Azabu-Juban may be changing superficially at street level, located as it is in a valley behind the plush residential/ commercial complex Roppongi Hills, but the best of what's on offer there is still to be found behind closed doors — doors that can at first appear a bit daunting to open.

Take Aburiya Fudo, an izakaya-style shochu (distilled spirit) bar. Even after being taken there once, I still felt apprehensive opening the heavy metal-bound and studded wood on my second — solo — visit. They are a bit clunky. Yet the bar looks so stylish when glimpsed through the tinted glass window facing the street! It's hardly the kind of place where you would want to appear clumsy, but is well worth the deep breath and the hefting of the door to get in.

The first-floor bar is a low glass counter that seats six on white linen-covered restaurant chairs. The walls and floor are dark wood. The glass shelves behind the bar are custom made and designed to display bottles of shochu, but rather than standing the bottles up, they are laid on their side. A junk-antique Chinese bench is propped up under the window, which is also half covered in rough bamboo slats that serve to further filter the view from the street. It is a simple understated mix of modern and traditional touches.