Guacamole and merguez sausages on the menu, salsa and bossa nova on the sound system and not a check tablecloth in sight: Pignon is a far cry from the average bistro. But then again, owner-chef Rimpei Yoshikawa is anything but a typical Tokyo French chef.

He drives an old Citroen 2CV better suited to 1960s Paris than the outer fringes of Shibuya. He prefers T-shirts to chef's whites, tying his hair back in a ponytail as he works. And he runs his friendly, laid-back restaurant like an extension of his own dining room.

The look may be casual and slightly bohemian, but make no mistake: Yoshikawa has paid all necessary dues, both in Japan and France. He spent seven years at a high-end Tokyo restaurant, but after working for a while in Bordeaux, he realized his calling lay not in haute cuisine but the hearty, soulful everyday dishes of the bistro.