Malt Cats – Numazu
Some of the best places in Japan are the hardest to find. Or maybe it is just the pleasant little sense of satisfaction that you get when you find one of these gems that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. But up dark ominous stairs, down shabby alleys and in nondescript buildings are some places far beyond the little bag of powder or another bout of crabs. When a friend guides you in this direction you are especially hoping it is not for the latter.
Last weekend’s bender resulted in a friends suggestion that we take our respective wives to dinner at AiAi followed by a game of pool. My friend led us to the south side of Numazu near the train station and suddenly veered left down a narrow alley that merged into a building. Ooh an adventure, I thought. We took a lift to the second floor and were met by muffled singing and a sole wooden rocking chair that was guiltily resting by the door. Through the door was the ‘Malt Cats’.
For some reason adding ‘Cat’ to the title of your restaurant, bar or café is the thing to do in this country. Perhaps it’s some vintage 70’s slang spending its twilight years in the nights of Japan.
Entering Malt Cats you are greeted by an illuminated bar that stands as an oasis for the thirsty amidst the subdued warm drop lighting. The bar space is split into two seating areas one around the side of the bar and the other directly across the bar and raised providing some clever depth to the place. What is most striking about the seating is the open spaces between communal gatherings of mish mashed couches. This creates a nice little level of intimacy for your party without feeling isolated from the general vibe of the bar. An open space such as this is so different from the usual cramped confines of what I am used to in Japan but may feel warmly familiar to what you might experience back in your own country.
Illuminated in competition to the bar is the pool table with, again, the perfect amount of space to play. The table is in pristine condition far distant to its sorely abused cousins in Australian pubs. My friends and I played a few games of pool, intentionally missing shot’s, pocketing the white ball every second shot and in one case acting like it was our first time playing.
Yes, I think I will stick the word ‘intentionally’ merely to rescue the last dregs of self-esteem that we all left behind on the table. Well at least one of us had a choice. It was actually her first time.
Our little group noticed some board games on the wall and we settled down to a couple of rounds of Jenga over a few beers.
Drinks were a little pricy starting at 800yen for beers with the obligatory surcharge for a few nibblies that gets the establishment out of paying a liquor license. The staff were friendly and a couple of them were even trying to use a bit of English which was very kind.
My friend tells me that the Malt Cats can get packed easily and the pool table is often difficult to get on but this is definitely an excellent bar well worth many return trips in the future. I hope to see you there – if you can find it
English Menu: sorry no English and no pictures but with the open bar you can do a bit of pointing and gesture.
Gaijin Friendly: Yup very. The seemed delighted to have us there. Very sweet.
Costs: Beers start around 800yen
Directions: South side of Numazu Station heading towards the library.