Narrow staircase and even narrower door took us into a dark dungeon. A bar, impressive collection of booze and one barman, Yoshihiko Shima, greeted us inside. It’s incredible what you can randomly discover hidden in the nooks and crannies (or in this case, basement) of the sprawling city that is Tokyo. We stumbled upon Ragtime while trying to kill time before our totally disappointing dinner at Gyu-An in Ginza. There was not a soul inside when we walked in, just a jazz music playing in the background and inexplicable intimacy in the air. After a day of strolling along buzzy streets of the metropolis a little peace and quite actually felt appealing. Intrigued, we decided to stay. It felt like we had the entire bar to ourselves, perfect!
I decided to skip the long menu and had Shima-san make decision for me instead. He promptly prepared his favorite drink and presented me with a glass of what tasted like a mixture of lemon, lime and something sweet to balance the zest out. It immediately set the mood for the night.
J went for something stronger – a glass of very smooth cognac which felt like a velvet on the palate. Meanwhile our friends, beer aficionados, could not pass on some mugs of cold beer.
To be honest though, it was not just the drinks that made me want to write this post, but the barman himself. A little shy, yet very curious I could feel his eagerness to make a conversation as he was carving the ice on the side. His English was rusty, but it didn’t hinder him to chat with us. He has been running the business for over two decades and when we got to talk he pulled out a rolled large map under his counter on which he marked where his customers were from. We marked Florida, Massachusetts, and of course I couldn’t pass on pinning my home country – Georgia.
He started telling us how much he loves his craft and talking to his clients, and then showed off his most valuable drinks. He was so enthusiastic, he poured couple of free glasses for J to try sample.
As it was time to leave Shima-san saw us off all the way out with a strong handshake and a very warm smile. Japanese politeness and appreciation for customers was on point as always. Although this time it was something extra… something that warmed my heart on a personal level. That enthusiastic friendly smile of a grey-haired barman. We will certainly come back and I encourage you to stop by and strike a conversation with Shima-san while sipping on one of his custom cocktails.