With so many contenders, it’s impossible to anoint any single bar as the smallest in Tokyo, but StandingBar Sanpachi must surely be in the running. It boasts a footprint of just 6.6 square meters — two tsubo in the Japanese way of measuring — shoehorned into a curious wedge-shaped converted storage unit.
The specialty here is craft shōchū, from small companies that follow traditional methods of brewing and distilling. Pride of place goes to Tenshi no Yuwaku, an imo (sweet potato) shōchū that is barrel-aged in sherry casks for over seven years, imbuing the liquor with warm, smoky hints that draw comparisons to Scotch.
Sanpachi’s other claim to fame is its thin-crust pizza slices featuring an eclectic range of wafū (Japanese-style) toppings. Choose from the likes of eggplant with red miso, pork with ginger, the excellent wagyu sirloin yakishabu or, for adventurous fans of fermented foods, smoky iburigakko daikon pickles with nattō beans, all crisped up in an oven-toaster.
What it lacks in size, Sanpachi makes up for in style and ambiance. There are no doors, only an indigo awning when rain is in the offing. Otherwise, customers spill out onto the sidewalk with their drinks, snacks and bonhomie. That’s how they roll in this old-school carousing district just south of Shinagawa.
Higashioi 5-10-6, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo; 03-6230-0940; bit.ly/sbsanpachi; open 5 p.m.-12 a.m., closed Sun.; pizza from ¥380; shōchū from ¥480; nearest station Oimachi; smoking permitted; major cards; no English menu; some English spoken
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5