Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beer Bar Talo, Kayabacho

This post is for distant reader and longtime Tokyo dining expert John Wood (hi Woodie) who was kind enough to point out that there are restaurants on The Map that are not featured in posts. This is because The Map features all places that I can remember visiting, while the posts are only for new restaurants I've visited since the beginning of the blog. This post resolves one of those conflicts.

McNoonan and I are becoming Kayabacho regulars, since 2 times means 'regular' to me.  It can't last long; when you take out the other places I've already been to, there are few things left in the area (OK, it's never that bad. I can think of 3 offhand!). But I feel like a regular at Talo even after my second visit since the staff is so friendly - and they were both the same as my first visit, which was at least 3 years ago. If it matters to you, the bartender speaks good English as a result of 9 years in England, although she's a bit shy about it.

Talo is a rarity among Belgian beer places - the food is good (contrast this with somewhere like Houblon, where they deliberately downgraded their menu in the last year, taking out everything that was decent). We had one of the 4 available salads - chicken and sweet peppers, with a lot of sliced celery, in a spicy mayonnaise dressing. We also had the Iwanaka pork rilletes, which were pleasantly not too fatty, not too dry, and came in a generous portion with light, toasted bread that matched them perfectly. After that we continued to go nuts with the 'meat' theme, ordering a half-portion of chicken and mushrooms stewed in beer and tomatoes, and finished ourselves off with a full plate of sausage - 4 different kinds that I have to say were all quite good considering we're in Japan. There was an herby one, two different spicy ones, and a forgettable one.

Beer is pretty well in the normal mold for one of these places; about 15 varieties with nothing too interesting. Hoegaarden is on tap (available in the fun 500ml glasses that are almost impossible to hold in one hand, but not the outlandish litre glasses), and the fridge naturally has Duvel, Chimay and Delirium Tremens as well as Maredsous, Rochefort and Leffe (incidentally, I just learned that there are only 7 abbeys that make beer. That explains a bit of why the variety sometimes seems limited!). There was also a small supply of British bottles as specials; I had a very nice Spitfire from Shepherd Neame, who make Bishop's Finger.

Obviously not many people of my acquaintance will venture to Kayabacho for a simple drink and snack. It's a quiet area, but the closeness of various financial firms plus potentially English-enabled customers from IBM up the river make it unsuitable for secretive meetings. But when you want to drink Belgian beer without the fuss, this is a great way to do it - and I've just realized that I was pleasantly surprised by the price.

Talo? Ah ya theyah?

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