Crawling back down Center Gai

| Aug 28, 2009

Crawling back down Center Gai

My Little Pony and Throbbing Gristle make strange bedfellows. No, not in that way. The plastic horse and a poster of the industrial noiseniks both decorate Shirokuma, a funny little bar on Shibuya’s Center Gai. Give a kindergarten art class a room, some pocket ...

A bar crawl up Center Gai

| Jul 24, 2009

A bar crawl up Center Gai

Shibuya, I once wrote, is the heart of Young Japan, and the street named Center Gai is its throbbing artery. Some people pay handsomely for cliches like that. In truth, Shibuya is the nation’s digestive system, mashing its myriad flavors into a creation that’s ...

| Jun 26, 2009

Bamboo: Japan's sherry amour

At the Sea Guardian II bar in Yokohama’s historic Hotel New Grand, a laminated addendum to the menu offers thoughts on selected drinks. Of the Bamboo cocktail, the writer asks, “Is this the foreigners’ image of Japan?” Clearly no, it’s not. The Bamboo’s blend ...

Bamboo: Japan's sherry amour

| Jun 26, 2009

Bamboo: Japan's sherry amour

At the Sea Guardian II bar in Yokohama’s historic Hotel New Grand, a laminated addendum to the menu offers thoughts on selected drinks. Of the Bamboo cocktail, the writer asks, “Is this the foreigners’ image of Japan?” Clearly no, it’s not. The Bamboo’s blend ...

A purist at work behind the bar

| May 22, 2009

A purist at work behind the bar

“A bar is no place for a woman. The important characters are always men.” Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce Charles Schumann, who produced that quote in an interview with German Playboy some years back. Schumann is one of Europe’s ...

Taste-testing a brew for the recession

| Mar 27, 2009

Taste-testing a brew for the recession

There’s a good reason that beer-makers use barley as a base ingredient. Fermentation only works on sugars, and grains don’t contain any. But when a grain gets moist, it germinates, and its sprout contains an enzyme that converts starch into sugar. Some grains have ...

| Jan 30, 2009

An intoxicating temple in Kyoto

Evil cometh from the north, they say. Maybe it was sunlight streaming from the south that gave ancient theologians such a notion. Or perhaps the Arctic is gushing malevolence (compare and contrast: Australians and Scandinavians). Regardless, it was a fear of southbound evil that ...

An intoxicating temple in Kyoto

| Jan 30, 2009

An intoxicating temple in Kyoto

Evil cometh from the north, they say. Maybe it was sunlight streaming from the south that gave ancient theologians such a notion. Or perhaps the Arctic is gushing malevolence (compare and contrast: Australians and Scandinavians). Regardless, it was a fear of southbound evil that ...

Hot and tasty to keep you toasty

| Dec 26, 2008

Hot and tasty to keep you toasty

“Basically, no,” said the bartender at one of Kyoto’s ritzier drinking establishments when I asked if he could make something hot. I could have fancy juices, cream, egg whites or yolks in my cocktail, but I could not have heat. Even in winter. Bartenders ...

Brown rice befits chef's cake, beer

| Nov 28, 2008

Brown rice befits chef's cake, beer

“He was a wise man who invented beer,” said Plato. It wasn’t his greatest line, but it sets this story up nicely: the tale of a talented man who sort of reinvented beer. Kimio Nonaga is the third-generation chef at Nihonbashi Yukari, a kappo ...