While the ubiquitous neon signs and pachinko parlours are staples of downtown Tokyo, there are many more faces the city can show. On a hot and humid weekend we wanted to search out some relative calm (as much as you can get, given greater Tokyo is home to over 38 million people) and have a leisurely lunch. We headed to Daikanyama.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband love to research their own food destinations as much as possible. That’s not entirely successful in Japan where English-language websites can be thin on the ground. There’s some great resources, like Time Out Japan and Bento but click through to individual restaurant websites and all you’ll see is a profusion of characters.

During our last visit, in our desperate search for a decent coffee, our hotel concierge suggested a visit to Daikanyama. He described it as a quiet neighbourhood, full of boutiques, book stores and cafés. Grabbing our train passes, off we trundled.

Greedy Girl can remember a lot of things about our first visit, but how to get to Daikanyama wasn’t one of them. Using our trusty Tokyo subway apps, Daikanyama station didn’t show up – and therein lies an issue with the train system. Essentially, lots of train lines are owned by different operators. Daikanyama is near Shibuya, on the Tokyu Toyoko line, which goes to Yokohama. If a station isn’t criss-crossed by one of the subway stations, it doesn’t show up in the app search. We had to go analogue here and use the hotel’s train network map.

Daikanyama is largely residential but also home to a number of foreign embassies. On a sunny Sunday, it’s dominated by young families pushing strollers and walking dogs. The bookstores and boutiques are packed. Greedy Girl is thanking her lucky stars that she got the hotel to book a spot for lunch.

And so we found ourselves at Ivy Place. This is a low, timber bungalow with a number of outdoor eating areas shaded by trees and other plants. Inside is a mix of high bar table seating, some booths and a host of other tables. In short, it’s huge, but so is the queue waiting for a table. Having phoned ahead, we were shown to our table.

Ivy Place prides itself on a mix of craft beers, stocking a selection from the TY Harbor Brewery in Shinagawa. Gluttonous husband took the medium-sized IPA (no surprises there) while Greedy Girl tried a small size wheat ale. She was particularly intrigued by the description of it having citrus, banana, clove and bubble gum flavours. She can report there was a slightly sweet bubble gum after taste and it was not at all unpleasant.

Drinks sorted, we turned to the menu which is dominated by western-style dishes with Japanese twists. We opted to share a yellowfin carpaccio to start.

restaurant reviews ivy place Tokyo

Yellowtail carpaccio

The fish used in this dish varies in terms of what’s fresh. It was served with a citrus mayo, orange sgements, red peppers and a profusion of leaves. The mayo also had a hint of wasabi but Greedy Girl felt it overwhelmed the fish. The leaves provided a welcome cut through. It was tasty, if not a rave.

We then moved to main courses. Gluttonous husband had the dish pictured at the top of this post, the paella. As you’d expect in Japan, the seafood was cooked brilliantly and the rice was just about perfect. Gluttonous husband was particularly taken with the mussels which he said were possibly the best he’d ever eaten. The squid was firm to the bite but not chewy. He left the prawns to last, expecting them to be overcooked having sat on the hot pan for quite a while but he was very pleasantly surprised. They were a little soft but not at all mushy.

Greedy Girl had a hankering for some meat. She chose their take on a burger, with gruyere and caramelised onions. The meat patty was too soft a texture for her (but gluttonous husband delighted in it). The flavours were fine but the best part of this plate was the barley and chickpea salad.  Slightly curried, it also had a sprinkling of cashew nuts and cherry tomatoes. Delish.

restaurant reviews ivy place Tokyo

Burger with barley and chickpea salad

By this point, Greedy Girl had ordered another small beer, this time a seasonal special Honey Ale. It was also quite drinkable.

Ivy Place is an oasis, particularly on a warm day in Tokyo. It’s in a great spot for people watching (if you can get an outside table) but make sure you book – the only way to do that is to get a Japanese speaker to ring. If you’re in the area and decide to try it without a booking, go and put your name down for a table. They’ll give you an estimate of the wait time and you can go explore the side streets.

Ivy Place

16-15 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


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