Booze and meat make for a winning combination at Va Bene, an Italian-style wine and beer bar with one of the best locations in Kichijoji. Sitting pretty in a corner space right across from classic yakitori eatery Iseya and close enough to Inokashira Park that you can see the trees from the terrace seats out front, this endearingly down-to-earth joint opened in spring 2013 and has maintained a steady level of popularity ever since. You’ll do best to book a table for groups bigger than two, especially on weekends – although we did manage to sneak in without a reservation around 9pm on a recent Friday night.
Once inside, you might need a while to browse the rather extensive menu. Although the energetic staff are quick to point to the daily specials on the blackboard, we recommend exploring the regular offerings first. That’s because these mean excellent value: in addition to the slow-grilled wagyu and brand pork meats (from around ¥1,800 for 150g), offered mainly as lean cuts, you’ll find very good starter salads, pâtés and pickles, plus our hands-down favourite: delectably creamy and moreish sweet potato gnocchi. We could have snacked on these addictive little dumplings all night, but that would definitely have ruined our plans of getting into beach shape for summer.
As for the liquid offerings, wine aficionados will do well to check in with the laidback resident sommelier, who lords over a closely curated selection of less than 50 varieties. Glasses start at ¥600, while finding a bottle of the German Shelter Winery’s 2014 Lovely Lilly for ¥5,800 was a pleasant surprise for us. Va Bene also carries three to five craft beers on tap at all times, with brews from Akita’s excellent Tazawako Beer always occupying at least one of the slots. The ¥650 filled-to-the-brim glasses of sparkling wine deserve a mention, too.
Casual, cheap and occasionally loud, Va Bene isn’t the place for a first date or a drawn-out chat, but it makes for a virtually flawless party spot, Friday night hangout or pre-funk destination. Add in the top-value grub and you’ve got yourself a winner – no wonder that these folks have already expanded to Shimokitazawa and are finding success on two of the city’s most cutthroat fronts for inexpensive eats.
|Venue name:||Va Bene|
1-17-9 Kichijoji-Minamicho, Musashino-shi
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 11.30am-3pm (last orders 2pm), 5pm-11.30pm (11pm); Sat, Sun & hols 11.30am-11.30pm (11pm)|
|Transport:||Kichijoji Station (Chuo, Sobu, Keio Inokashira lines), park exit|