At Tokyo Bird on a Tuesday night, there's a bunch of faces that I recognise. Some are behind the bar and on the floor, and others (think celebrity bartender and chef spotting) are customers.
Tokyo Bird rocks! The cocktails are amazing: balanced, textural, with a deep understanding of spirits and mixers, and yes- Japanese inspired.
The rockstar owners are Yoshi Onishi who worked at Victoria Room, and Yoshi also worked at Stitch. Jason Ang formerly worked at Gilt Lounge and Gowings Bar, and Sokyo before that. Then I recognise Luke Hanzlicek who now works at Suntory and was there to help the lads work on some cocktails, but it's too busy so he gets in behind the bar. And there's another award-winning Luke in the house, but he's a customer, tucked privately at one end of the bar.
Like I said, the cocktails at Tokyo Bird are amazing, harmonious, yet (a bit like me) complicated. We order off the board first and I start with Smoke Hunter. I've given my brief; I don't like 'girlie' cocktails- cocktails that are too sweet or too inspid. Smoked Hunter is what I'm served and I sigh with pleasure. As a Japanese bar, there's a strong influence of Japanese whisky and this one bumps in with Nikka From The Barrel, Cherry Heering, Applewood Smoke. And it's a winner!
On the whisky front the printed menu shouts out Old Fashioned, and lists Yamakazi Distillers, Glenmorangie, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Havanna 7 Dark Rum, as the spirits of choice. But I'd reckon you go a an Old Fashioned with any of the wide range of whiskies in the Tokyobird backbar.
Tokyo Bird has also introduced whisky flights, with whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, Australia, USA but mostly from Japan. Suntory Yamakazi 12yo single malt, Suntory Hibiki 12yo blended whisky, Nika Coffee Malt single grain, Ichiro's Malt Double Distilliers vatted malt amd Nikka Miyagikyo 12yo single malt, are just of the Japanese flight offering. There's even more Japanese whiskies on the list, including boutique distilleries.
On the opposite wall to the bar, in this intimate rectangular room, the food blackboard announces Snacks, Specialties, Salad and Skewers- Uakitori and Yaiyasai. Chicken comes as thigh. If you enjoy them, the chicken hearts here get full marks.
Later I have my cocktail of the night. As a ginger beer fan, I am turning cartwheels from the sensational Hanzo Mule. Added to the Japanese whisky, the secret is a house made syrup made from fresh ginger served with soda. Then the real trick which tickles me, peat. Laphroaig is floated on top of the mule to lift it to new heights. I want more.
If whisky or cocktails are not your thing, or if you want to mix it up, you'd be guessing correctly if you counted on sake being available. It is, as is the new Japanese star, shochu. (Don't asked me what happened on my last trip to Japan with that stuff.) Yoshi informs me it's a popular choice with girls in Japan, as shochu has a lower alcohol content. (I'm too embarrassed to tell him how wasted I got on that stuff.) Shochu is also delicious, with a wide variety of flavour nuances. And think Japan, and you probably also think beer. They're here: Asahi draught, the new Asahi black bottle (exclusive to Tokyo Bird), Yebisu All Malt, Echigo Koshihikari Rice Lager, Suntoy Magnum Dry, Robot Ninja Pale Ale.
But if like me, you like a cocktail, that's where I'd tuck in with some yummies- yakitori and yakiyasai and other specialties like katsu nuggets. And of course, some good company. Turn your phones off and enjoy your friends, but not until you #tokyobird.