Girl & Guy Guide
by Dan Riney & Gia Payne
When I told a friend I had to go to a place called Tableaux Lounge in Daikanyama, he suggested I find a nearby pub and nip off for quick pints during trips to the “bathroom.” I scouted out the perfect place about one block from Tableaux.
But I did consider calling the night off on two occasions before Gia and I even got there.
The first was just before leaving home. I read a Tableaux review that suggested dressing for “opening night.” Now, I’m perfectly willing to break out of my shot-and-beer comfort zone for a little culture every now and again, but there’s no way I’m going to wear a suit and tie on a night out. A nasty showdown with Gia looked imminent.
Luckily, it didn’t come to that. I called the lounge, and they assured me the formalwear suggestion applied to their restaurant only. The lounge itself welcomed all and sundry.
I wasn’t out of the woods yet, though. Gia had over-shopped in Shibuya, which meant she didn’t have enough time to come home and change, so I would have to find and deliver her clothes. This was a first for both of us, and I knew it could have long-term repercussions on our relation ship. So not only did I listen closely, for a change, but I also wrote down everything and called her back twice to make sure I had it right.
I was feeling pretty good about myself on my way to meet her in Shibuya. I had located and packed her orange batik, white knee-highs, white button-up shirt and loafers.
Or so I thought. How was I supposed to know that batik is not a paisley-print skirt but rather a fabric for sarongs? Or that she was talking about the clean white shirt and not the dirty one? (And didn’t knee-highs go out with Dr. J?)
But ignorance was no excuse. She was ornery, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was inches away from suggesting we try again another night, but I decided to stick it out.
Then we got to Tableaux. My god, if I had any idea of the effect a nice jazz lounge has on a woman, I could have saved myself untold grief over the years.
Tableaux wore on me fairly well, too. I scanned the taps upon entering and was delighted to find one of my favorite Japanese microbrews, Yona Yona, on draft. And their menu contained a cigar selection that Fidel Gastro would envy…with smoking times to boot. I settled on a Monte Crista No. 5 (35 minutes).
Just when I started to feel as if I wasn’t in Tokyo any more, they broke out with that most delightful of Japanese dining accompaniments—the oshibori (hot cotton towel). We were both instantly mellowed.
There were some minor flaws. When the waiter forgot to deliver my cigar, I wondered if the smoking times were actually delivery times. And the olive plate was a bit skimpy.
Still, where else in Tokyo can you get such top-notch service and live music with only a ¥1,000 cover charge? And a pub just down the street.
Dan and I first heard Pamela MacCarthy sing in a difficult and tender moment. The opening went something like, “There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy.” A tear slid down my cheek and Dan squeezed my hand. That was last December. Many loyal Weekenders were in the audience that damp, snowy afternoon. The boy Pamela sang about was Corky Alexander. The occasion was his funeral.
In spite of my tears, Pamela bowled me over. When the opportunity came to hear her perform in Daikanyama, I jumped at the chance a) to enjoy live jazz and b) to explore the nether regions of Dan’s wardrobe. I wondered what gems slumbered among the dusty garments hanging just beyond those worn-out jeans too snug in the waist and all those shirts and slacks with permanent hanger marks from years of disuse and neglect.
As it turns out, I was the lone villager in fashion-faux pas-land due to circumstances beyond my control, for which Dan duly suffered. (I have no remorse. He’s a boyfriend. It’s part of his training.)
Dan contrived a martini pit stop before we tottered into Tableaux Lounge (perhaps French for expensive cigars and decadent decor). Those who habitually put up with me have discovered one of my prominent personality traits: I’m a happy drunk. If I’m ever pissed off, just get me “pissed” and I forget all about it.
So by the time we crossed the threshold, I was aglow from our aperitif, and Dan was carrying so many shopping bags, he looked like a doorman at Saks.
I liked Tableaux for its dark interior, muted gold accents and the beef carpaccio that melted in my mouth. Besides, how can you resist the temptation to indulge with a chandelier here, candelabra there? Quite cozy.
Accompanied by her pianist, Kei Shibata, Pamela put on an excellent show. I perked up for each set and enjoyed her stylized delivery of a score of old-school jazz standards.
About half the crowd listened attentively. The other half let her lovely voice be background music to their desserts, cigars and after-dinner conversations. Which is entirely appropriate; Tableaux is a first-rate lounge with, I must add, upscale prices. We spent twice as much here as we did at dinner, but we also stayed at Tableaux twice as long. I blame that on Pamela.
Sunroser Daikanyama B1, 11-6 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku
Hours: Daily 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Dan Riney has spent years honing his bar-researching skills worldwide. He currently hones in Tokyo, where he works for a newspaper and an economics think tank.
Gia Payne is an editor, writer, self-preservationist, and devoted Tokyoite. And she co-wrote a book about bars, pardon ‘pubs,’ with some guy named Dan.