It's hard to miss that pet shop on
Gaien Higashi Dori. Not because the dogs in the window are
so cute, or because the pungent odor hits you without setting
foot inside. Simply put, the location, crammed in among bar
after bar, seems odd. Perhaps in Japan, instead of drunkenly
getting a tattoo, one buys a pug. Or it could be that the
numerous hostesses in the area crave some companionship besides
their whiskey-breath clients.
Whatever the reason, it's clear that some Japanese
have a disposable income. The Bubble may have long ago burst,
but navigating the lines of salarymen bowing on the street,
we could tell that these guys were still spending a tidy sum
At Juntak, the presence of a reasonably priced menu at the
entrance, and the lack of bowing executives out front, made
it seem like a place where we wouldn't entirely dispose
of our disposable income. So we took the leap of faith, or
more accurately, we took the stairs into the basement.
Juntak is basically a higher-end izakaya-more mellow
and mature than the chain-store variety. The bar's
12 bucket seats were all occupied by well-dressed Japanese
men and women, and the long counter itself was a row of glasses
of red wine and cell phones. And we spotted plenty of food
on the tables of the various private side-rooms.
But the staff seemed a bit wary of us, and
it took a while before we were seated in a cozy loft space
with pleather pillows and a karaoke-booth-sized sofa. The
lack of English in the menu, save for a brief cocktail section,
gave us the impression that foreigners don't frequent
the place often, even though it is in Roppongi.
We blended in well, though, under the warm sepia-toned lighting.
Starting off with a red wine kir (¥700), we then asked
the waitress for a "light and not-too-sweet"
original cocktail, and she brought us a refreshing drink of
blue curacao, tonic, grapefruit and lemon liqueurs, and juices
The simulated thatched roof near our heads with air-conditioner
ducts poking out summed up Juntak's blend of traditional
Japanese with a modern twist. Another example of this was
the Greek moussaka (¥900), tasting less than authentic
with bacon bits where lamb should have been. On the mark,
however, was the lightly seared and buttery-textured salmon
Adding things up in our heads, we figured to be having a reasonable
night out. The bill, however, told a different tale. It also
explained the initial wariness we had sensed. Paying a ¥1,200
cover just to sit in a bar and drink, on top of a service
charge? At these rates how could anyone afford to buy a dog?
As we left, a waitress followed us up to the street and bowed.
The Japanese economy must indeed be improving.
B1 Takeoka Bldg, 4-12-11 Roppongi,
Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5775-6540.
Open daily 6pm-5am. Nearest stn: Roppongi, exit 7.
Photos by Martin Hladik
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