by Robert Forrest
My closest colleagues are leaving. We had our reviews on Thursday and I hey were told their contracts would finish. Taking these thoughts and turning them to words makes them seem fictional; in no way did we think it would happen to us. I’m going to miss them when they leave.
Bearing the brunt of my woes that evening was a newly expatriated friend and a table in the ANA Intercontinental. This is bus slop first, hotel second, as trips to England always start and end here for me. Usually the only place worse than a bus stop to eat in is a hotel; ANA Intercontinental is both so you will forgive my initial cynicism. But above the bus terminal and taxi ranks. ANA sports a two-floor pocket of space around which many fine restaurants billow, The Steakhouse one of them. Bed meat seemed the natural choice after the bloodbath in the office today.
An escalator takes me past regimented bamboo and three sheets of falling water lit with citrus-colored bulbs and turning left we enter the restaurant, having spotted a neat pyramid of charcoal slicks in the window. The restful view of the atrium across the white slab of linen is improved twofold when Osawa-san arrives, the charming PR girl who has arranged this for me. She suggests starting with the crab cakes in chive sauce, though she is so pretty I would have eaten their shells had she recommended them. Foregoing an aperitif, new expat chooses a 2006 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir that is too sharp for the crab but splendid with the meat.
More on that later. First the firsts: grilled vegetables for Expat and of course 1 opt for the crab. I am not as attractive as Osawa-san but I hope you will still heed my advice and order them too. I he first rush of butter-soaked chive sauce had yet to reach my uvula before I could not help but exclaim delicioush, before the white, un-breaded patties crumbled to divulge their sweet crab. I tasted Expat’s vegetables too, the yellow pepper neatly lined with thin black streaks and the lingering aroma of fallen pine. I had been wondering what happened to discarded decorations from the Christmas holidays.
Soon a waiter arrived with arms horizontal from elbow to elbow, like a stick ran through his shirt, as an immense tray was carried to our table. Two heavy white plates were removed from it, each laden with Wagyu beef: Iwate sirloin for Expat and Hitachi tenderloin for myself. There was no lime for making jokes about electrical appliances here and my sharp knife slid into the beef as if it were a butter. And no need to carve; the mere weight of the blade seemed to have already pushed it to the ceramic, revealing the red sandwiched within. I had ordered medium rare, though I think tenderloin is often better pink or trembling-plum rare. On this occasion, however, I could appreciate the waif scars of the grill brushing the flesh as I ate, something a shorter cooking time does not always create.
Expat’s wine choice suited his sirloin perfectly, the slightly shrill and light body effortlessly searing through the gushes of fat from his marbled meat. Alongside we ordered sauteed Japanese mushrooms (imperative), spinach (valuable), and asparagus (worthy). I ate them in the quantities their ratio of excellence suggested. So mostly the superb mushrooms. I did without any sauce though; I like my steak straight up and seasoned and we took our time caressing the cuts with our cutlery until we were the last diners left. How apt The Steakhouse is in a bus stop; a meal like this is worth waiting for.
Best table: overlooking the atrium to the left. Prices: Surf and Turf is ¥8,000 and dinner courses begin from ¥10,500; our meal was closer to ¥15,000pp plus ¥10,000 for the bottle of wine. Location: third floor, ANA Intercontinental Hotel, Akasaka, a five-minute walk from Tameike-sanno station on the Ginza or Namboku line.
Open 11:30am -2pm, 5pm-9pm Akasaka, Tokyo
tel. 03-3505-1111 for reservations