Japan Eats

Restaurant Review: Smokehouse (Harajuku)

Tokyo has well and truly discovered the pairing of American-style BBQ and craft beer.

Grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat

Grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat.

TY Harbor Brewing has a wonderful restaurant out on Tennozu Isle (or however you spell it) that has boasted a top-notch kitchen for several years. The beer’s pretty good, too, and getting better, but you still get the sense that most folks dining there aren’t really there to see how the brews are coming around. However, make no mistake, TY Harbor is no slouch in the brewing department, and they’ve recently found a new way to get their beers out there to the red-blooded folk on the west side of town.

It’s called the Smokehouse.

The Smokehouse is on Cat Street not far from that warehousey second hand shop that features brand name kit previously owned by folks who couldn’t fit into it either. Over the course of several visits, I managed to make my way through much of the food and beer menus.

During my most recent trip, I had the Chopped BBQ Pork (¥1,700) which is fall-off-the-bone soft with a notably smokey flavor. It comes with a side of coleslaw and a muffin, which was somewhat sweet for my taste. The Smokehouse cheeseburger (¥1,500), meanwhile, is fantastic – the perfect balance between soft/crunchy, savory/sweet. Certainly in the running for the best burger of its kind in the city.

Chopped BBQ pork, Carolina spicy vinegar

Chopped BBQ pork, Carolina spicy vinegar

I was also able to try the grilled marinated chicken breast with chipotle mayonnaise on toasted whole wheat (again served with a large helping of fries). This too had plenty of flavor, and maintained its structural integrity despite the presence of tomato, the juices from the chicken and a generous coating of sauces.

Where Smokehouse really excels, however, is in its selection of sauces. Each table has a selection featuring names like “Voodoo Hot”, “House Pit”, “Porter Pepper” and “Carolina Vinegar”. We fancied the herb-rich House Pit, which we were soon squeezing on everything, particularly the crunchy fries that accompanied the burger.

You also can’t go wrong with a side of Chili Cheese Fries (¥900) or a small bowl of Home Style Mac-n-Cheese (¥400). Calories be damned.

All of T.Y. Harbor’s regular beers are on tap with 420 ml (14 oz) glasses for ¥800, and 250 ml (8.6 oz) pours for ¥480. My favorites are still the Pale Ale with its balanced cascade hops and bready malts, and the Imperial Stout which goes from sweet to bitter as it travels toward the back of the palate. There are also always at least a few guest beers on tap that are more expensive but will generally be worth your while, and the spirits list sports more than 20 labels of bourbon, rye, and other craft whiskies from all over the US. The wine list is 10 bottles long (five red and five white) with all priced at ¥5,000.

Smokehouse cheeseburger

Smokehouse cheeseburger

Directions: From Harajuku station, walk down Omotosando-dori and turn right just after Shakey’s onto Cat Street. Smokehouse is about 150 meters down, on your left.

Tel: 03-6450-5855
2F, 5-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
11:30 – 15:00 (L.O.) & 17:30 – 22:00 (L.O.); Weekends, holidays 11:30 – 22:00 (L.O.)

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Café Review: Margaret Howell Café

Fronting half of the establishment, this café provides an alternate entrance into the Margaret Howell world of clean-cut clothing for both men and women. On a side street up the hill from TGI Friday’s in Shibuya (and just around the corner from Craftheads), this little café is a delightfully quiet lunchtime option for shoppers who have found themselves on the north side of the Shibuya craziness.

Highly recommended are the limited, but delicious, lunch sets. The ‘Sandwich’, ‘Quiche’, and ‘Season’ (changes monthly) plates are all under 1,400 yen and include a main dish, soup, and drink. The chicken sandwich isquite good, and while the soup of the day (potato and celery) wasn’t exactly to die for, the cappuccino was just what the doctor ordered while sitting in the small open-air interior of the shop with the sun shining through the floor to ceiling windows.

For the record, this is one of the few cafés in the immediate area that actually has a no-smoking section (a practical choice given that the café opens right into the clothes shop itself). The generous outdoor seating is, as one would expect in Tokyo, puff-friendly, but there’s enough space between tables for this to not be too much of a factor (depending on the wind of course).

Serving lunch/brunch from 11:00, the modest menu errs on the sweet side while providing enough variety to keep those in search of light fare happy. Scones, cakes, coffee, and tea range from 400 to 700 yen. Go ahead and try the carrot cake (600 yen) with an iced latte (680). Laze around long enough and you might find that a glass of mulled wine (700) will suit the slow swing of the afternoon.

Fresh OJ and lemonade (630) might be logical options if you’re hoping for a bit of brunch. A regular coffee (530) and toast with butter and jam (380) would be the perfect complement on a sunny morning on this alarmingly sedate back street not seven minutes walk from Hachiko.

For those in search of an alcoholic beverage, there’s Yebisu (690) and a couple of imports (790) available for beer drinkers. Wine by the glass is 700 yen, or you can spring for a bottle of the house selection for 4,200.

Click here for a map, or click here for the Guru Navi page (Japanese).

Directions: From Hachiko go up the street on the right side of the corner building with Starbucks and Tsutaya in it. Keep going straight until you pass Tower Records (on your right). Take the left after Tower Records and then take an immediate right just before TGI Friday’s. Walk straight until the small road forces you to turn left. Take the next right and walk straight for about 50 meters. Margaret Howell café is on the right.