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word of mouth

Have you heard? Monday, August 4 is Beer Hall Day at The Dubliners’ Irish Pub. What is Beer Hall Day, you might ask? For one day only, pints of draft beer will be sold for just ¥500. At which branch? All six of ’em! And if you can’t wait until then, stop by any of the locations (in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akasaka, Shinagawa, Toranomon or Ikebukuro) between July 28 and August 3, and for every pint you drink, receive a ¥100 discount ticket redeemable on or after August 5.

It’s easy to grow tired of visiting the same Roppongi watering holes week after week. Opened last month, Zero Bar (1F Roppongi 410 Bldg, 4-10-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 03-5775-0100; www.zerobar.jp) promises something fresh—and refreshing. This new champagne bar just steps from the Tokyo Midtown complex offers a selection of over 100 bottles of bubby and wine. The small-ish space is dimly lit, with a wood counter and comfy low-back bar stools and the drinks illuminated under red lights. To find it, look for the number “0” in the bar’s ground-level window.

Up for some live jazz, pops, bossa nova, samba or chanson from leading Japanese musicians? At Boston Dreams (B1 Roppongi Five Bldg, 5-18-20 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 03-3583-3988), just off Gaien-Higashi Dori, you can enjoy three sets of live music (7:40-11pm) six days a week. Stop by during happy hour (5:30-7:30pm) and pay ¥1,000 for two drinks and popcorn, with additional drinks just ¥500. Entry starts at just ¥3,000, but mention Metropolis and get in for half-price. BJM

776: Kissako
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by Michael J. Miller

Nagoya Modern Bar

Enjoy regional fare and a vast shochu list at this Shinbashi drinking spot

Train stations in Tokyo aren't really that far apart, but a crowded subway car can make the distance seem endless. Walk a little, though, and the perception that Tokyo consists of entertainment islands interspersed with barren wastelands soon falls apart. On a recent outing in Ginza, a relatively short stroll ended, to our surprise, in Shinbashi, not far from the quaint reconstruction of the original train station.

Just across the street, perhaps to cater to those who have just disembarked the bullet train, sits Nagoya Modern Bar, or NaMoBa for short. Despite being in a basement off an otherwise empty alleyway, NaMoBa doesn't seem to be trying to hide. A sign on the main street clearly indicates the bar's existence, and near the entrance, located at the rear of the building, stands a glowing menu.

After we entered, however, we encountered a rather exclusive vibe. The first young waitress ran away after greeting us to fetch another waitress who could speak some English. Not that it was necessary. We told her the number in our party in Japanese, to which she replied, "We're full." When we asked how long a wait, she said that she couldn't tell us.

Before we knew it, without any explanation, we were taking off our shoes and heading up to the tiny loft space and sitting at an empty table. From there we could see middle-aged businessmen and women quietly enjoying their drinks. We could also see some other empty sofas and wondered if this was all due to some Nagoya-style unfamiliarity with foreigners. Fortunately, the warm lighting and antique wood tones, not to mention soft jazz tunes, helped lull us out of gaijin rage.

Rather than being anti-foreigner, perhaps the bar was wary that we wouldn't understand the ¥1,050 seating fee. Our waitress also asked if we could read a Japanese menu.

Reading a Japanese menu isn't a problem for us, but understanding what Nagoya fare consists of was a bit of a challenge. Choosing from over 60 types of shochu, both potato and barley types (¥550-¥1,600), could even prove difficult for a native. We settled on cocktails from the fall menu: an un-Nagoya-sounding California Poppy (¥800), which was simply amaretto and soda, and a Daisy (¥800), a fragrant combination of cranberry juice and shochu in a salt-rimmed glass.

Our sweet drinks maybe weren't the best choices to go with Tokai specialties. Instead of the expected fish-flavored broth, the miso oden assortment (¥900) had a rich, baked-sugary tang and was laced with marinated bits of beef. The tenmusu (¥600), a blander yet filling Nagoya concoction of rice balls wrapped around tempura shrimp, helped cleanse our palates.

Unfortunately, the initial unfriendliness we had tasted wasn't so easily washed away. NaMoBa certainly has a homey décor, with steaming pots on the bar and illuminated shochu bottles in glass cases. But maybe the next time we want to experience Nagoya hospitality, we'll just get on the shinkansen.

B1F Kyouzen Bldg, 1-7-11 Shinbashi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-5537-1333. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-4am. Nearest stn: Shinbashi.

Photos courtesy of Nagoya Modern Bar

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