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A daily revolution at Marugo

by Felicity Hughes

The wine-lover’s equivalent to conveyer-belt sushi, Marugo II offers a revolving selection of wines for the curious wine buff.

Where most good bars update their by-the-glass selections monthly, Marugo II does it daily. Rather than limiting the number of wines available, Marugo II’s by-the-glass list is much more extensive than many quality wine bars, offering a choice of 12 reds and 12 whites that are printed out on fresh menus each day and range from an extremely cheap ¥500 to a reasonable ¥1,400.

The selection focuses on French wines, with about 50 percent coming from that country, while the rest is a nice spread of Chilean, Australian, Italian and American wines. I even spotted K Vintner’s Viognier, my favorite wine from last month’s tasting.

One of the reasons Marugo can afford to keep prices low while offering such a comprehensive wine selection is down to its location in bustling Shinjuku. As the day closes and the neon glows brighter, a steady stream of footsore patrons flow through the doors and perch themselves up on the tiny tables to be served by a flock of Marugo’s friendly waiters. The seating arrangements, which pack customers together as tightly as possible, are perhaps the one concession Marugo II has made to economy, but the playful banter of the waiting staff lightens the chicken-coop mood considerably (you can, of course, avoid the crush by going for a drink early).

Marugo II has a sister restaurant, Marugo I, just around the corner that offers pretty much the same service, the difference being the food on offer: Marugo I specializes in French cuisine and Marugo II in Italian. The food menu is also revised daily and offers a good range of filling antipasto dishes for just over ¥1,000 alongside the usual snacks of olives, nuts and pickles.

Marugo is perfect for wine-lovers who want to treat their taste buds to a wide range of wine styles and delicious snacks without spending a fortune. But be warned: You’ll be expected to budge over as the evening warms up.

Marugo II is at Shinjuku 3-9-4, Shinjuku-ku ([03] 3356-1052); Marugo I is at Shinjuku 3-7-5 ([03] 3350-4605); www.bar-052.com