Tag Archives: different

Cinematic Japanese Food

Have you seen Kill Bill?

Remember the restaurant that housed the big fight scene when Uma Thurman killed all those guys?

Did you know that is based on a real restaurant in Tokyo?

This is how many conversations begin, which culminate in a trip to Gonpachi. As one of the most well-known Tokyo establishments, Gonpachi offers a casually minimal, though consistently adequate foray into non-sushi Japanese cuisine. Of course, they have a sushi bar as well, though the real draw here is the atmosphere.  Gonpachi, run by the massive restaurant company Global Dining, has locations in Ginza, Shibuya, and Odaiba as well, in addition to Fukuoka and Bevery Hills (!) but any Tokyoite can tell you that the one to wow visitors with is the Nishi-Azabu branch.

The soba is not only homemade, but arrivers can watch chefs knead the soba dough through big pane windows. The tempura is perfect, as are some of the “grilled things-on-sticks”. We recommend the duck with wasabi, the toro (bluefin tuna belly), the foie gras, and especially the Gindara, a stupendous black cod glazed with miso and grilled so the consistency is soft and flakes off into bite-size morsels like sea bass. Everytime I’m there, I ponder just asking for 10 orders of gindara.

The drink menu is not only extensive and covers all the basics, but they threw in a few interesting cocktails to wow your parents. The dessert menu was created by Stephane Vieux, which means the presentation always competes with the combinations of tastes; for an unforgetable end to your Japanese barn dinner, indulge in a Warm Chocolate Cake & Sesame Ice Cream or the Kuzumochi & Kinako Ice Cream with Black Sugar Syrup.

Ok, I need to admit something. Almost all my Japanese friends hate this place. Seriously. To them, this is not fine dining, barely Japanese food, and overpriced stereotyped Lonely Planet fodder. I don’t necessarily disagree in premise, it is after all, a big wooden barn decorated to look like a Japanese restaurant on a movie soundstage. Although for visitors, Gonpachi may just fullfill the basic Japanese sterotypical dishes which are so often lost in the modern Tokyo of nouvelle and fusion. This is the kind of restaurant that your family will write group emails to their middle-aged European friends about. Just ask Quentin Tarantino.

Gonpachi

03-5771-0170

1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031

http://www.gonpachi.jp

Where NOT to eat before the Tokyo Marathon

If you walk out of this restaurant, and you haven’t loosened your belt, you haven’t truly had a Shamaim experience. Meaning “from the sky” in Hebrew, Tokyo’s premier Israeli restaurant serves up nonstop rich flavorful plates of everything from the familiar falafel, breaded steak, fried chicken and hummus to the rarer spicy carrots, garlicy tahini, tomato soup and basmati rice with lentils. Their all-you-can-eat set is incredible and diverse and even my friends who are *gasp* picky eaters, still find enough to satiate even their most tumultuous hunger.

Years ago, as legend goes, when Shamaim was merely an Israeli bar, the owner made falafel once a week. The demands for his falafel were so frequent that eventually the logical thing to do was open a full restaurant. The only complaint I could ever have with Shamaim is that the food is heavy, so heavy; walking home from Ekoda after a Shamaim visit is like lugging a suitcase through Shinjuku during rush hour. But alas, this is perhaps my own fault. An added treat for when you need some non-Japanese food and culture, is the bellydancing performances on Friday nights. Sure to bring out the hava-negila in your tastebuds.

Ekoda station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line.

Exit and turn right, pass McDonalds, then turn right at the T in the road. It’ll be 10 seconds down on your left. Second Floor.

Ethiopian Tumeric in Naka-Meguro

Goat Kebabs

Monkey fur, Zebra skin, jaguar, goat, and cow hide were draped around the periphery of the modified commercial basement and for a minute I felt like I wasn’t in the form-fitted establishments of minimalist-design-obsessed Japan. Ethiopian/Eritrean food was one of my reliable favs back in Berkeley/San Francisco and finding it delish and authentic in the middle of Naka-Meguro really made my January.
Mesob Set We went with the Mesob set course and although we were avid eaters, after African samosas, mango daiquiris, a bottle of honey wine, a cassis martini, wild goat and chicken kebabs, and somehow french fries?, we were barely unable to finish the main event: Injera (Ethiopian spongey bread) loaded with various lentil, lamb, and chicken dishes.
I’d go back there every week if my stomach, tastebuds, and wallet could handle it. It’s like an explosion in your mouth with a tumeric soundtrack spinning spicily sauntering sauteed chili pepper alliteration.

Oh! And they play reggae too!

Queen of Sheba comes highly recommended, and would make a great impressive date or a novel group outing. A bit pricey, especially with honey wine and interesting Ethiopian cocktails, but well worth the adventure.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. 1-3-1 NakaMeguro. Meguro-ku. Tokyo JP, 153-0061. Japan. Phone +81 (0)3 3794 1801. http://www.queensheba.jp