meal cup of coffee or tea. If one happens to be sporting a decent appetite, then opting for a course that comes later in the alphabet is advised.

The other three courses, B through D, build in varying degrees and amounts of Italian-inspired delights with the most involved being the D course at 2,800 yen. For that price you’ll enjoy an appetizer, salad, pasta and meat or fish dishes of your choice, homemade bread, and the aforementioned hot drink.

From the pasta menu, anything featuring Tagliatelle (a pasta noodle made with egg) is a safe bet.

There is also, of course, a small variety of pasta, meat, fish, and pizza a la carte selections available. Pasta dishes are 750 at lunchtime, while everything else is priced between one and two thousand yen.

Beer and house wine are 300 yen during the afternoon.

Bunryu happens to be very popular with the local university professor crowd, so it is not uncommon to find them there reading a book in the afternoon or having dinner with small groups of graduate-level advisees in the evening.

Bunryu also has a restaurant in Kunitachi.

Directions: JR Takadanobaba Waseda exit (accessible from Tozai and Seibu-Shinjuku lines as well). Find “Big Box” (there’s a police box at the foot of it), and from there locate Mizuho Bank across the street. Bunryu is in the basement beneath Mizuho in the FI building.

Address: 169-0075  Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Takadanobaba 1-26-5 FI Biru B1

Telephone: 03-3208-5447

Hours: Lunch 11:30-14:00; Dinner 17:00-22:00 (until 21:00 on Sundays)

Guru Navi: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a530000/

Bunryu Website: http://www.bunryu.co.jp/restaurant/index.htm

Bar/Café Review: Pagliaccio Trattoria (Tokyo/Marunouchi)

This trattoria is a wonderfully decorated café/bar in the middle of the decidedly swank shopping streets behind the two Marunouchi towers keeping watch over Tokyo train station.

If you’re looking for a nice place for lunch, Pagliaccio is an excellent choice. The café menu consists of nine pasta dishes and one salad. The green salad is very generous at 780 yen and will easily accommodate two light eaters if teamed with one of the pasta dishes or a dessert. As for pasta, try the green tagliolini with sausage and broccoli (980 yen) or the linguine with clams and mussels (1,500). You won’t be disappointed.

And the desserts are quite nice as well. All priced at 700 yen, selections such as the tiramisu and the strawberry raspberry blueberry tart are worth repeat visits. An assorted dessert plate is also available for those that have walked enough to deserve the extra calories (1,500 yen).

This trattoria sports a full bar as well. Draft beers such as Hoegaarden cost 900 yen while their 14 bottled beers range in price from 600-950 yen. Cocktails start at 750, and wine by the glass will set you back at least 700 yen. Whiskey is priced on the steep side with a single pour of Jack Daniel’s tagged at 800 yen. The top of the price range is Hibiki 17 yrs. at 1,800 for a single and 3,400 for a double.

Coffee and tea average 600 per cup, and soft drinks are priced in the 500-800 yen range.

This is a great place to meet friends, clients, or colleagues, but there’s very little privacy, so look elsewhere if that’s what you’re after. Including the seats out front and the stools at the bar, Pagliaccio Trattoria can seat around 100, and you’ll feel right at home if you’re wearing a suit. You’d do well to hope for a bit of a crowd as the staff has been known to play poppy American country music at a level that people can actually hear.

Regardless, this is a wonderful café in which to spend a slow lunch or down a few before moving on to the Cotton Club for a jazz show. Expect to pay around 2,500 yen per person for lunch or 1,500 for coffee and dessert.

The café is completely non-smoking during lunch, but it switches to pro-smoking at around three. That said, if you arrive before the lads get out of work, then the English-speaking staff might be able to find an area where you’ll be relatively untouched (the place is big enough).

Directions: From Nijubashimae station (Chiyoda subway line) take exit four and walk straight when you hit street level. Take your second right and walk straight.  From the South Marunouchi exit of Tokyo station (JR, Marunouchi subway line, etc.) find the Marunouchi building and walk down the street on the left side of it (heading perpendicular to the train tracks). Turn left on the street that runs behind the Marunouchi building. Pagliaccio Trattoria is at the end of the block on your right. It’s on the corner next to “Tumi”, right across from “Kate Spade”.

Website: http://www.kiwa-group.co.jp/restaurant/a100446.html

Guru Navi: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a634284/

Directions: 100-0005 Tokyo-to Chiyoda-ku Marunouchi 2-2-3 Nakadori Bldg. 1F

Telephone: TEL 03-6273-4486

Restaurant Review: Il Cantuccio (Shimo-Kitazawa)

In the interests of being up front with you, dear readers, I stumbled across Il Cantuccio looking for a quick bite before going to a play and had no intention of reviewing it. However, that quick bite turned into such a great experience that I quickly realized I should write it up. Here goes.

In a neighborhood packed to the gills with little, interesting eateries, the Italian restaurant Il Cantuccio took my surprise for a few reasons. First, once you get inside, it’s surprisingly big. Not chain family restaurant big, but at somewhere are fifty, it seats more people than most of the local restaurants in Shimo-Kitazawa. Read more