Mark Guthrie goes back to The Cerveza and finds they’ve upped their game
Moving into a new home is always fraught with potential problems. Is the new place going to suit your needs? Are your roommates going to be dicks? Is your new neighbourhood so dodgy that you have to walk home with your front door keys bunched in your hand with one protruding between your knuckles, ready for attack? Well I recently made the plunge myself, moving into a new place of my own, and I am pleased to report that I couldn’t be happier. My apartment is gorgeous with an immense rooftop veranda; my roommate is my delightful girlfriend; and my neighbourhood is the brilliant area of Endoji.
Oh, you don’t know the up-and-coming area of Endoji? Let me fill you in. Lying just north of Nagoya Station, in the coolness/hipsterish stakes it is perhaps only rivalled in Nagoya by Osu. It has sake standing bars, which nestle glass to antique with funky bric-a-brac stores, has a wide array of cool cafes (including a dog café) and an eclectic array of independent restaurants. But the pick of the bunch is Mexican fusion restaurant The Cerveza.
‘Ah’, some of you are perhaps saying, ‘The Cerveza? I went there when it first opened and the service was so slow that I walked out.’ Now, I know you are thinking that, not because I am psychic and can read your mind through this page, but because I have friends who said just that. In fact on my first visit I found the service was kind of on the slow side, though I can honestly say that it made the evening a rather pleasant, slow-paced event during which my friends and I picked at our food, got casually drunk and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. But had we turned up starving hungry? Maybe we would have thought differently.
This is something that I first broached with Ban, owner of both The Cerveza and nearby burger restaurant The Corner when I met with him recently. “When we first opened, we didn’t have our operation worked out too well,” he admitted. “It took us a while to sort it out, which is why we have brought in our new bar manager, Kishimoto-kun to sort it out.”
Kishimoto has brought with him his experience of managing The Corner and as well as redressing the service issue he is also ringing in the changes to the menu. The first is the evolution of their signature roast chicken dish. This now takes on the name of Chipotle Chicken, and having been marinated for 24 hours in a spice and tequila mix, it is cooked in their rotisserie oven creating a juicy, tangy, sensational chicken experience.
But that is just the start of the swingeing changes that Kishimoto has brought. Perhaps the most exciting is the new lunch service from this spring. Open from 11:30 am to 3pm daily they will be offering four choices: burritos, tacos, taco rice and – the one I am most looking forward to – the Azteca Burger.
Leaning on their Corner connections, the Azteca Burger will be the same famous burger patty and bun as their sister restaurant, but will be topped with steak, salsa, and jalapeno butter and come with sides of inca no mezame potato fries (a famous Hokkaido potato in case you, like me, made the Aztec and Inca connection) and cactus. Yes, cactus. Now, I am yet to sample this new dish as I was unfortunate to arrive before the new menu hits the streets, but having been a more than frequent customer of The Corner, and seeing the promotional photos, I can’t wait. So far, so food, right? Well, when I asked Kishimoto what his recommendations were I was expecting him to bring up the tacos, the nachos or the fajitas (more on which to come), but instead, his eyes lighting up, he dragged me over to the beer fridge which now stocks a wide range of Japanese craft beers including Shiga Kogen from the mountains, Shonan beer from the beach and the divine Hitchitano Nest, and soon they will be serving the excellent Yona Yona Ale on draft, which is not something you see in many places. But this being a Mexican restaurant they now stock a wide range of the Cerveza De los Muertos Mexican craft beers, my favourite being the Hop On Or Die American IPA. And of course they have an extensive and ever-improving stock of 100% agave premium tequilas including Don Julio, Patrón and Casa Noble, and they still serve their tower frozen margaritas, the latter of which has got me into a bit of drunkennes on a couple of occasions.
If a tipple is what you are after, you can do worse than heading down for happy hour – a post-work friendly Monday to Saturday between 5:30 and 7:30 – when Heartland beer, Hard Cider and cocktails are 50% off, and whether you are in for dinner or just a quick drink, you get an unlimited refill of tortilla chips and salsa to snack on.
Speaking of which, back to the food. Earlier I mentioned fajitas because that is what I always order when I go to The Cerveza – I’m a glutton for the stuff – but my problem has always been which to choose: the pork, the chicken, the beef or the lamb. But the fajita is another dish that has seen a revamp, with a fifth option now on the menu: the mixed fajita, a sizzling hot plate of all the best cuts of each of the above meat. If you can’t make up your mind, you don’t have to, you can get all four. So, whether or not you are in the slightest bit jealous of my new palatial apartment with my beautiful girlfriend, you can at least check out my new neighbourhood, and in it this modern Mexican resort of a restaurant. You can take it easy with friends or get up and dance to the salsa beat, and share in some of my good fortune. And maybe you’ll see me there. I’ll be the one dancing terribly with a bottle of craft beer in one hand, a tall strawberry margarita in the other, and a smear of salsa and fajita sauce only partially masking the blissful smile on my face.
2-19-25 Nagono, Nishi-ku
17:30~24:00 Closed Sun
Happy Hour 17:30~19:30
Tel: (052) 462-9003