When I was growing up in Australia, my father loved to take us to the local RSL (Returned and Services League) club. These clubs are most often associated with family dining, cheap drinks and poker machines. As a kid I was oblivious to what gambling was, I was content to play the arcade machines and chug soft drinks on ice.
After getting to the bottom of a glass, all that would remain was the ice. Now usually I or another member of my family would have ordered some variation of fish and chips which would come served with half a lemon. So as a bored kid, I would squeeze the remaining lemon into my glass of ice, pour in some sugar (which was provided for coffee or tea), and make lemonade.
This trick has served me well in overpriced restaurants around the world.
These memories came back to me as I sipped on a particularly sour chuhai at Sour House, the restaurant/bar of Grip Provision in Minami Ikebukuro. Depending on what’s in season, you can get a chuhai made with yuzu, peach, plum or other fruit. Whatever I had (I get confused between Japanese citrus cultivars) made me long for a packet of sugar.
Of course, being in my mid 30’s now and no longer an 8-year-old, I figured it was not the “adult” thing to do.
Not only was I sitting in a stylish restaurant that had only just opened, the whole Grip ethos is founded upon healthy, organic food. Officially known as Grip Provision, on one side of the restaurant is a rack of organic fruits and vegetables, condiments as well as a fridge stocked with cold cuts. The menu obviously features these fresh ingredients, though the style is more izakaya than restaurant due to the small size of the shop. Rather than multiple courses, you get lots of side dishes to accompany your chuuhais.
Wait, I is confused. Is it Sour House or Grip Provision? Is it a bar or is it a restaurant?
The name is Grip Provision but by day its titled Ginger, which sells pork lunch sets, and by night its titled Sour House, which specializes in chuuhais. They also sell Nozy Coffee and cakes from Racine’s down the road.
Just think of it as an upmarket storehouse for quality food and drink.
It’s very intimate. There’s only a U shaped counter, there are no tables, and there’s definitely less than 20 stools in the place. It’s not exactly a bar either, there’s nowhere to stand around and watch sports or movies.
Usually I’d find that very intimidating, but the large glass doors and the classy fit out makes it warm and welcoming. The staff are very friendly and happy to engage in conversation, facilitated by the narrow confines and the counter.
It’s perfect for relaxing after work, whether alone or with company, or as somewhere to go after another engagement.
But bring your own sugar, just in case.