...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Shot Bar Zoetrope

Originally, there were extensive plans in line for the night I landed in Japan, plans that culminated in a Lost in Translation visit to Park Hyatt Tokyo's New York Bar (whose online menu shows a '93 Springbank).  With the 18 hour time change, I was facing a 30 hour day -- dig that math! -- but I had figured that the sleep deprivation training I obtained from my new-parent trials would sustain me.  I was wrong.

I started having some doubts about my optimistic schedule a couple days before the trip, but I forgot that the first day of travel in a foreign county is about 75% more exhausting than a normal travel day.  And if one is already tired, stepping out into the Shinjuku evening, where every business's sign is required to be hyperbolic in tone, color, and wattage, will either lift a person up into an instant Red Bull adrenaline craze or grind the nerves down into a fine dust.  I hoped for the former, received the latter.  But I made sure I at least made the trip to Shot Bar Zoetrope Tokyo.

Shot Bar Zoetrope Tokyo (or Zoetrope for brevity purposes) is a big enough deal that it makes its way into Lonely Planet and Fodor's travel guides as well as Greatest Bars in the World lists.  Despite its large reputation, Zoetrope is located in a tiny room in multi-story building in a narrow alleyway.  But that's the way it goes for all of the bars in Shinjuku, Tokyo (with Golden Gai being the most extreme example).  Luckily Google Maps (which has a terrible time with Japanese addresses) does have Zoetrope accurately spotted a few blocks from the massive Shinjuku station.  (Also see Nonjatta's excellent map and their review.)

Once you find the building -- keep an eye open for the red logo which appears on two signs -- I recommend taking the elevator rather than the stairs to the third floor, since the doors open right where you need to be.
From the official website.
Sorry, all the pics I have from my night are bottle shots.
The owner, Atsushi Horigami, loves whisky and silent film.  I love whisky and silent film.  It was meant to be.  200+ Japanese whiskies line Zoetrope's left wall (from the entrance) and on the far wall silent films are projected all night.  Horigami-san speaks English very well, which is a good thing since almost everyone who showed up the night I was there was from the US.  In fact, half of us were from the LA area.  Yes, this is how far we have to go for some good whisky.  Horigami-san is refreshingly honest about the stuff on his shelves, at one point even talking me out of a more expensive whisky in favor of a cheaper one that would go better with my lineup.

Within Zoetrope's impressive inventory are dozens of distillery exclusive single casks (or cask strength bottlings) as well as a good number of whiskies that have long been sold out.  In fact, I'd say that most of the stuff on the shelf can't be found in stores.  In addition to the excellent Japanese whisky selection, Zoetrope has a couple dozen whiskies from other parts of the world, some alternate spirits, and a couple beers.

It's a cash only bar, but he'll provide a menu of his selections along with prices, which one doesn't always find in Japan.  Compared to whisky bars in American urban areas, his prices are reasonable.  My tasting included four very exclusive single malts, but for it I paid less than one would for two glasses of Johnnie Walker Blue in LA.  Though that may say more about Blue's prices and Los Angeles.

Next up for Wednesday:  Notes from my Zoetrope whisky tasting.