Gen Yamamoto – A Tokyo Must

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Bar Gen Yamamoto is one of my favorite places in Tokyo and I recommend everyone and anyone coming to Tokyo to visit. He is beyond a ‘mixologist’ and more a magician, a flavor savant, a true genius of his craft. I’d even argue he may quite possibly be the best in the world when it comes to surprising and delighting with his cocktails.

People seem to freak out over a four or six cocktail tasting in fear of getting trashed but the thing is, his drinks aren’t boozy at all. The spirits he uses are activators, pulling forth the deepest, richest flavor notes from the fruits and vegetables he pairs them with and so basically, the drinks have only a splash or a touch of alcohol. I doubt anyone could actually get drunk off Gen-san’s cocktails.

These days I visit him at least once a month — sometimes more if there are people in town. Here are a few highlights from August: 

– peach and wasabi with Hakushu single malt
– pineapple sorbet with shochu topped with diced bell peppers
– tomato with gin
– white corn and filtered sake, a touch of milk (this one was also a sorbet)
– edamame cocktail (this one is so creamy and smooth; almost tastes like a breakfast cereal)

All of his cocktails are next level but the top five blew me away. His tomato and gin cocktails are always phenomenal. The first time I had it was in March with a tomato from the Kochi prefecture. Yesterday was with a tomato from Hokkaido paired with a Japanese gin (KO-ON IP-02 produced by Hombo Shuzo Co.,) that’s made with: Juniper berries, yuzu, green tea leaves, ginger, lemon, bitter lemon, sansho pepper and Saigon cinnamon leaf. He gave me a shot of it and it was the weirdest gin. It smells like gin but tastes like an infused spirit. There’s a peppery note but combined with the tomato and a splash of soda water, the flavors blend then become prominent one by one. The sensations were mind-blowing and I never, ever had anything like that before.

This is why Gen-san is so incredible. He knows how to bring out flavors layer by layer and his tomato cocktails are the quintessential example.

The peach and wasabi, pineapple granita topped with bell peppers was probably the best cocktail I’ve ever been served by Gen-san. All the elements of surprise are there: from palate stimulation to engaging textures, they were extremely memorable.

For people who love and appreciate food, Gen Yamamoto is definitely a must. One huge bummer is the overload of annoying Instagrammers and food blogging tourists who unnecessarily snap a trillion photos with their mega cameras. You have been warned!

Oh and it may seem as though it is uneasy to talk during his tasting but Gen-san is super friendly and extremely generous with his knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or strike up a conversation. He is the best.

Gen Yamamoto
Drop this into Google Maps↓
〒106-0045 Tokyo, Minato, 麻布十番1-6-4 アニバーサリービル 1F
Reservations required: http://genyamamoto.jp/bar_tokyo/Menu.html

BONUS:
I have been on the hunt for a Japanese whiskey that isn’t Yamazaki or Nikka. I noticed this bottle on his shelf and asked if I could take a photo. I’ve yet to try but considering it’s a Gen-san pick, I bet it is legit. He recommended drinking on the rocks.

PS: I didn’t always have a love affair with Gen-san… in fact, I embarrassed the hell out of myself a while back.

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