By Mark Guthrie
Nagoya has a pretty decent pub culture. You’ve got British pubs, Irish pubs and sports bars all over the city, at all of which you can have a great night out. If there was one complaint, it’s that most of these places are theme bars meaning that they have a tendency towards sameness. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but sometimes you want to go to a pub that has more of its own character.
Coat of Arms in Fushimi has a style of its own. Ostensibly, thanks to its owners being from New Zealand and Canada, it’s promoted as a Commonwealth Pub, taking the foods and cultures from those nations with connections to the British Empire, which makes it stand out somewhat from the other pubs around town. However, recently they have branched out into an area that marks them out as one of a kind, something that offers you something different pretty much every night of the week.
Coat of Arms are best known in these parts for their amazing poutine, the Quebecois specialty of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. If you didn’t know that, well that is definitely where you should start as Canadian friends of mine rave about it. Other dishes Coat of Arms is famed for are their huge King’s burgers and their quesadillas, the latter of which doesn’t exactly come from the commonwealth, but still bloody tasty.
But as I said, Coat of Arms is striving to provide an antithesis to the same-old-same-old culture of other pubs, so as well as their regular menu they bring out new dishes every three months. On top of that they have a ‘monthly special’, meaning that there is always something new that you can try out.
It’s not just their food that provides variety, but their drinks menu does so too. This is thanks to new barman Nori, a virtuoso bartender who learned his trade in the upmarket, über-posh bars of Ginza.
One of Nori’s specialities is his fruit cocktails where customers can choose from a basket of fresh seasonal fruit (watermelon is popular right now, but the Muscat grapes are on their way and winter will bring strawberries), a base spirit, and a style of drink, and Nori san will whip one up for you. If you aren’t sure what you want, just point to a fruit, tell your friendly barman what you like, and he will make something fantastic to suit your taste. In fact this doesn’t just go for the fruit specialities. Let Nori know what mood you are in and watch him do his magic, and as he does so, think about how much it would cost you for the same privilege in Ginza!
If I were to recommend a day to sample Nori’s talents it would be Coat of Arms’ busiest nights, Thursday and Friday. It’s these evenings that, when the office workers head out to celebrate the end of a long, hard week, the pub fills with locals who are quite often in the mood to chat. This means that, as you sit at the bar enjoying your world-class cocktail or bottle of craft beer (they have an extensive selection of Black Isle beers from Scotland), it’s a great opportunity to practice your language skills and make new Japanese friends.
If you are looking for a quieter night, somewhere to go for dinner and drinks with friends or family, then Saturday is perfect at Coat of Arms. Being just outside of the main Sakae drag means that you are unlikely to be accosted by the usual chain smokers (smoking is only allowed on the terrace), hoards of drunken revelers and nanpa pick-up artists.
Mind you, things get pretty busy when sports events are going on. Coat of Arms is well known for its promotion of various sports, in particular soccer (the nights when the Japanese national team play tend to be packed, so it pays to make reservations), rugby and UFC, all of which can be seen from one of their six TV screens. On particularly busy nights things will spill upstairs where there are three more screens.
If you had a heavy Saturday night, then Sunday is a day of rest, but again that’s a good time to go to Coat of Arms as they open at 11:30. Then you can have a nice Sunday lunch and, should you require the hair of the dog, take advantage of the happy hour that runs all day (as it does on every day of the week) from opening until 7pm. ¥400 for a beer, a glass of wine or the cocktail of the day is a cracking deal.
They are closed on Mondays, but if you pop by on Tuesdays or Wednesdays you can find that Coat of Arms has something different yet again. Manager Luis, you see, is a bit of a film buff, and he and Nori have a huge collection of movies, and on the traditionally quieter nights of the week they invite their customers to select a movie to watch as they relax with a drink and a bite to eat. And then another movie. And then another, if you so wish.
So why keep doing the same old thing, going to the same places, each indistinguishable from the other? Instead, with an ever-evolving food choices, a top-notch barman and something different always going on, why not head to a place that breaks from the norm on virtually every night of the week? Whoever said that ‘variety is the spice of life’ quite possibly had Coat of Arms in mind.
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