Saturday, December 4, 2010

Star Bar, Ginza - from wd 6/15/2009

Star Bar Ginza is one of the premier destinations world-wide for cocktail and whiskey fans, or so I am given to understand by a bartender friend of mine who also edits a prestigious cocktail guide, and who points me in the direction of Star Bar when I mention my trip to Tokyo. Star Bar Ginza is run by Mr. Kishi, a bit of a Star himself in cocktail circles. Let's watch Mr. Kishi make a Mojito his way, shall we?

Mr. Kishi takes his time and does it his way, which it is easy to believe, is the right way. A clearly very powerful man (check out those forearms), Mr. Kishi was quite gentle with both his indredients (until it came time for the Hard Shake) and his clientele (until it came time for the bill).

Mr. Kishi likes a good Mojito, he told me, but it is also clear that his bar has a significant focus on brown spirits, with a tremendous amount of whiskeys and other options. There was a large map of Scotland used for detailed geographical Scotch descriptions and large sign behind the bar reading "Islay".

This is a bottle of Vodka. Not your average Grey Goose, know what I mean?

I had never seen a Sherry Quina before this one.

I loved the label of this liqueur from the Balearas Islands.

Drinking old Calvados is an excellent way to ring up a large drink tab.

The details and atmosphere of Star Bar Ginza are really great. This was one of many antique lighting fixtures. I was told that Star Bar Ginza would be closing for a couple weeks of renovations soon after our visit. I hope they didn't change too much, the place was beautifully done already. The feel is Scottish, or English.

Mr. Kishi and his staff have a keen eye for gorgeous glassware.

There were also all manner of copper pots (for Moscow Mules), misters, spray cans, tiny electric stirrers, and such.

Remember the cured ham in the background of the Mojito shots?

Every guest at Star Bar Ginza that evening got a few slices. It had been cured in northern Japan. Very delicious. Rivalling Iberico, or whatever else you might think of.

But Star Bar Ginza was not content to only give you pig. There were snacks aplenty, including wasabi nuts and corn nuts.

Mr. Kishi thought a particular drink he had made us would go great with chocolate, so he gave us some dark chocolate squares to enjoy. A nice touch.

Notice the cut lemon rind. Done by hand a la minute.

Chilled you say?

You'd care for a very cold Manhattan, perhaps?

Star Bar Ginza, somewhat surprisingly, makes a bit of specialty of blender drinks. Although they kept the blender behind a side door, I was able to get this shot of kumquats ready for the slaughter. These were mixed with Skyy vodka and blended (with the rinds), resulting in the best drink I had on the evening.

I asked Mr. Kishi if he wouldn't mind to make an amaro drink for me, amaro being a bit of an obsession for myself. Here is what he came up with, basically on the fly:

All in all, Mr. Kishi made more than half our drinks himself. Not bad considering the place was packed (meaning there were about 25 people there) when we visited on a Friday evening. Star Bar Ginza seats 10 at the bar stools, and another 18 or so at tables. The service was great, even supernal at times. If you stood up, somebody was right there to pull your stool out. When you returned to your seat, that magic trick was repeated. But what really impressed me was that when we left, one of the junior bartenders ran up about 20 steps behind us to make sure that he said good night to us. The gentleman basically sprinted up the stairs just to say good night and thank you.

That sort of service is probably appreciated by the many cocktail fans who frequent the place. After all, Star Bar Ginza is more accustomed to visits from foreigners than some of the other Ginza bar venues. This was due in part to significant coverage in a recent issue of Bon Appetit which the staff were well aware of. They told me that many foreigners have come by to ponder their ice. I guess then that I should note that their normal ice is big squares that they take a lot of care over. I saw the head bartender shave down some ice squares with a knife at one point. Apparently he didn't dig the originals.

All in all Star Bar Ginza was gorgeous, the staff were highly proficient at cocktail making, the service was top notch, and the atmosphere was great (the Godfather soundtrack played at one point), but I would note that this all came at a high price, and the drinks were portioned on the small side.

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