Salsa Street and Caribbean eating in Tokyo

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Mexican tacosAs the weather heats up in the city, what better way is there to celebrate the summer steam than with Salsa Street, the Caribbean and Latin American festival in Yoyogi park on June 20 and 21, 2015. There will be food and drinks – tacos, cerveza, rum – from all over the region, as well as handicrafts and trinkets which add a little Latin spice to your home.

However, if you are unable to make it to the Shibuya park that weekend but still have a hankering for some Latin ‘comida’, why not check out one of these great restaurants.

Aalawi

While there is some question as to whether Jamaica “counts” as Latin American, it is definitely in the neighbor hood and this is a fantastic restaurant so we are going for it!  Owner and chef Toshiyuki Ibayashi of Aalawi (named after a patios phrase meaning ‘all of us’) spent a year knocking around Jamaica eating from the street stalls.

Having found his muse, he retuned to Tokyo with a love for the island food and an amazing recipe for charcoal grilled jerk chicken. The restaurant itself is as unpretentious and laidback as you would expect for Jamaica, with a little bit of muralisation and Irie FM to let you know where you are. If still in any doubt, you would be quickly reminded by the steady supply of Red Stripe beer, rice and peas, ackee, and salt fish.

Ahi Nama

Just a short stroll from Asakasamitsuke station, Ahi Nama is a bright and lively Cuban bar and restaurant that goes late into the night. While the name means ‘to have reached the best’, this is not reflected in the price. The lunch menu in particular is great value for money: four options all for 900 JPY or under.

The dinner menu is more expensive, with sausages, beef and pork on skewers, various Cuban style sandwiches, all kinds of tostadas, and quesadillas and rum steamed shrimps. Speaking of rum, there is a wide Cuban rum selection to enjoy while you dance the night away. Can’t salsa? Well, why not join one of their free 20 minute salsa classes?

Bepocah Cocina Peruana

Just 8 minutes’ walk from Harajuku station, Bepocah Cocina Peruana takes Peruvian cuisine and adapts it for the Japanese taste. There are no panpipes or stuffed llamas here, instead there is stylish elegance with undernoted lighting.

The food, however, is just as it should be, with a menu that is more extensive than you would expect. There are more than half a dozen of ceviche varieties (Peru’s national dish), and plenty others. If you want a Peruvian drink with a bit of a kick, try the Pisco shots. Although if it’s your first time on the Peruvian brandy, some like to dilute it. A Pisco sour is a great little cocktail.

Hacienda del Cielo Modern Mexicana

Hacienda del Cielo is an elegant 9th floor restaurant with a spectacular roof top for a special dining experience, even more so with beautiful weather. The etymology behind the restaurant name is ‘place in the sky’.

Of course the menu has the regular array of tacos, enchiladas and the like, but there are a few intriguing surprises too. The rosbif y higos (roast beef and figs) and the pork spare ribs are particularly tasty. Want a refreshing drink with the meal? Grab yourself a Coronarita (frozen beer cocktail), a sangria, or a spicy tomato mojito.

Mark Guthrie

Photo: flickr.com "Mexican Tacos" by Luca Nebuloni (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified

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