The Rusty Trombone Wine Bar, Jingumae

The concept of this new wine bar could not be more simple. Its proprietor, Andrew Stevens, serves wine. Just wine. No beer, no fancy cocktails, no spirits. Just high quality wine. "I wanted to open a place where I would want to drink, with wines I want to drink,“ he says. Basically, focus on one thing and do it well. The plan is a success.

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If you are a wine lover like me, you might think it’s difficult to find a good, simple wine bar in Tokyo, with a decent selection of varieties available by the glass. The Rusty Trombone aims to fill that gap, but the biggest problem is finding it. It’s hidden in the back streets of Omotesando, just a stone’s throw away from Omotesando Koffee, which is equally hard to find. The walls of the building, an old house, are overgrown with ivy and there is no website or noticeable signage (just a small placard with the name and opening hours near the entrance). This is done on purpose. The bar is small, and Andrew wants to maintain its cosy, intimate atmosphere. The interior is dark with only some discreet lighting with quiet jazz music underlining the ambiance. In short, it’s the perfect place for a date or after-dinner nightcap.

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Andrew first discovered the space through a friend, who had leased the entire, rundown two-story building that had not been lived in for ten years. He was looking for someone to open a bar on the first floor, and asked Andrew to take a look. “I came inside and told myself, what a great place with big potential! And then I told him, ‘I’ll do it,'” says Andrew, who during the day works as a real estate agent.

Within three days, with the help of a couple of friends and “fueled by numerous bottles of wine,” the place was completely transformed: the wooden floor lacquered, the walls painted red, and the namesake rusty trombone mounted on the wall behind the counter. Only the paper window shades remain from the original interior.

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The wine selection includes a dozen different varieties from Italy, France and Napa Valley, with prices ranging from ¥800 to ¥2,000 a glass (it’s worth noting here that, unlike in many other Tokyo wine bars, glasses are well filled).

As far as I can tell, the wine suits my tastes well. I started with a glass of Pinot Noir from Napa Valley (¥800) followed by an Italian Syrah (¥800). And if you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach, you can also opt for a snack plate of smoked salmon, smoked ham, smoked gouda, cheddar and blue cheese.

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If you want to mingle with fellow wine lovers, join one of the events that take place twice a month at the Rusty Trombone. Each party will have a particular wine producing region as its theme. Women pay ¥4,000 and man ¥6,000 for two hours of free-flowing wine and food. But be warned: there are some heavy reds on the menu. And the Rusty Trombone is one of those places that make you want to stay and forget about all your appointments and commitments you have the following day, so it’s probably best to go on a night before a free day.

The Deets

Address: 4-1-18 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Open: Daily, 6–11:30 p.m.