by Kumiko Matsudo 

THE SHIROGANE area is still one of the nicest places in Tokyo a man can take a woman. That’s because there are so many oh-so-good restaurants. It’s a classy area, with none of the riff-raff that seems to have taken over Roppongi since the bubble collapsed.

But Shirogane isn’t the best place to meet someone for a date. It feels strange to wait there in a bar or coffee shop, all dressed up, with no place (as yet) to go until your date shows up.

That’s why I always have my date meet me at the M Bar in the Miyako Hotel Tokyo; a fine hotel with elegant places to wait. While it used to be a little out of the way — you’d usually have to take the final stretch in a taxi — thanks to the opening of the Namboku Subway Line the Miyako is a lot easier to get to in one piece (it’s close to Shiroganedai Station).

What’s so good about the M Bar is hard to sum up in a word. I like the interior, which suggests Singapore in the good old days — a meeting of East and West but not the dirty swirl of excitement that was Hong Kong. It’s also a little bit like the warm, dark bars of old Ginza, which are now almost gone. The service is topnotch, and the customers all very well behaved.

Along with the old is something new. In this case, it is a new collection of sho-chu, a Japanese spirit that used to be considered cheap and almost undrinkable, but is now the height of boozy fashion. I heard they will have 71 kinds by the beginning of February. Almost as trendy are cigars, apparently, and they will soon stock 32 brands. While I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, and what it does to my hair and clothes, for some reason I adore the smell of cigar around men, but not too much, mind you.

Despite all the choices they have, I always seem to order the same thing. And that’s their original version of a Cosmopolitan, made with Ketel One, a very smooth and satisfying vodka. They also make a mean Mojito, but unless it’s the middle of summer, the mint and rum and sugar are all a bit much for me.

As you relax in the warmth and dark splendor of the M Bar, you and your date can plan your assault on one of the great restaurants on Shirogane street, particularly when there’s a new place you want to try. That’s what I always like to do.

The M Bar (Miyako Hotel Tokyo, B1)
1-1-50 Shirogane, Minato-ku
Tel. 0120-95-6638 (toll free)
Daily 5pm-midnight

Later, at one of the stylish restaurants nearby in Shirogane.

M’s original Cosmopolitan, made with Ketel One vodka, ¥1,365. He may prefer a Mojito, which they also make well, ¥1,470.

At the bar, so you can tell the bartender just how you want your drink.

Figure ¥3,000 for each round of drinks for two.

Nicely dressed people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Everyone is nice.