Sometimes, membership has its privileges, and other times, it just means really cheap booze. In an unassuming gray building a stone’s throw from Gotanda station, this bar makes that clear right from its name, genka, which means “cost price.”
Upon entering, we hand over ¥1,500 to the smiling staff. This will gain us access to a wide menu of drinks priced at cost. It’s not nomihodai, but then, which nomihodai offers up premium single malts and martinis anyway? It’s a busy Thursday and some customers are sent upstairs to the “lounge” area, some to the main floor. Segregated groups of cocktail-sipping ladies and draught beer-slugging guys have their cheap, black jackets thrown over seat backs. It’ll be a salaryman and OL free-for-all if the fire alarm goes off.
We open the large, varied drinks menu, slobbering to see the discounts. We’re not disappointed. So low are the prices, you could work your way through the menu like a book (skipping anything with the words “calorie off” or “cassis”). My partner in crime and I started with a Bass Pale Ale (¥250) and a Guinness (¥300).
Before we’d drained them, we were already flipping to the whiskies. I got a Taketsuru 21-year-old (¥420) and he opted for the Lagavulin 16-year-old (¥300). Other options include Ardbeg (¥210), and some Glens (’Livet and ’Fiddich) for ¥120.
The décor is not much, but what do you expect from a Costco-priced bar? Red paint overwhelmingly adorns the black interior, and the plywood counter seating wouldn’t be out of place at your local tachinomiya. What would be, though, is the cool Frank Sinatra and Edith Piaf crooning out of the speakers. A lively and enthusiastic clientele, younger than the denizens of oyaji-infested the local yakitori joints, only adds to the appeal.
As you loosen your tie and settle in for a third or fourth drink (Dirty vodka martini? Porfidio tequila? Negroni? Each ¥120), it’s time to mull the food options. The speed menu offers prepackaged items liked mixed nuts, potato chips and dried fruits (from ¥90), but others like the Camembert cheese plate (¥300) or salami and olives (¥150) constitute better fare. Other items we devoured were the roast beef plate (with a tasty horseradish sauce—¥300), maguro carpaccio (¥270), and crudités with dip, to feel healthy.
At the end of the night, after meeting the challenge to sample pretty much everything on the drinks menu, we tottered gingerly to the register, where we each doled out another ¥2,500. All told, the evening cost a little under ¥8,000 for the two of us—including entry fee, drinks and food. Don’t be dismayed if you can’t get a seat, Genka Bar fills up fast. It’s hardly surprising.