Saturday, July 25, 2009

TY Harbor Brewery, Shinagawa

This review is purely for the benefit of both foreigners in Tokyo who haven't yet been to TY Harbor. Until Saturday night, there were three of us, but I'm sad to say I've now departed. As shown below, getting to TY's huge refitted warehouse from the station is very pleasant and residential if you do something as gauche as endure the train and the 15-minute walk along the canal rather than taking the taxi from Hiroo or Juban. You could also end up on the major streets with a lot of traffic, so do consult your map in advance.

Don't get me wrong, I was happy to be there, had a good time, and even enjoyed the food. It's just that this place (and Cicada, and Roti, and Oak Door, and others) are such cliches for well-heeled foreigners (and, well, foreign heels) that I feel bad not bringing you a more exploratory dining experience. TY is truly a bit of California transplanted to a waterside location in Japan, and it's well-known for good and positive reasons, but that doesn't mean it's not overexposed. It's even worse because the whole purpose was to meet my old friend Blowin', who was visiting Japan from California for a week with his wife and son. But again (ad naseum), it's very pleasant, so a good time was had by all.

Outside was supposably booked when I called (although it didn't pan out that way when we got there) so we had to sit inside and in the smoking section. In fact, I would sorta recommend this as it wasn't smoky at all, and by getting there sharpish at the 5:30 opening we were able to get one of the nice corner booths. The inside nonsmoking area (in the picture) is too crowded and industrial - lots of rows of tables that almost feel like they're joined together even when they're not. The outside area is almost certainly the thing to do as long as it's not too hot; it takes full advantage of being on the wide Shinagawa canal and gives you some views north and east to big Tokyo skylines as well as plenty of glittering night water (which has nothing to do with night soil, I promise).

The menu just makes you go "America!" except that they resolutely refuse to serve burgers for dinner (waddup?). The waiter was polite but firm about it, going so far as to bring back cards for Beacon, another of their properties, and saying we could get burgers there if we trekked to Shibooya. "Hey Kojak, we were at Beacon on July 4th and they bitched about serving us burgers at the tables there too! They only gave in because it was a holiday!" We showed that Maggott. But y'know, he was a nice guy, and attentive to the point that it scared the guests - showing up with spoons exactly when required, and practically taking the forks out of their hands. We got on (other than the what-language-are-we-speaking confusion that comes with the territory at these places, as it also often does in 'Pong).

Food? Is this site about food? We had a disordered assemblage of things; picture quality is weak since it's really dark in there. Chili with a cube of cornbread and a scoop of sour cream was sweet and not too spicy. I neglected to take a picture of the BLT salad, in which the almost-crisp bacon (as opposed to normal Japanese still-fatty and limp bacon) was the best thing, the greens being a bit browned and the dressing being an oppressive barbeque.
Three seafood mains followed. The scallops with couscous were decent; they were huge, sweet and not overcooked, but a bit gummy inside. There was a lot of shaved coconut in the couscous too, which wasn't bad but was unexpected since the prevailing flavor was supposed to be North African. I didn't eat the other dishes, but the mahi mahi with mango (I take back the California comments, that looks like pure Florida to me!) and Atlantic lobster (I take back the California comments, that looks like pure Maine to me!) were both attractive and well-received.

I haven't mentioned the beers, but they're good as well. Should you by some mysterious circumstance not have been here in the past, you should go sometime. Sit outside, maybe have brunch instead (there aren't many good brunch places, and this is surely one of them), drink a beer, look at the water, and feel like you're not in Tokyo for a couple hours. The staff will obligingly speak English if you want.

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