Melinda Joe

Correspondent

  • Tokyo, Japan, Asia

correspondent Melinda Joe is an American journalist who lives in Tokyo and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. She writes about sake and other drinks in her column for The Japan Times, “Kanpai Culture.” Specializing in food, drinks and travel, Joe is an editor for the award-winning restaurant and bar guide Bento.com and a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia and CNN. Her work has appeared in a number of print and online publications, including The Atlantic, The Wine Enthusiast, The Guardian in the U.K., Frommer’s and Uncorked. She chronicles her adventures in food, sake and wine on her blog, Tokyo through the Drinking Glass. Joe received a wine professional certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in London and also passed the Level 2 sake professional exam administered by the Sake Education Council.

  • On May 25, 2013
    Melinda Joe answered the question: Melinda Joe

    What is Tokyo’s dining scene like?

    Tokyo’s dining scene is deliciously diverse. Obviously, you can’t go wrong with Japanese food, but in the last couple of decades, international cuisine has also flourished. World-class French haute cuisine? We’ve got it in spades. Tunisian brik? No problem. Nepalese curry? There’s a great place in every neighborhood. The only thing missing is real Mexican food (the city could also use more New-York-style delis and affordable, authentic Chinese food, but nobody’s perfect).

    Although you can spend a fortune on eating here -- dinner for two at a top-tier kaiseki restaurant like Koju can cost about Y100,000 ($1000) -- it is in fact possible to eat well and inexpensively. One trick: hit the high-end places at lunchtime, on weekdays. Most regular restaurants offer simple lunch sets starting at Y1,000 or Y1,200. Sushi restaurant Matsue in Ebisu serves a fresh and satisfying chirashi-don (raw, sliced fish on rice) for around Y1,500 at lunch, while dinner will run you closer to Y15,000. If you’re willing to spend more, you can eat like a king, even at fine-dining temples like Quintessence. Sure, you’ll end up paying around Y8,900, but that’s a bargain when you consider the fact that dinner costs more than double that, not including the wine you will inevitably order (the menu boasts over 600 varieties).
  • On May 22, 2013
    Melinda Joe answered the question: Melinda Joe

    What are the best bars in Tokyo?

    Sake fans are spoiled for choice in Tokyo. If you’re new to nihonshu, as it’s called in Japan (the word sake actually refers to any alcoholic beverage), the one of the best places to get an introduction is at the Meishu Center in Hamamatsucho, a retail shop/standing bar hybrid which offers three-glass tasting flights starting at Y500.

    If you’re ready to get more serious, head to Kuri in Ginza (or their newer standing bar in Shimbashi) for six-glass tasting flights. Shinjuku Moto Stand has a weekly changing menu of brews from small, boutique producers.

    Although a lot of premium sake is meant to be drunk chilled, some varieties take well to heat. Check out hole-in-the-wall Fukube in Nihonbashi -- a very Tokyo experience. But note that they don’t serve cold sake. At all. In Shinjuku, there’s Kokoromusubi, a cozy, welcoming izakaya (sake pub) that takes great care in warming their brews.

    For sake and fresh fish, go to Ippo in Ebisu or Azabu Juban (their list is written in English and Japanese). Aburaya in Roppongi is fantastically old school and has a great sake selection. Shokkan in Shibuya is more upscale with a well-edited sake list and contemporary izakaya fare.
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