Published on May 6th, 2011
Tadashi Hidaka had wanted to open his own sports bar long before he hit on the concept. “You wouldn’t eat something sophisticated like French food while you’re watching a soccer match,” he says. “But Mexican food? It’s a natural fit.”
Once (pronounced ohn-say, in the Spanish style) opened in Nakameguro last May, and has so far managed to hold its own in a neighborhood where Mexican food is synonymous with Junkadelic. Rather than attempt to replicate the cantina vibe of its chief rival, Once goes for something a little brasher: lurid yellow walls decorated with soccer paraphernalia, and TVs gushing a constant torrent of sports.
They’ve been tweaking the menu since opening day: the beers are now cheaper, the tequila lineup has expanded, and the food menu has drawn a line in the sand between Mexican and Tex-Mex. The draft beer selection includes Edelpis (¥700) and Guinness (¥550-¥950), but we skip straight to the Mexican bottles and order up a round of Bohemia (¥800).
It isn’t the right time of year for frozen margaritas (¥900), so we inquire about the tequilas and end up with a glass of splendid Reserva del Señor Añejo (¥1,000). Drinkers with an appetite for novelty might appreciate the Reserva del Señor Almendrado (¥600)—almond-flavor tequila that, in a perfect world, would depose Bailey’s as the after-dinner liqueur of choice.
Unusually for a sports bar, the food at Once is actually worth eating. The cactus salad (¥1,200)—spicy marinated seafood served in a taco-shell bowl with strips of nopales on top—gives our tastebuds a good workout, and the vegetable enchilada (¥800/¥1,400) is probably the least healthy thing we’ve eaten all year, but also one of the tastiest.