Tomoé, Tokyo

May 25, 2010

The evening of April 23, 2010, Toshio and I went to Tomoé, an izakaya a fifteen minute walk from The Imperial Hotel where Linda and I were staying. She was happy for us to have a men’s night out. Tomoé is in a neighborhood of modern office buildings that seems completely dead at night. It is in the basement of the building which houses the offices of the Sake Brewers Association. On the ground floor is a sampling room and shop, Sake Plaza. It had closed at 6:00, but I took photos of the charming display in the window showing the traditional process for brewing sake from rice.

When we arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the atmosphere completely changed. The izakaya was lively with people having a very good time. Some of the tables had salarymen typically drinking after work; others had several young couples or mixed generations. I was the only westerner. Toshio and I were lucky to get a table. Tomoé seemed like a good ambience for us as we had worked together in the late 1970’s and had kept in touch ever since. There is a large tatami room in the back where a lively party was in progress. The food offerings are posted around the room. Toshio made some choices for us.

The bottle of sake they brought was okay. Most people come here in the evening to drink, eat and socialize, not to have a tasting. But, on average, Tomoé keeps on hand approximately 50 different labels of sake from distilleries across Japan that it replaces fully with other 50 different brands just about every month – not surprising given that it is partly managed by the sake association. Some brands are for Imperial Palace function consumption.

Everything on the table is shared; you pick up what you want with your chopsticks.

The first bowls arrived:
tuna marinated with seaweed and leeks;
warm broad beans;
bamboo shoots braised with a lot of ginger, shaved bonito and seaweed;
fish and pickles.

These were all very good. Toshio was addicted to the beans, which one peels before eating; he ordered another bowl and some other good things.

Marinated and grilled buri, or yellowtail, with grated daikon.


Braised taro potatoes with a mushroom and kinome on top.

Smooth and subtle; nice.


A sharp, clean taste.

A deep fried itoyori, or threadfin bream.


Hijiki, a nutritious seaweed which turns black when cooked; carrot; konnyaku, a natural gelatine noodle; sesame seeds.


Teruko Hino came by our table. She is the manager, animator and the heart of Tomoé. Although she also speaks English, for some reason she started to speak to me in good French; when I replied in French, I was her friend. I never did find out when, why and where she learned French. She was very busy, but stopped back at our table frequently for brief chats. Here you can see her explaining the bill to one of the couples at the table next to us.

Next came a plate of sashimi including akagai (ark shell or blood clam.)

This was okay, but I think this kitchen is stronger with cooked fish.

Freshly grilled hot whole small eggplants with shredded and grated ginger.


La Patronne came by with a sample of an excellent sake for us to try. She gave me the glass to keep.

I was able to get a photo of the kitchen at a rare moment when its pass through was not crowded with waiters turning in orders and picking things up. Dishes came quickly from it after Toshio ordered them.

We finished with a cup of tea.


Here is a photo as we we leaving about 9:00. The empty table was ours. The party in the tatami room in the back is ending and people are standing up.

Our evening at Tomoé was very enjoyable. The quality of the food was very high for such a casual place. Merci, Madame. Thank you, Toshio.

B1 Floor Shuzo Kaikan (means sake distillery building)
1-1-21 Nishi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
   Phone: 3501-5010
   Closed weekends and Japan’s legal holidays

The sake association’s English website:

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