If it’s good enough for the country’s elite, we deign to try its surprisingly reasonable offerings.
On the 27th of February, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gathered top reporters from a number of media organisations for a meeting over a meal (presumably our invitation was lost in the post). While we don’t know what was said at the meeting of minds, it got us to thinking about what sort of restaurant the country’s luminaries would frequent, and if we lowly commoners would be able to afford even the cheapest thing on the menu. Off we set to find out and, as it turns out, yes, we can afford it.
Far from the media elite’s restaurant of choice being in a dormant volcano or inside a skull-shaped cave, the outside of the building was unexpectedly normal.
▼ The restaurant itself, Akasaka Hanten, is located on the 3rd and 4th floors
We rode the elevator up to the restaurants, the doors opened slowly with the weight of expectation, and we saw… nothing special, just a perfectly normal restaurant. We ventured inside. No one stopped us at the door, even immediately identifiable as the hoi polloi we were.
Inside we found a reasonably small area with seating for about 30, and a separate private room. A reservation didn’t seem necessary, at least when we went. What of the food? Surely we would need to re-mortgage our homes and sell our loved ones to dine on gilt swan embryos or the like. According to the staff, the most popular lunch time dishes are hoikoro (twice-cooked Szechuan pork), mabo dofu (tofu in a spicy sauce) and tantanmen (similar to ramen but in a spicy, sesame-based soup). And the price? The lunchtime set dishes are all a mundanely reasonable 1,000 yen (US$8.85).
In the interests of quality journalism we decided to order not one, but two lunch sets. The hoikoro and mabo dofu were promptly delivered to our table. First to arrive was the hoikoro, the cabbage gleaming with delicious oil and meat juices, and covered in miso. After a mouthful we quickly confirmed that the taste was the classic miso tang that we know and love.
Next up, the mabo dofu. The portion of minced meat and tofu was impressive and had a pleasant spiciness. Personally speaking, we found the mabo dofu to be the slightly better of the two dishes.
But, being a lunch set, the price also included rice, soup, salad and dessert. Clearly Prime Minister Abe had the country’s economy firmly in mind when choosing where to go for the most bang for his buck, displaying admirable frugality for a politician.
Akasaka Hanten / 赤坂飯店
Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka 3-10-1 Taisuikaku building 3,4F
東京都港区赤坂3-10-1 対翠館ビル ３Ｆ・４Ｆ
Open: 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m. (closed Sundays)
[ Read in Japanese ]