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Tokyo is a tough place to open any business, especially your first restaurant. Along with kitchen skills and front-of-house nous, you need the right location, good connections and a strong underlying raison d’etre. A catchy name and some funky background music can’t hurt either, as the folks at Umbilical have clearly realized.

This friendly, mellow modern bistro in Sangenjaya, now just over a year old, has managed to carve out a distinctive niche for itself. It certainly stands out among the more raucous izakaya taverns and ramshackle drinking holes that still line the backstreets of this traditional nightlife area.

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