The Incidental Tourist

A night out at the Abbot’s Choice in Roppongi

I’m sitting here in a tiny classroom full of engineers, sitting in and assisting with a training class that some consultants from my company are putting on to teach them how to deploy OpenStack Cloud software.  The room has nice large windows, but almost no air conditioning and limited ventilation so needless to say, it’s a bit warm in here.  After a long, nearly 12 hour day, we really needed to relax a bit.

Zack, our translator, took us into Roppongi, well known as a very vibrant, hopping entertainment center and ersatz red light district in Tokyo.  Here there are a plethora of bars and clubs to try, places where the weary traveler can unwind, cut loose and even pick up a date for the night or weekend or longer.  For us, we just wanted some good beer and dinner.

We ended up at a little pub called the Abbot’s Choice.

Sitting on the second floor of a small building, overlooking the night life of Roppongi, the Abbot’s Choice is a welcome change of pace from the hustle and bustle of daily life in Tokyo.  The seating area is very small, no more than maybe 12 feet wide by 30 feet long and much of that space is taken up by a large, classic bar, complete with scratches, old varnish and brass.  There is a handful of tables, if you’re lucky enough to get one, but the best seats are still the 10 bar stools.

Facing you from the other side of the bar is the reason for half of Abbot’s Choice’s full name, “Abbot’s Choice Beer and Whisky Bar”.  Several shelves full of pleasant bottles of that wonderful amber colored liquid, representing the water of life produced in Ireland and Scotland.  There is also a healthy selection of American bourbons and even some locally produced Japanese whiskeys.  The selection runs from inexpensive and young to 20 – 30 year old single malts and the usual assortments of blends.

Also along the bar is a series of taps covering the usual suspects like Longbow, Guinness, Harp, and a few others.  I highly recommend the house beer, Abbot’s Choice Bitter.  It is a refreshing, crisp bitter, poured up in a pint glass and pairs amazingly well with the house specialty dinner of Fish and Chips.  The Abbot also has an extensive list of bottle beers from around the world, their prices reflecting just how far they traveled to arrive here in the Far East.

Speaking of dinner, the fish and chips is excellent, the fish is locally sourced, not surprisingly given that Japan is an island nation famous for it’s various ways of serving seafood.  Each bit of white fish is lightly battered and perfectly cooked.  The fish itself is flaky and light, but remains meaty and satisfying.  The coating fries up nice and crispy without feeling like you’re eating a loaf of bread as often happens in American fried food.  The chips are quartered small potatoes, again fried perfectly so that they are lightly crunchy on the outside and tender and steamy on the inside.  Both are served up properly, on a piece of news paper with tartar sauce and a bottle of malt vinegar.

The bar itself is very reminiscent of my favorite of drinking establishments, the English pub.  It’s small, cozy and has that intimacy that you don’t get in a loud, sweaty night club.  When you go to a place like Abbot’s Choice, you go for a reason.  To sit at the bar, drink a beer or whiskey and eat some fish and chips while catching a football match on the tele.  There are two over the bar, both playing some sort of sporting event, usually either Soccer or Baseball, two of Japan’s favorite sports.

The staff is, as with pretty much all Japanese restaurants, exceptionally friendly, happy to pose for a picture and willing to chat you up if you wish.  Keep in mind that English may not necessarily be fluent, but they all understand enough that with some careful wording and pointing (try to keep the pointing to a minimum though, it’s vulgar, point using your whole hand) you will be able to get what you’re after, a tasty libation and delicious fresh cooked meal that would be the envy of many pubs in Britain.

I’ve made it a habit of seeking out English style pubs on several continents, and while there are still some distinctly Japanese flourishes at the Abbot’s Choice, it is difficult to not close your eyes and imagine that you are right there in the heart of London at the Rose and Crown, or perhaps more apropos, sitting with friends over pints at the Eagle and Child in Oxford on a pleasant summer night.

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