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T&L 100: Next Great Neighborhoods | 2000

Ebisu Tokyo

By Erika Lederman

The area around Ebisu train station is finally living up to its name. According to Japanese folklore, Ebisu is one of the seven gods of good luck, and the statue of this fat little man at the entrance to Ebisu station is said to promise prosperity. Considering the rate at which swanky restaurants and boutiques have been emerging from the shadow of the old Sapporo brewery, His Saintliness appears to be working overtime of late.

Industrial Ebisu has always been a sort of no-man's-land. Despite a busy station serving rail and subway lines, with the defunct brewery looming in the background, developers wereslow to move in. For a long time, the area was populated mostly by shopkeepers, solid middle-of-the-road ones; at night it was desolate. Meanwhile, nearby Daikanyama took off as the city's trendy round-the-clock destination. But Ebisu's cheap rents and proximity to one of Tokyo's best fashion-design schools have attracted young and colorful settlers who are turning it into the city's most exciting enclave.

Restaurants

Wasabiya2-17-8 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3770-2604; dinner for two $38. Young trendies can be spotted dipping into basement-level eating places such as this one, where the new mukokuseki—"no boundaries"—cuisine is being dished out. An appetizer of silky black sesame tofu complements a main dish of salty grilled chicken with leeks.

Yo! Teko2-3-15 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5725-1030; ramen for two $17. Grab a stool and slurp up the house specialtabeteko:kimchi, pork, and sprouts floating in a ginger-laced broth.

Matsu Sushi 1-2-4 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3711-4364; dinner for two $190.You'll find this serene and spare sushi bar hidden behind a rough façade. Go with the omakase (chef's choice) and let someone else make the decisions—you won't be disappointed. After a few cups of cold sake, you won't balk at the bill.

Good Honest Grub1-11-11 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3710-0400; dinner for two $48. Serving a great selection of healthful fare, including vegetarian and vegan dishes, this is the best of the many Western restaurants sprouting up in the neighborhood—always a sign of gentrification in Tokyo.

Pâtisserie Madu3-3-8 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5721-9761; lunch for two $11.Tucked into a small side street, this is one of the first upscale cafés to open in the area. Tarts and pastries are displayed like jewels in a showcase.

After Dark

Café Guest 1-29-9 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/5458-3855. A spare storefront space with an art gallery upstairs, where the area's original bohemians hang out. The light fare includes a passable Caesar salad—though nobody comes here for the food.

Keiru1-13-4 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3770-2218. There's usually a gaggle of models loitering at this wine bar's windowside tables. Don't miss the unexpected shrine across the street.

Spacepunch1-13-5 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3496-2484. A narrow alley of a bar, lit by blue neon, where young trendies congregate. Continue along the length of this tiny street and the one perpendicular to it. Both are lined with izakaya (Japanese tapas) bars, where you can graze on small dishes of sashimi, shredded daikon salad, and yakitori.

The Shops

Hall M3-4-16 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku; 81-3/3719-2466. A wonderful gift and housewares shop with an eclectic mix of handmade pottery, books, and contemporary lacquerware with Pucci-like patterns. Hand-dyed throw pillows are the draw.

Gallery On Collection Tiki (1-9-10 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku, 3711-8678) epitomizes contemporary Japanese design with stone floors, wood slab tables and a changing roster of shows that usually feature utilitarian objects such as carved bowls or handblown glassware. The gallery also operates a traditional teashop.

Time-Space-Art (3-21-1 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, 3400-4440) A narrow post-modern concrete sliver on the outer fringes of the area that specializes in handmade washi and hashi (chopsticks). The most simple set of sticks are shiny enamel, the most outrageous gold with gemstones.

Aise Puis (3-5-7 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya-ku 3791-0231) Ignore the French name, the Japanese-designed women's clothing is a direct descendent of Yohji Yamamoti's. To go with the avant garb, you might choose a hand-made handbag at Michiru Abe (B1F, 1-30-16 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuyu-ku 5489-2544).

Mr. Craft (1-7-4 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, 3461-2689) A five-story toystore catering to all the neighborhood's new families. You'll score big here if you have a Power Ranger fan—there's a whole floor devoted to morphable figures. My son loved the top floor, which has racks and racks of collectible cards. I came home with a British set with images of Mr. Bean.

Ebisu Garden Place (Ebisu 4-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 5423-7111) On the site of the former brewery, this neo-mall promises a "stroll through pleasant open squares and walkways full of greenery." The reality is, unfortunately, a rather unimaginative complex with much more brick than greenery. It does, however, offer many shops and restaurants to recommend it. It's branch of the upscale Mitsukoshi Department Store, (5423-1111) has a housewares department that verges on nirvana. I've spent an afternoon just fingering the pottery. Surrounding the center atrium of the complex are outdoor cafes and food boutiques. There's even an over-the-top Bourbon-style chateau, home to the Tokyo branch of Taillevant (5424-1338), the restaurant. You'll also find a Westin hotel, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, (1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, 3280-0031) with a fine permanent collection that spans from the Meiji restoration to the present.

EBISU MUST-HAVE On weekends, the neighborhood is assaulted by shoppers who come from all over the city in search of the perfect pillows for their sofas at the store called Hall M.

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