by Kumiko Matsuda
It was almost like hiding, right in the middle of Hibiya. When I softly pushed the door shut, we immediately had complete privacy to discuss the contract. From the inside, the door is actually behind the bookshelf on the back wall. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie.
The room itself is small, but has style and class. It is in the style of an old reading room, perhaps in an English manor house, centuries old. I sat back deeply in the large sofa of fine leather and let out a long, quiet sigh. My boss said that when I picked up our American visitor from the hotel, there would be a chance we’d be tailed by an industrial spy. I wondered if he was just joking.
That night, the schedule was not unusual. First I had to meet our visitor at his hotel. Then, it would be dinner, in some nice place, and my boss would join just a little bit late, perhaps after the appetizers. The dinner choice was so easy it was practically done before I had to think much about it.
There is a nice kaiseki place, serving the most delicate of seasonal Japanese dishes, in the basement of some new “intelligent building” (an expression likely thought up by someone actually not very intelligent, wouldn’t you say?) a few blocks from the Imperial Hotel, where he and most other people from overseas usually stay, especially on their first visit.
But since he is new to Tokyo, he may not be satisfied with traditional Japanese food like kaiseki. I was starting to have doubts. My mind raced ahead, to after the dinner, it would be drinks, and the important discussion we were to have. This is where it gets difficult with Western men. They don’t drink the same way Japanese men do. That rules out any kind of hostess place. Besides, my boss doesn’t like them, anyway. But we did need a place where we’d have plenty of privacy. My boss said we had to be out of view, behind a wall or in an alcove.
That’s why I picked the Seasons Bar at Tsuzuri restaurant, which just opened in April in a quiet corner of Hibiya, just behind the Marunouchi police station. Like most all places in Tokyo considered classy, elegant and sophisticated, Tsuzuri does very little to draw attention to itself. We can eat there, then stay for our drinks and discussion. My boss will be impressed.
The long counter is made from solid timber that looks to be more than 15 cm thick. Ornamentation is very shibui – dignified and distinctive, and most are real antiques. The level of cocktail expertise is befitting a place like this, but the menu of original cocktails holds a few surprises.
First of all, the Tsuzuri cocktail changes with the seasons in both color and content. Then there is the chocolate martini – so decadently rich and sinfully smooth that they should carry warnings to us girls, who should also beware that the list of original cocktails has many other sweet offerings in which the alcohol is never readily apparent.
Of course, my passion is wine, and on my return from the powder room I couldn’t help notice the wine cellar that looked like a tunnel or a cave. Beyond that there is a large dining room, flanked by smaller rooms. One of them is behind the wine cave, and with its large ornate chandelier it looks like it belongs in a medieval castle.
Surprisingly, for all this thick wood decor and rough-hewn elegance, prices here are quite reasonable. Cocktails average about ¥800 – about half of what they cost in a nice hotel bar – and the seating charge is only ¥350. Wine runs at ¥3,000 to ¥4,000 a bottle, and most food is less than ¥1,000. Once you find a place like this, you wonder why anyone would pay hotel prices.
Located where it is, Bar Seasons — and the Tsuzuri restaurant that houses it — has a number of distinct advantages for business entertaining, even if the discussion is not top secret.
The food, in small dishes dining bar-style, is modern Japanese, meaning a combination of Japanese ingredients with some Western, with largely Japanese style seasonings and preparations, but with a few Western tastes thrown in. Our visitor loved the food, and remained under the impression that it was authentic Japanese food — but I knew better.
Of course, they brought our food into the hidden room, like room service. And I don’t really want to tell you the extra charge for this hidden room is only ¥3,000, but I should.
I will also come back some weekday for the buffet lunch, only ¥1,000 and no doubt a favorite of working girls all over Marunouchi.
Seasons Bar in Tsuzuri restaurant
Nippon Hoso Honsha Bldg. B1
1-9-3 Yurakucho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Tel. 3286-0150
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to midnight
Closed Sundays and National Holidays