By David Labi
For a crystallization of post-hippy bourgeois-bohemian cool, swan through the plant-flanked door of this street-level bar located a few minutes eastward from Golden Gai. Elevated prices stem perhaps from its astounding location on Yasukuni Dori, in a zone of mostly upper-floor cubbyholes accessible via a beat-up elevator. A cover charge of ¥500, plus an additional 10% service charge after 10pm might stop this being a regular hangout. Still, excellent cocktails and food make Phonic Hoop a prime date spot or somewhere to impress, and a decent nomihodai deal (2 hours/¥2,300, cover charge included) makes it worthwhile for groups of four or more.
Situated in the iconic 2 Sky Building, built by Metabolist architect Yoji Watanabe in 1970, Phonic Hoop was founded in December 2008 (when the building was renovated) and aims to fit with the atmosphere of its hallowed bricks. The place feels like a souped-up yurt from Glastonbury Festival, or a Joshua Tree ranch café founded by enlightened folk who shed their shackles in the ’60s before studying design in New York. A staircase leads you down into a basement decked out with Singer sewing machines, comfortable armchairs, hanging chimes and other oddities. The distinctive soundtrack is trippy and synthy. It would make a good nesting place to come to consciousness after a rendezvous with your spirit animal.
Phonic Hoop offers an eclectic menu of assorted dishes, an extensive hot and cold beverage and cocktail list, daily home-baked cakes, and is open for dinner every day except Monday, and for lunch on weekends. But this reviewer loves it more as a quiet cocktail place, somewhere to sink into one of the basement couches and knock gently on the doors of perception.
Speaking of cocktails (from ¥800), numerous exotic ones are available alongside all the classics. The acid test was the standard mojito (¥1,200) and it was the best I’ve had in Japan—bursting with the requisite abundance of fresh mint, and without a kilo of sugar. Yes.
The Pizza Margherita (¥1,200) was freshly hot and delicious, though Japanese pizza-sized. The French fries with sour cream and sweet chili (¥580) were gastropub-style fat and juicy. Other dishes tempted, like the roast beef (¥1,200), as did the idea of coming in the afternoon for freshly-baked cake (from ¥600).
It’s trendy, and the various additional charges irksome. But if you can deal with all that, Phonic Hoop, with its bohemian whispers in crepuscular coves, could become your versatile spiritual home in an unbeatable location.
[Menu] Menu in English
[Price] Cocktails from ¥800, Food from ¥600, All-you-can-drink (two hours) for ¥2,300
[Smoking] Entirely nonsmoking
[Seats] Grab a couch in the basement