Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ant & Bee, Roppongi (アントンビー)

Years of my life, I spent here, years. Seeing Mori Tower gives me a peculiar feeling; not like the dread I used to get when I would catch a glimpse of Chifley Tower across Sydney Harbor on a Sunday, but a little twinge. Fortunately it's been years in arrears since I felt the certain intensity of working up there.

Roppongi has perhaps changed in that time. Or perhaps not. Certainly there are some new stores, but they look much like the old ones. The faces must have changed, but I never saw them before, and they must look the same too.

One thing that hasn't changed is the freakshow nature of Roppongi at dusk - do those people really think they're stylin', they're lookin' good? Are there people that think they do? Do they think I look that bad?

I just sat here outside Ant and Bee waiting for Big Bird, watching the river flow. For a while I talked to my new friend Cherry. She was here from China, for work, and said her broken English was less broken than her Japanese. I still don't know exactly what kind of work she was doing, but she gradually got the point that I was just killing time and didn't need any work done, and she drifted off to meet her friend.

The newish A+B forms the keystone in the triumvirate of Tokyo's Best Beer Bars, they being Popeye, Ushitora, and Craftheads. Alert readers, the ones that don't go to A+B every night, will note that that's four establishments. They'll also note the excellent geographic dispersion of those places along the axis from Ryogoku through Roppongi and Shibuya and on to Shimo Kita.
You now have no excuse for not drinking the world's best beers, unless you're put off by the extraordinary prices that get charged for them in Tokyo. Or don't like beer. Whatever.

You may be less impressed to see 'only' 12 Japanese micro-brews on here. It may help if you know that this is just Side 1 of the menu. Would it also help if I mentioned that I had barely heard of any of the brewers therein? Or the small keg sizes they order, which produces daily turnover? Or the convenient small and medium glass sizes at Y700 and Y900?

If all that doesn't help, then god help you, because I can't.

The last thing I can maybe offer to get you over the hump is that the food is pretty good. Better than it needs to be, considering how great the beer is. You can tell by the way the chef sprinkles his salt that he's a chef, not just a guy making sausages in a beer bar.

Hell, I'm not complaining about sausages in a beer bar. That would be un-American as well as untrue to my German heritage. The great thing about the menu here is that I actually wanted to order stuff from it. This puts it way above the menus at Tokyo's other three best bars. Let's just go through what we ate (over 3 hours): meat-stuffed, polenta-coated, fried olives; pickled sausages; corned beef; blue-cheese sauce eggplant; whole chicken that we didn't order, but it looked nice, pan-frying on the stove before roasting; fried octopus; fish and chips; (in fish shape). We over-ordered fried food, didn't we? I say 'we' like anyone other than me was involved in the ordering.

There must be a healthier menu there. After the third beer it was tough to look at it. Fortunately those glasses really are small enough to let you try a fair few things before calling it a night.

Also keep in mind they're open, for real, until 7 AM. Perfect for those blisteringly-hot, already-headachey Saturday mornings in Roppongi.

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