Jul 27, 2012
Francesco Agresti

Piano Bar My Scotch

By Jeff W. Richards

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and sometimes…not so much. Amidst all the glamour and clamor of the Roppongi streets, sometimes you just want a small bar that serves straightforward standards and doesn’t try to be your best friend—a place where it is comfortable to not talk, where you can eschew the editorial “we.” With most enticing street level signage ushering you into a land of cover charges, pricing systems and surcharges it’s easy to become cynical, and you can be forgiven for taking the words “happy hour” with a grain of salt.

I walked into Piano Bar My Scotch out of desperation, or maybe reluctance. I had all but given up on finding a local watering hole that met my simple requirements: a decent whisky selection, not too big or bright, no overly friendly bar staff, no cover—and not a dive. Outside, its menu of single-malts was simple enough, with a smattering of foods, the inclusion of tinkling ivories, and a clearly marked “Happy Hour” boasting whisky from ¥500. So it was with a sigh of reservation and a quick peek into my wallet that I ventured downstairs to the B1 level to see if My Scotch could live up to its name.

The bar is, in fact, on the top floor. Next to some “ladies bar”. Shady, I thought. Though that didn’t stop me from appreciating the four well-dressed gals that jumped into the lift after me and let me push their buttons. The small eighth floor bar offered me no loud “irrashimasei!”—only a handful of patrons keenly savoring some drinks and conversation. I sat at the bar and immediately appreciated the open windows looking out over the Ritz Carlton and Midtown. The night breezed in cool and surprisingly clean as I surveyed the medium-sized but carefully selected range of single malts, blends, bourbons and sour mash, along with cognac, liqueur and other spirit standards perched along the shelves. The master asked after my drink.

“Is it still happy hour?”

With that he set down the menu, whisky first. As a Speyside lover, I jumped straight for a favorite: The Balvenie 12 Year Double Wood, rarely found at bar counters for a single coin. As the barman readied the traditional handcrafted ball of ice, he rattled off other specials. Most basic whiskies remain ¥500 until happy hour ends at 8pm, with vintage bottling available at about half their normal price during the same time.

The light, inoffensive music included ’70s soft pop standards, mellow jazz and the occasional contemporary dance mix. They were tuned into a low-key eclectic USEN channel, but a flirtatious meet-up or business discussion could easily be had over the soundtrack. Or it could be tuned out altogether as you stare at your drink.

Savoring The Balvenie, it was pleasant not to be in a typical Roppongi cubbyhole buried down on the B1 and strangled by smoke. The open windows, skyline views and the ice cracking in my glass had me content. Other patrons enjoyed premium highballs, well made by the craftsmen behind the bar. No hard shake of cocktails disrupted the peace as I sat there. Rather, gin-and-tonics, bottles of red wine, and a Yamazaki 12 Year highball were the orders of the evening. At 7:30pm, the live piano Billy Joel effect began (if Billy Joel were a Japanese woman vamping to the fade out of “Lady Marmalade” before comping her way into jazz seventh chords). Cue music, cue the last 30 minutes of happy hour.

I moved on to another Speyside malt, the Glenfarclas 17 Year Old, on offer for ¥600. Its straight-ahead malt with citrus spicy punch was not as reassuring, so I opted for a more dependable choice: the subtle smoke, dried fruits and toffee of The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Wood for a mere ¥700.

The kitchen sent out a variety of handmade pizzas (from ¥1,400), pasta (from ¥1,000) and other nibbles to customers dining in the bar. Booth seating lines the back wall with some small tables and bolsters, making it easy to sit with a big group, or cuddle up in relative secrecy hidden from a street-level view. A cozy circular booth sits center stage offering no place to hide but a splendid view of the Roland keyboard.

My Scotch is small, slightly out of your way and welcoming without being intruding. It has a ¥1,000 music/cover charge most nights, but from 6-8pm I might well have found my office away from the office.


[Menu] Menu in Japanese

[Price] Most drinks from ¥900; during happy hour 6-8pm from ¥500

[Smoking] No nonsmoking seats

[Seats] Sit at the bar for nightlight view


7-18-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-3402-6649
Open: Mon-Sat 6pm-5am, Sun & hols 5pm-12am
Nearest stn: Roppongi, exit 2

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