A Sunday newspaper in my native England used to run a column called “Can you get a table?” in which reporters would call fully-booked high-end restaurants claiming to be representing various celebrities of differing degrees of fame, and see whether they could wrangle a table for that night. A-listers tended to garner responses along the lines of “yes, I think that can be arranged”, while talent show contestants were more likely to be met with apologies and mumbling. Thus, order in celeb-land was successfully maintained.
I was amused and impressed, therefore, to read that there’s a restaurant in Tokyo that can’t even make room for the most powerful man on the planet to have dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister. When Obama met Shinzo Abe last week, Abe took him for world-class sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro. However, sushi wasn’t Abe’s first choice. He wanted to take Obama-san to Tempura Kondo, but the booked-out restaurant turned them down. “Customers with reservations are more important,” the owner is reported to have said. “Even for the President of the United States, I can’t disappoint my customers who already made bookings.”
▼ Owner Mr. Kondo. A very, very busy man.
Image: tami_chan via gurumap
Tempura Kondo, which boasts two Michelin stars, is in Tokyo’s Ginza district, just a few hundred metres away from Sukiyabashi Jiro, the sushi restaurant where the pair ended up dining and which was the subject of acclaimed 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Mr. Kondo is being rather coy about the reservation enquiry he received from the Japanese government, but a friend of his reports that the restaurant had a previous reservation for 90 guests on the day in question. What’s more, the request was for a weeknight. “I can’t very well close my restaurant to prep all day”, Mr. Kondo is said to have explained.
So what did the duo miss out on? A omakase set meal at Tempura Kondo will set you (or the Prime Minister, if he’s paying) back at least 20,000 yen (around US $200). Here are some tasty photos that might just make Obama wish he’d been taken there instead:
▼ Prawn heads. Good enough for a head of state, surely.
▼ If they’d gone here, Obama wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for the fact that Jiro’s serves endangered tuna sushi, either.
▼ And maybe he would’ve eaten more than half of what was on his plate, too.