Whale: Koenji
Whale Koenji: Middle Eastern

Well-selected and reasonably priced craft beers and wines are complemented by simple Middle Eastern fare (tajines, dips, falafel) at this tiny drinking spot. Located next to a sister shop called Kujira Curry Bar and across from a Vietnamese BBQ stall, Whale is one of more than a dozen bars and mini-restaurants making up the Dai-ichi Ichiba restaurant arcade, a retro-style, indoor "food alley" just north of Koenji station.

Craft-beer drinkers can find Punk IPA from Scottish brewery Brew Dog on tap, along with several more of their beers in bottles and cans, plus some less commonly seen European and US microbrews. During a recent visit we discovered some excellent beers from Dutch craft brewery De Molen and Norwegian outfit Nogne. The wine list is also eclectic and budget-friendly, for example Sokol Blossor's "Evolution" white blend is Y4,000 per bottle.

Our otoshi turned out to be a good-sized portion of home-smoked bacon served with cumin bread, a great match for our first round of IPAs. Equally beer-friendly are the baba ganoush and other mezze-style dips, which come with tasty home-made pita bread, and the crunchy falafel balls, served with a spicy yogurt sauce.

Service is friendly and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is very casual. Most bottles of wine are priced in the Y2800-5000 range, with some outliers. Budget around Y2500-3000 for a few rounds of high-quality drinks and snacks, or just drop in for a quick drink and otoshi before you explore the rest of this lively arcade. (Open from 2pm on weekends.)

Suginami-ku, Koenji-Kita 3-22-8, Dai-ichi Ichiba.
Open 5pm-2am daily.
late: Open late
Sun: Open Sundays