Park Hyatt Hotel
We realized we were within walking distance of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the hotel made famous in Lost In Translation. Having seen that movie more times than I can count, this was a good chance to see the amazing view in person.
Finding it was a little odd. The lobby for it is actually on the 37th floor of the Shinjuku Park Tower building, and takes up the top 14 floors. The top floor is the New York Bar & Grill – the hotel bar used in the movie. After 8pm this bar charges a $20 cover. We stopped by before sunset and were able to enjoy a cocktail before then. I ordered a cocktail with a sake base, optimistic they might do something interesting with it. Unfortunately what came out was a tiny, weak pink drink which I could have finished in a single sip. Marilyn’s was much better, but the $18 drinks prices are justified by the view more than the taste.
An Izakaya Visit – 居酒屋
After stopping by the hotel to change, we headed out for dinner in Shinjuku with Koichi. We were initially thinking about trying a shabu-shabu place, but ended up a izakaya. Izakaya are the equivalent of pubs in the US, but if they had sushi that was on par with a sushi restaurant on the beach.
Drinks here, and at every place we visited were extremely limited. Most places only carry one type of beer – usually Sapporo, Kirin or Asashi. The place we visited was a Sapporo place, but also had some sake and sake cocktails with fresh grapefruit.
Expecting pub fare, we were amazed at the quality and freshness of what we tried. This included a fresh sashimi plate, gyoza, lightly cooked mini octopus, pork skewers, tofu and a tuna bowl. This plus all the beer we could drink was under $30 each. The cost of just the sashimi in the US would’ve been more than that.
Cocktails at Bar Ishinohana
Not wanting to leave Tokyo without trying some classic cocktails, we stopped by Ishino Hana Bar, a small classic cocktail bar in south Shibuya. We’d end up stopping by again the next night with some friends, eventually trying out 7 cocktails between the two of us. Our of those about 3 were amazing – including the Kurosawa, a whiskey cocktail I reordered the next night.
We also stopped by Goodbeer Faucets in the same part of town. This small pub catered more to the English crowd, but had the largest selection of Japanese beers of any place we came across on our trip.
Afterwards we stopped by a Tonkotsu Ramen shop in Harajuku for the fattiest ramen we tried during our stay there. This place was right at the Harajuku Yamanote intersection and amazing. I felt drunk on pork fat after I left.
A Traditional Japanese Dinner
Following our amazing Ghibli museum visit, we stopped Bar Ishinohana for another drink before heading to Shibuya for a traditional Japanese dinner with friends. This was the first restaurant we visited where we needed to take off our shoes as well.
You know those restaurants where you need to sit Japanese style on the floor rather than in chairs? This was one of those. To our surprise, most places that offer this style of seating have a pit under the table for your legs should you want to sit with them down. Secrets were reveled that night!
The food and drinks were also amazing, albeit in small portions. They did have a wide sake menu there and offered a tasting of 3 different sakes at a reasonable price. We decided to just order 4 tasting all with different sakes and try them all. If you can try 12 different sakes in one night, do it.
We’d heard good things about the Ginza district, and knew we wanted to at least walk around the area some. We decided to take it a little easy on this day to recover from our late-night sake fest, and attempted to stay out of the rain.
We headed to Nihonbashi Yukari for an early lunch, a restaurant on the north side of the Ginza district, by a chef what won multiple times as a challenger on Iron Chef including the 2002 tournament. The restaurant has opted out of the Michelin program, although many think it would well be deserving of a star or two. We scheduled our reservation through the very helpful concierge at our hotel and when we walked through the door, wondering if I was in the correct place, all I heard was “Adam-san!?”.
The meal was delicious – and one of the more memorable meals outside of our ryokan. An egg custard appetizer, followed by a sashimi and tempura (or pork belly) main plate, accompanied by soup and followed by a house made ice cream. Not a bad lunch at $30.00.