Gen Yamamoto | Cocktail bar | Azabu Juban | Tokyo Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Gen Yamamoto HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
Open: Closed Monday. Bookings recommended.

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +81 3 6434 0652
Address: 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban
Minato, 106-0045
Country: Japan

Gen Yamamoto (the name of the owner and the name of the bar) in the Azabu Juban district of Tokyo is one of the most intriguing bars we have ever visited. It is where the owner crafts cocktails of such exquisite excellence that we now return again and again for fear of missing out on something special to the season of our visit.
In fact, Gen Yamamoto has recalibrated our attitude to cocktails entirely. Up until our experiences here we were fairly dismissive of the cocktail culture. However, we changed our minds after the first drink we were served by this seeker of perfection.
There is something in the Japanese culture that makes people seek perfection by constant refinement at the micro level whether it be in preparing rice for sushi, cutting sashimi, making cocktails or, as is the case at the nearby Savoy, making perfect pizzas.
When you enter this small bar there are seats for just eight people at a bar hued from a single 500 year old tree. This bare bar top is the canvass on which Gen paints his magic from a palate of the very best ingredients sourced from throughout Japan.
The menu is set by the owner so don't think you can order up your favourite Negroni or Martini. You get to choose whether you want to try 4 or 6 cocktails that have been designed for the season and the day.
Let us describe what we had on our first visit.
The first light and refreshing drink was made from the distilled spirit from the rich bottom part of sake with a liquid infused with Ume.
Next up was a sparkling sake mixed with the muddled pulp of an exquisite, perfectly ripe white peach from the Yamanashi prefecture on the main island of Honshhu. This drink was lifted with a perfect dash of freshly-grated wasabi.
The third in the series was based on an Hakushu single malt from 1973 mixed with passionfruit from Amami Island near Okinawa and juice of a vivid green Hebesu which ripens earlier than other citrus varieties and comes from the Miyazaki Prefecture.
The next creation ventured outside Japan for the main protagonist, namely the rye-based Napue gin from Finland which is enhanced with locally foraged botanicals such as sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves. This was blended with Hokkaido tomatoes, orange and Chamomile flower. (As an aside, when we travelled back through Japan a month later after some time in Europe the tomato was still used but the recipe had changed because the tomatoes were riper and sweeter.)
Number 5 was based on a deeply sweet pineapple from Okinawa mixed with a sweet local potato based spirit.
And the last in the line up was an unfiltered sake which was traditionally brewed near Kyoto enhanced with edamame, milk and hebesu.
All of the glasses and other crockery are made by local artists specifically for the bar.
This is a must-visit venue!
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