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499: AGAVE
498: Miss Sixty Café
497: The Pink Cow
496: Cantik
495: Billiard Bar Cosmo
494: Soma
493: Hajime
492: Rm.39
491: Coopers
490: Bar Nemesis
489: Franziskaner Bar & Grill
488: NOS
487: Diego
486: Sekirei
485: Bonny Butterfly
484: So Ra Si O
483: Maduro
482: Space Punch
481: Cento Cose
480: Bamboo
479: Heartland
478: Sign
477: Yoshino
476: Omamori Cafe
475: So Bar
474: Traumaris
473: Naka Naka
472: Tsuki no Akari
471: Bar
470: These
469: Atomic Heart Mother
468: Soft
467: Milano Bar
466: Mother
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464: Insomnia 2
463: Lucusfloor
462: Pulse
461: Mahna Mahna
460: Ten
459: Trees'
457/8: Mayu
456: Lounge Sinner
454: Ja Ja Bar
453: See
452: Republica
451: Shanghai Bar
450: Tsuki no Kura

Issues 500+
Issues 449-
Issues 399-


by Carlo Niederberger

Naka Naka

“Naka naka,” Japanese for “pretty good,” seemed a rather pretentious name to christen an izakaya, and the temptation to find out just how “good” this eating and drinking establishment was drew us through the stampede of tipsy train-riders to the back streets of Shinjuku Station. Alighting on the sixth floor of a building surprisingly free of junk blocking the staircase, we slid past an antique-looking oak door to find a darkened cloister cloaked in a jungle of twigs and bare branches that could only be the work of one man—Yusaku Kaneshiro.

Sheathing our umbrellas, we followed the waitress through Naka Naka’s maze, past a crudely chopped giant slab of wood that served as a counter, beyond a dozen compact but comfy-looking private booths, and into a small chamber already occupied by several budding salarymen and OLs. A sizable screen with sakura paintings hung overhead, and we soon noticed the cherry blossom motif was copied on several decorative pillars nearby. Finally laying our eyes on the menu, we discovered that Naka Naka—unlike most izakaya—is stocked with a decent variety of wines, ranging from Rosso del Veneto (¥2,500/bottle) to the Golden State’s Heitz Zinfandel (¥6,000/bottle), as well as sake and shochu, and we opted for a yuzu Grand Imperius champagne cocktail (\650). Otoshi of fresh feta cheese coated in basil (\600) arrived soon thereafter, confirming the izakaya’s Eurocentric twist.

Clinking our flutes and surveying our surroundings once more, we noted other groups of office workers cuddled up in their booths in merry conversation, their faces lit by the glow of Oriental lanterns. The prevalence of washi throughout the izakaya, in lamps as well as floral patterned scrolls, underscored a nod to Japanese tradition, and the list of Japanese sake and shochu, from which we subsequently selected Yumezuru wheat shochu (¥550) diluted in hot water, was just as extensive as the wine list.

With the limited edition Hyakunen no Kodoku (¥800/shot, ¥6,800/bottle) beyond our reach, we stuck to conventional brands like Awamori (¥500) and Korean Makkholi (¥500) until shortly before midnight, when the ushering out began. We made a hurried exit to beat the crowds to the elevator, agreeing that our night out was indeed “naka naka.”

Open 5pm-midnight Mon-Sat, 5-11pm Sun & hols. 6F, 3-34-11, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 5312-2845. Nearest stn: Shinjuku.

Photocredit: Photos courtesy of Zokei Syudan