You usually are taken to the best bars -- or you're told about them. You don't usually find one by walking down a random street -- especially a big street -- and lurching through the first open door you see.

But that's what happened one night when I got lost looking for a place near the Meguro River in Aobadai. I realized I had been walking in circles when I found myself back on Yamate-dori, not far from where I started.

Yamate-dori curves in an arc through Tokyo's innermost western suburbs. By day, it is choked with traffic, but by midnight, it is empty except for taxis trawling for fares. As I retraced my steps along a lonely stretch under a through-traffic ramp, I suddenly saw a light. And a stylish wood slat and plate-glass storefront, through which I caught a glimpse of a comfortable, sofa-filled room. And a bar, from where several faces peered back out at me. But I didn't really need to stay until 5 a.m. to know I had found a gem.