I have a number of correspondents for Kevin’s BBQ Joints who send me reviews from time to time, but when I opened my email this morning I was really amazed. I never assumed I would be getting a review from my correspondent, Devon, from Tokyo, Japan. Here’s his report on Hatos Bar “The Real Pit BBQ and Craft Beer”:
I’ve been living in Tokyo for 8 years, but I still fall for the same thing all the time. I’ll be walking down the street, see a big “BBQ” sign, and start thinking, “maybe this time they’ll have brisket or ribs or pulled pork or even baked beans!” They never do. BBQ in Japan means Yakiniku, thin, bite-sized strips of meat grilled over charcoal or gas/electric grills, usually at your table. Yakiniku is amazing and I love it, but it’s much different than slow-cooked, American-style pit BBQ. Tokyo is one of the world’s great cities with every kind of restaurant you can imagine. It is estimated that there are 80,000 restaurants in Tokyo…by comparison New York has 15,000. But after years of looking I had never found any restaurant serving American-style BBQ.
That all changed on Saturday. Hato’s Bar in the Naka-Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo serves real pit BBQ smoked over cherry wood. It’s cozy, artistic bar/restaurant with just a few tables and sofas. Dub reggae was playing on the sound system and the lighting and artwork gave the feel of a pre- or post- clubbing hangout. Not your typical BBQ joint.
The menu is not huge, but has a number of items you won’t find anywhere else in Tokyo: BBQ baby back ribs, macaroni and cheese, pulled pork sandwiches, homemade sausage, and corn bread.
My friend and I had a large order of baby back ribs (which comes with shoestring fries), 2 pulled pork sandwiches (which comes with fries and coleslaw), and a side order of corn bread. It was delicious. The sauce is a sweet ketchup/vinegar/raspberry mixture that worked nicely, but the real treat for me was the flavor from the the cherry smoked meat. You just don’t find that taste in Japan. The cornbread, something else you just don’t find in Japan, was wonderful too. The portions aren’t huge, but then again portions rarely are in Japan. I loved every bite and was full when we left.
As an added treat, Hato’s also serves craft beers on tap. While you can find microbrews at a few places in Tokyo, it’s far from common. I enjoyed a Red Rocket Ale from the U.S. while my friend had a local brew, Shigakogen Harvest Ale.
It’s hard to describe what a pleasure it was to have smoked BBQ, coleslaw, cornbread, and craft ales. Suffice it to say, it’s a rare night out in Tokyo. If you ever find yourself in Tokyo and have that craving for American BBQ, Hato’s Bar is the place.
The chef/owner, So, spent some time in the U.S. and developed a love for smoked BBQ. He wanted to share it with people when he came back to Japan but you can’t just buy a smoker in Japan, so his is custom made. Thank you, So!
If you’re in Tokyo and want some real BBQ you can find it here:
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