The Marunouchi business district used to be synonymous with salarymen and smoke-filled yakitori joints, but the past few years have seen it morph into a serious shopping and nightlife destination. With the opening of Marunouchi Brick Square last week, that transformation is now complete. Located on the central Naka Dori thoroughfare, this mixed-use complex puts the finishing touches on a retail strip bracketed by the elegant Peninsula Hotel and the flash Shin Marunouchi Building. MBS features over a dozen retail shops, but food-lovers will want to make a beeline to the 21 restaurants and bars dotting the grounds. The gustatory lineup includes new branches of well-loved local eateries, as well as the debuts of foreign restaurants and shops specializing in everything from bespoke chocolate to Echilet butter. Here are some highlights.
Fans of crowd-pleasing washoku will enjoy exploring Marunouchi Brick Square’s B1 level, where they can dine to their stomach’s content on sushi, Fukuoka cuisine and even Sendai beef tongue. Akira (03-6269-9226), whose extremely popular original branch is in Nakameguro, bills itself as a chicken-skewer joint without the skewers. The concept is “enjoying yakitori like yakiniku”—think tabletop grills on which you can cook up a variety of chicken dishes à la carte (from ¥430) or as part of a platter (¥1,800). Chefs are on hand to prepare more elaborate fare like sashimi and cutlets, and lunches are available for under ¥1,000.
This mega-popular ramen chain is renowned for its hearty soup, handmade noodles and long lines. Regarded as one of the country’s leading purveyors of Southern-style tonkotsu broth, Ippudo (03-3217-2888) has 41 branches ranging from Kyushu to Hokkaido. This new location is a counter-only affair, with a dozen seats facing the cooks. Three varieties of ramen dishes are on offer—the Aka Maru, with a rich soup (¥850); the lighter Shiro Maru (¥750); and the spicy Ippudo “Karaka-me” (¥950). For some reason, all can be ordered with a topping of cheese (plus ¥105). At lunchtime, the three noodle bowls can be enjoyed with a side of “one-bite” gyoza (plus ¥200), while other small dishes include shumai (¥380), tonkotsu gratin (¥400) and kamaboko fish cakes with mentaiko dip (¥300). Nama beer goes for ¥500.
Bilingual staff and a menu filled with offbeat seasonal vegetables are just two of the attractions at this casual and spacious Chinese restaurant (03-6269-9080), which also features a well-appointed counter bar. The menu includes dim sum (from ¥400), noodles (¥1,000-¥1,900), traditional Cantonese hotpots (from ¥1,200), and meat and seafood dishes like beef with XO sauce (¥1,800) and soft-shell crab with herbs and garlic (¥1,800). Vegetables are the real star of the show, though, including unusual varieties like red okra and “senryo” eggplant. Watch the chefs do their thing in the open kitchen, or snag a spot at the window seats to catch all the action on Naka Dori. Chinese-style bento boxes are available
This third-floor music bar features live daily performances and a laidback, welcoming vibe. The eye-catching counter area is festooned with colorful handbills and other printed ephemera, lending the entryway a graffiti-like feel. Venture inside, though, and the class factor ticks up a notch—floor-to-ceiling windows, decorated banquettes and heavy red curtains make Mood Board (03-6269-9351) an enviable destination for a supper-time music show or casual date. The French-inspired food menu impresses as well, with a cocotte assortment (3 for ¥1,000; 5 for ¥1,500) and a wide selection of patés and terrines (¥1,300-¥2,300). Lunch starts at ¥1,260 and includes dishes like roasted chicken with rosemary, and pasta with a ragu of lamb, eggplant and zucchini.
The Ukai group specializes in kaiseki restaurants that obasan dream of going to for a special occasion. Gorgeously designed, impeccably staffed and very, very expensive, eateries like Ukai-tei in Hachioji and Tofuya Ukai near Tokyo Tower are superior showcases of exquisite Japanese cuisine and service. Grill Ukai (03-5221-5252) aims to continue the design and hospitality elements while offering more affordable prices. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. The restaurant features sumptuous decor (dig the museum-quality glassware lining the entryway) and a menu of fire-kissed meats, fish and vegetable dishes using only premium ingredients. Lunches start at ¥3,680 and course dinners at ¥7,350, but in such plush surrounds, you may not care.
One of the most popular dining spots at Marunouchi Brick Square is sure to be street-level Italian restaurant A16 (03-3212-5215), the first overseas branch of the highly regarded San Francisco eatery. The airy interior is highlighted by a pair of brick ovens, in which the chef from the original restaurant cooks up pizzas like Marinara (¥1,300), Romana (garlic, anchovies, olives ¥1,500) and Salsiccia (fennel sausage, peppers, onions, mozzarella, grana padano, ¥2,700). Appetizers include arugula salad with celery, grapes, walnuts and ricotta salata (¥950) and trippa napolitana (¥1,500), and pasta dishes and entrees are also offered. The wine list has been put together by A16’s sommelier, who has received plaudits from the likes of the James Beard Foundation and Wine Spectator magazine.
La Boutique de Joel Robuchon, a bakery-cafe from the superstar French chef (1F, 03-3217-2877); Anthemble, a casual “pub lounge” produced in association with Suntory and featuring its 12-year-old Hibiki brand whisky (3F, 03-5220-1923); magic bar Juji (3F, 03-6269-9110), with tableside performers and a small stage lorded over by the deft—and English-capable—“George”; Mame Maru, a Kyoto vegetable restaurant that features monthly geisha and maiko appearances (3F, 03-5218-0003); and Antibes, a Mediterranean “grill and bar” from the former head chef at the Mandarin Oriental hotel (2F, 03-6269-9166).
Marunouchi Brick Square: 2-6-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Restaurants
open daily; opening and closing times vary. Nearest stn: Tokyo,
Yurakucho, Hibiya, or Nijubashi-mae (Chiyoda line).