Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ninja in New York...


A couple of years ago my friend J introduced me to a restaurant called Ninja, in the Akasaka Tokyu Plaza hotel. He didn't actually take me there, though, so it wasn't that easy to find, and was rather unobtrusively designed. I went there twice, both times with my son, and he liked it. In fact, last year we went there for his birthday. I didn't have such a good memory of that, as there was a massive earthquake that levelled big parts of Niigata, and shook the hell out of Tokyo. The restaurant is supposed to resemble the dark caves Ninja were rumoured to live in, and being in that atmosphere in an earthquake caused some claustrophobia even in a non-claustrophobic such as myself.
Apparently the restaurant has opened a New York branch. They got reviewed in the New York Times, and I read with some interest the review. Admittedly it was a hokey thing, with a bunch of young wannabe actors playing Ninja roles for diners. The location in Tokyo, however, actually means that a fair number of people in the entertainment world actually patronise the place, and an outstanding Ninja could get noticed, I guess...
Theme restaurants are basically unknown in Japan: No Farrells Ice Cream (do they even have those in the U.S. anymore?), no Chuck E. Cheese, no Rainforest Cafe. So the kind of places that you can take a kid for a birthday party and that are actually fun are rather limited. I will actually say that in our town, the McDonald playland is as good as it gets.
The Ninja restaurant was slightly expensive by Tokyo standards, but not overwhelmingly so. The Ninja were not world class magicians, but they weren't bad. The food was not superlative but it was pretty good, and they did some fun things with dry ice and smoke. Most of all, my son had a good time, which is want you want for a kid's birthday. Even my wife was happy, no mean feat. It is probably not the sort of place that I would take a restaurant critic to, because I would worry that they are too cranky to appreciate the fun parts. And, in comparison to some of the themed resaturants in the U.S., Ninja is a little immature. I think that was the case with the NYT critic. For my part, I give the Tokyo restaurant three smilies out of five. ☻☻☻☺☺

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