Each year the “World’s Best” awards come out. They’re an exciting marker of excellent quality in food and beverage- and like moth to flame, we just can’t resist trying out each and every one of the top ten restaurants or bars. We’ve experienced the top ten, and after a recent visit- we think bar #13 should actually be bar #1.
Bar High Five deserves one spectacular high five. It’s as quirky as the quirkiest Tarantino movie, it’s immaculate like most things in Japan- but it’s character and charm is much harder to quantify. Hidetsugo Ueno, the bar’s owner, was recently voted best international bartender, and we think his looming presence over every aspect of the operation may have something to do with it.
First- don’t come here if you want a gin and tonic or a beer. We’re not saying they won’t be great- but that’s like asking the world’s best sushi chef for a burger. After reading the intelligently amusing bar rules at the door, guests request permission to enter. You can’t just walk in and take a seat. If there’s no seat- you’ll have to come back later. No lingering. Also, there’s no menu at Bar High Five.
Like some sort of wonderful therapist, one of Hidetsugo’s apprentices will come to your seat or table (there’s only about 20 total seats in the entire bar) and ask you what you want in life, or more specifically- in your drink. The questions are designed to really tap into your desired flavor profiles and spirits. It goes something like: what’s your favorite base spirit? And do you like booze forward, or citrus and refreshing? Herbal or floral? Sweet or more bitter? In a martini glass or tall and long, perhaps with club soda?
And then the magic starts. But not how you think. If you’re lucky enough to get Hidetsugo himself, when he’s not traveling the world designing cocktail menus, he’ll be the one making the drinks. But he doesn’t drink. A master of flavor, balance and true terroir- every cocktail makes you feel as if you could be no place on earth. In many cases- such as the drink which this author regularly craves from all over the world- comprised of gin, cherry blossom liquor, shiso leaf liquor and lemon- you really will never find it anywhere else on earth. For a truly Tokyo, truly Tarantino night you’ll never forget- we can’t suggest a better place than our #1 bar on earth, Bar High Five.