Standing bars in Tokyo are ten a penny (yenny?) but finding one with an extensive wine list, delicious food, and a location you can find without needing a local guide and/or Google maps is a serious challenge. Or it was until now.
Yes, good Japan Airlines readers, I have done the legwork for you. In the name of research I have sampled plenty of both food and drink so that I can be thoroughly confident in this recommendation. It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it.
Without further ado, allow me to introduce Fujiya Honten Wine Bar.
Situated a mere three-minute walk from Shibuya station (the Moyai exit), this cosy standing bar is the perfect place to toast a successful week at work, catch up with pals, or simply enjoy a bevvy with new friends.
It's the kind of place you drop in for one glass of wine en route home and end up staying several hours, nibbling on delectable items from the kitchen whilst setting the world to rights with newly-made friends at the bar.
Fujiya Honten, like all good standing bars, is small and simply furnished. This is good because it really fills up quickly, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when it can be a struggle to get in after 7:30. In the warmer months people spill out onto the pavement outside where there are a couple of extra tables to prop up at, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of wine bars in beautiful piazzas in Italy. Only at Fujiya Honten there are more people in suits and less exuberant hand-waving from the clientele - though that increases as the night goes on and the drinks go down!
As one would hope, the wine list is extensive and the menu detailed. You can order a reasonable number of wines by the glass from ¥500, bottles start from around ¥1600 and I believe, though have not tried for myself, that if you do not finish your bottle you can take it home with you. Whenever I have visited I have been particularly pleased by how the wines are always served at the perfect temperature, something which makes a big difference, and is very easy to get wrong.
Whilst we may be talking about a wine bar, the food at Fujiya Honten is definitely something to try. Considering the size of the kitchen and how busy the establishment can get, the range and quality of food served is fantastic; it's also very reasonably priced, with dishes generally between ¥450 and ¥950. I recommend ordering a glass of wine upon arrival, then perusing the menu and spying on your fellow diners to see what tempts you. The dishes are made for sharing and whilst you could order just one plate as an appetizer before eating fully elsewhere, I like to order a few plates to share and spend a few hours wining, dining and watching the world go by.
In terms of food, I am particularly fond of the caprese salad and the wonderful mushroom and prawn hot pot (both on the regular menu) and highly recommend the chicken liver mousse (frequently on the daily specials menu). The main food menu and the list of wines by the glass are available in English. The daily specials on the chalkboard are all in Japanese, but there is usually an English version available if you ask. My best advice, though, is to spy on the people around you for what looks good - it's also a great way to strike up a conversation.
Thanks to its extensive wine list, delicious food and prime location, Fujiya Honten Wine Bar has become one of my go-to places in central Tokyo. The quality of both food and drink and the cheerful service mean that it's always tempting to go on my way home from work - particularly impressive if I've been on my feet all day!