Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wine Bar Kay, Monzennakacho

I know what you're thinking - it's really quite uncanny what a great place Monzennakacho is! I can't understand why it's not a regular stop on the circuit for visiting foreign dignitaries and food writers. Not only is there great sushi and kappou, there's good French and Italian, and some award-winning bars.

Kay is not one of them. But actually, that's a good thing! The award-winning bar I'm thinking of is called Opa, and I dislike it because the head bartender is so conceited-looking. There's another bar that's featured in some magazines recently called 'Bar C', but I haven't braved the cover charge / drink charge dilemma and tried it yet. Kay is right across the street from C, sort of two streets behind the huge Stardust pachinko hall if you're standing in Monnaka crossing. It's pretty unassuming from the street due to the small sign, narrow stairs and 3rd-floor location, and despite all my marginally-serious posturing about how great the town is, I'd be pretty surprised to find a nice wine bar in Monnaka. So I was pretty surprised, because it's pretty nice.

I had the distinct feeling that I was in a club in this place. Something about the lighting, the overtly deferential service, the split-level arrangement between the bar and seating area, and most of all the wide array of hostesses scattered about the place. I kid, I kid. But the blue couches and chairs are bright yet shabby in a way that would distinctly say 'club' to me, had I in fact ever been to a club, and I'm not kidding this time.

None of this is bad though. The bar is a nice wooden affair with the bartender and assistant (I'd guess wife) behind it, the floor is nicely polished, and there are various brass fixtures and miniature wine casks around to further enhance the clubbiness, er, classiness. You can tell by the shibori that they're making a serious effort - thick, soft, pleasantly moist, and very nice smelling...I don't always go around sniffing towels, but it seemed appropriate.

All this garbage text about a wine bar and there's no wine yet in this post...There were 7 glass wines, 1 sparkling, 2 white, 4 red, and a sizable menu that's heavy on Italians. From the few price comps that we knew, the bottle prices didn't seem bad at all. Three glass wines that we had (all ca. Y1200) were all tolerable but somewhat suboptimal in a way that I associate with larger-scale wineries in France and Italy - I think you can recognize that they're imitating a quality style, but there are some strange flavors in the mix. Drinks came with gougeres, which I'm not really fit to judge through lack of experience, but they seemed light at first and then collapsed in the mouth into mochi-mochi cheesy packets. That sounds about right.

As bar-going experiences go in Japan, this is a normal charge, normal prices, some good-looking food, and nice service. Plus it's in such a great town! I'll go back when I can devote more time to it.


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