Wine from ¥735, food from ¥525
Smoking on terrace only
Terrace seats should be nice come spring
Good wine selection; tasty grub; weekend brunch
May feel too cozy for some; c’mon, ¥630 for coffee?
1-15-28 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Nearest station: Nogizaka
Open Wed-Sat 6-11pm (LO 10pm), Sun 10am-4pm (brunch)
Forget the foreclosures, bank bailouts and mass redundancies. One of the biggest bummers of the financial crisis, at least in Tokyo expat circles, was the closure of Fujimamas. For years, this spacious bar and restaurant, housed in a converted tatami factory just off the main drag of Omotesando, was a constant source of cosmopolitan comfort. Even people who claimed not to like the place still ended up going there, and you could wait an hour or so just to get a table for Sunday brunch.
And then, suddenly, the party was over: Fujimamas shut its doors in the spring of 2009, unable to afford a rent bill that had spiraled to nearly ¥6 million a month. In a cruel irony, its site is now occupied by a branch of T.G.I. Friday’s, while general manager Lauren Shannon’s attempts to set up a new venture in the premises of a Nishi-Azabu cake shop were flummoxed when that place closed down, too.
But enough preamble: Shannon is now back doing what she does best at the second incarnation of Kimono Wine Bar, on a secluded alley just a few minutes’ walk from Tokyo Midtown. It’s a cozy little joint, with room for no more than 20 people, but those with fond memories of its predecessor will find much to enjoy.
As if the name wasn’t a big enough giveaway, there’s more of a focus on booze here than there was at Fujimamas. The wine list is predominantly American, plus a few Australian varieties, with glasses from ¥735 and bottles from ¥4,200. We head straight for the 2008 Delinea 300 Pinot Noir from Oregon (¥1,050/glass), which is all cherry-scented brightness, then follow up with a more intense Australian offering, The Hedonist 2008 Shiraz (¥840). There’s also a solid selection of bottled beer, including Tokyo Ale (¥840), Fujizakura Weizen (¥945) and Claymore Scotch Ale (¥840).
The food is uniformly good, and occasionally excellent. The house-cured pickled olives (¥525) offer a concentrated burst of umami, while the autumn lentil soup with sausage (¥945) is hearty, gently spiced comfort food. Our only complaint with the main dishes is that the sole vegetarian offering—“Euro-Asian” noodles with sautéed mushrooms, tofu and truffle oil (¥1,260)—isn’t nearly as interesting as some of the carnivore options, including herb-crusted lamb chop with creamy polenta (¥1,470) and grilled duck with “mandarin mojo sauce,” endive and hijiki salad (¥1,575). The food menu is due for an overhaul come April, though, so that might change.
The benefits of catering for a smaller crowd become clearest when we reach dessert: the warm almond cake with slow-cooked brown butter sauce is the highlight of the evening, while the chocolate brownie with Tahitian vanilla ice cream ain’t bad either (both ¥840). Kimono Wine Bar also does brunch on Sundays, with offerings including eggs Benedict (¥1,260) and French toast (¥945). Add regular tasting events, film screenings and more, and it looks like Shannon’s onto another winner here.