Japan’s ‘Great Re-opening’ in late 2022 gave globetrotters their first look at a bar that had captivated Tokyoites for two years. The Bellwood is Atsushi Suzuki’s homecoming project after six years in New York and Shanghai at Angel’s Share, Speak Low and Sober Society. With head bartender Yumi Yoshino-Cheng, he has fashioned a bar that references Japanese drinking history in decor and drinks, but is every bit the contemporary cocktail spot in presentation, hospitality and technique. The interior, with sepia-toned photos, wood relief and stained glass, is a nod to the kind of cafe-bar in which Japan’s cocktail culture blossomed a century ago.
The drinks are grouped according to the flow of dishes in kaiseki, Japan’s formalised multi-course dining structure, with categories such as Grilled (try the Grilled Corn Bloody Mary), Fermented (the Martini au Lait employs miso) and Gohan/Rice (a barley shochu infused with brown rice is the base for the Banana Sazerac). The menu changes regularly, though some classics always survive the cut, including the standout G&T for Hipsters, accented with gyokuro tea and celery, and Superman, featuring sansho-flavoured Campari. If the food-focused menu whets the appetite, there is an inner sanctum with a four-seat omakase sushi restaurant where chef Ayaka Terai serves creative nigiri with cocktails not found on the main menu. Expecting wasabi with your sushi? It’s in your drink.