June 13, 2017
Of all the awesome places in Tokyo I have tried on this trip, the only place I wish there is a facsimile in Hong Kong is a wine bar called Ahiru Store, tucked away on a quiet alley in the trending neighbourhood Tomigaya. There are lots of wine-related restaurants in Hong Kong, but none quite like Ahiru Store, which serves quality food with an interesting wine selection at a reasonable price. It was opened in 2008 by the sibling tag team Teruhiko and Wakako Saito, the former in charge of the wine and the latter the kitchen and bakery.
We arrived at 6:15 pm and the store was already full. Every inch of space was occupied, either by stools, barrels acting as tables, or standing patrons. Fortunately I made a call a week prior and two bar seats were reserved on our behalf. A team of five was each busy at their own task. At the far end a man was constantly cutting produce, then there was Teruhiko cooking with Wakako’s assistance, who doubled as the floor manager. The other two served wine and cleaned glasses, respectively.
Ahiru Store specializes in natural and biodynamic wines mostly from France. Given their delicate nature all the wines are served chilled, even the reds. We ordered a Alsatian Riesling and a Beaujolais, followed by some rosé from Provence. I wasn’t enthralled by the night’s batch so I won’t go into detail of each one. This is not a verdict on Ahiru Store’s wines; I just didn’t like the ones I had.
The food, on the other hand, was classic comforting fare, though some came with unexpected twists. Written on a black board above the bar area, the menu was surprisingly varied, with a heavy emphasis on homemade bread. On this evening there were a good handful of choices, ranging from plain wheat to sweet ones like walnut and dried apricot. This is a wine bar that doubles as an artisanal bakery.
Three dishes always seemed to pop up around us: octopus and avocado salad, duck pâté and grilled pork sausage. Not feeling particularly hungry after a late snack at Ginza Kagari, we opted for a mainly seafood meal, beginning with the octopus salad. Dressed with wasabi-infused olive oil, the mollusc was extremely tender and matched very well with avocado.
When Teruhiko put a few scallion stalks over the grill, I glued my eyes on him to see what he was up to. Turned out it was to garnish our maguro no yamakake (raw tuna with grated yam), a popular Japanese dish that was presented here with a western twist of olive oil and Parmesan. As long as the fish is fresh, like it was on this night, this dish would always be decent.
After a few drinks and some cold starters, we craved for something hot and ordered the seafood soup on Teruhiko’s recommendation. The tomato base was too overpowering and covered up much of what the seafood had to offer. Still, consider I had this at a bar, it was more than passable.
We finished with an order of croquette. Instead of purely potato, this one was mixed with fava beans and other herbs, resulting in a taste that bore some semblance to falafel. It was a little dry but surprisingly not oily at all.
The bill was ¥8,750 for two (¥100 = 7.1 HKD). The food was pleasant, but what I appreciated even more was the cushy atmosphere where there was always something going on. The night went by in a flash.
The Saitos have showcased their many passions — wine, cooking, baking — at Ahiru Store. It is no small feat to do one well, but to do all three at a high level with their limited space and personnel is a testimony to their dedication. The wine selection is thoughtful. It is difficult to find a place in Hong Kong that does even two of the three well, especially at this affordable price.
Address: 1-19-4 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 18:00 – Midnight; Saturday 15:00 – 21:00; closed on Sunday