Even neighborhoods with a sheen as fastidiously buffed as Ginza’s need a watering hole for the locals. Ginza Yatai Bar fits the bill. Looking like a garden shed with delusions of grandeur, it occupies a backstreet corner just off Showa Dori, from which it enjoys a constant ebb and flow of customers. A cluster of middle-aged men sink a few early-evening tipples before heading back home. An aging snack mama pops in to down a beer on the way to work. An improbably slender young woman brings in her pooch for the regulars to fuss over.
It’s an inviting place to stop by, that’s for sure. Customers are as quick to acknowledge each other as they are the staff, and repeat visitors seem to be very much in the majority. The regulars hang out in the standing bar area at one end of the shop, while couples aim for the table seating on the other side of the central kitchen area. True to the “yatai” part of the name, the whole shebang is open to the elements, although the windows are flanked by heavy-duty clear plastic curtains that doubtless come in handy during the colder months.
We start with a glass of sangria (¥500), which is heavy on the cinnamon and lacks the cloying sweetness of some of the concoctions we’ve had elsewhere. There’s a small list of European and South American wines, most of which go for ¥400 per glass, with bottles starting at ¥2,000. Our glass of Marques del Turia red comes slightly chilled, which makes perfect sense when it’s 28 degrees outside and, well, you’re basically sitting outside. Couples (or more dedicated drunkards) can opt for the “bottle set”—¥3,000 for vino and a choice of three dishes—and there’s also draft beer (¥400), sparkling wine (¥600) and sherry (¥400).
The food menu is pure tapas bar, with a selection of Mediterranean eats priced mostly at ¥500. The ratatouille is solid but unspectacular, suffering from a surfeit of tinned tomatoes and mushy asparagus, while our generous slice of Spanish omelet, flecked with slivers of ham and mushroom, seems uncertain about whether it wouldn’t rather be a quiche. Neither of those are deal-breakers, but we draw the line at the oven-baked mussels, which are cooked to a leathery finish and virtually inedible. Thankfully, the olives—concentrated flavor bombs packed with anchovy and dried chili—go a long way to redeeming the situation.
If you want a proper tapas bar, there are other options—Vinuls over in 2-chome is a particular favorite, and won’t cost you much extra. But Ginza Yatai Bar is about the atmosphere as much as the specifics. It’s a corner bar, a local. We wouldn’t recommend having dinner here, but for drinks, nibbles and good banter, it does the job perfectly.