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Spring Valley Brewery allows for a glance at its signature suds

by Robbie Swinnerton

Special To The Japan Times

When it comes to handing out this year’s gongs and plaudits for the best setting and most notable architecture, there are going to be very few restaurants that will rival Spring Valley Brewery. That’s because it occupies pride of place at Log Road Daikanyama.

Still only a month old, this buzzy new development is doubly noteworthy. First, its brilliant use of space: You’d never realize that the land it sits on used to be occupied by railway tracks, until the Toyoko Line was sunk underground barely a year ago. Second, Spring Valley Brewery and the other buildings here look fantastic, all clad in wood and linked by a timber walkway (hence the Log Road name).

Tokyo’s latest and biggest brewpub is a substantial operation, just as you’d expect from the new craft-beer specialist subsidiary of brewing behemoth Kirin. The first Spring Valley Brewery opened inside Kirin’s Yokohama complex earlier in the spring. But this new Daikanyama operation is even more impressive.

All the suds are made in-house, in the gleaming steel tanks and tuns that are on display throughout the premises. Right now, seven different types of beers are on offer, including a limited-edition number that changes monthly.

Few of these brews are likely to wow hard-core craft-beer aficionados. Instead they’re aimed at drinkers more used to Kirin’s standard lager. To help them choose, tasting sets are available that include snacks to pair with them.

Even if you’re not interested in the brewing process — in fact, even if you’re not into drinking beer at all — Spring Valley is still highly recommended, if only because it is such a comfortable, well-lit space. A better reason yet is that it boasts a sophisticated food menu that covers a lot more ground than just the standard pub grub of fish and chips (actually shoe-string potatoes here, rather than thick, flabby British-style chips) or Belgian beer-steamed mussels.

The charcuterie platter offers a good range of cold cuts, including Italian ham and Spanish Iberian pork salami and chorizo. Better yet, look to the smoked food list for tasty pastrami and sausages (Okinawan pork) and sizzling-hot thick-sliced bacon with plenty of smoky flavor.

Unlike the avocado hummus, which fails to taste like either of its main ingredients, the crab cakes are worth trying. There are salads (kale or Caesar), soups and pastas, too. And among the choice of pizzas the standout is the Affumicato, composed of ingredients that are all smoked — provola cheese, walnuts, chicory and chunks of that excellent bacon.

And then there is the grilled fare, ranging from chops (lamb or pork) and whole chicken to some excellent beef. The 800-gram T-bone and 600-gram L-bone are aimed at groups of three or four, and priced accordingly. But the 28-day dry-aged rib-eye (300 grams) or the rump (400 grams) are just right for sharing between two.

The menu is the same whether you’re upstairs in the dining room by the open kitchen or in the more spacious ground-floor pub. But at this time of year the best place to sit is at one of the outdoor tables. You can’t reserve them ahead of time, so you just have to arrive early with your fingers crossed and a good thirst. Expect intense competition.

Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.

[Read more on craft beer in Japan. ]