The international franchise that is today Trader Vic’s had humble beginnings, first opening in Oakland, California in 1934. Though under another name at the time, the enthusiasm and passion for fusion cuisine that the restaurant is known for today was already part of its charm in the 20th century. Fast forward to 1974, the franchise arrived in Japan with a location that showcases nothing short of grandeur: within the New Otani Hotel Tokyo in the heart of the Akasaka neighborhood.
When you think of a tiki room or bar, you might imagine something out of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Though the interior of Trader Vic’s does indeed have a few fantastical elements, it elevates the ambiance to the level of fine dining promised by its menu. The brand’s trademark theme is, after all, island resort dining with the goal to transport customers somewhere exotic. This is not only achieved through the authentic decorations on the walls and shelves, and wooden furniture and moldings on the ceiling, but also by a focus on fusion cuisine that brings together the best flavors from American and Asian, particularly Chinese, cuisines.
Trader Vic’s Tokyo offers two distinct spaces to suit different moods. The dining room is for those looking for a more formal setting. Featuring course menus, it’s a great candidate for special occasions, anniversaries or romantic dates. It’s also ideal for parties, with tables seating up to 10 guests.
“It brings together the best flavors from American and Asian cuisines”
Enjoy the view of a waterfall amidst a small cove of greenery and, in spring, see cherry blossoms brighten the view with shades of pink. In fall, see the trees turn to the crimson colors of koyo (autumn colors). But the pièce de résistance has to be the view of the kitchen. More specifically, the view of Trader Vic’s signature Chinese oven. This two-meter tall piece of cookware has been used in China since the Han dynasty, allowing for a very special variation on barbecuing. Where American barbecues would use charcoal to give the meat a certain smokiness, a Chinese oven works with wood, leaving the meat with a cleaner taste. The Trader Vic’s ovens are built on site and are used not only for steaks and spare ribs but for seafood as well.
The restaurant boasts a protein-rich selection of meals and courses with its heart being fusion cuisine that could be described as Chinese gastronomy inspired by the world. In short, the restaurant stands perfectly in between comfort and exotic cuisine. Different locations offer seasonal menus, keeping the chefs on their creative toes.
If the dining room is a little too formal for you, Trader Vic’s Tokyo also has a lively bar area. Bringing the brand’s resort dining down a notch to a more affordable and accessible setting, the bar offers the restaurant’s signature tropical cocktails. The Mai Tai, a popular rum-based drink often associated with the tropics, was created behind the bar of Trader Vic’s Oakland location and continues to be one of the franchise’s staple cocktails around the globe. Aside from this always popular concoction, the bar offers a range of drinks on its menu – particularly, a wide variety of original cocktails. Many are served in Tiki-esque mugs or tall glasses, further creating the feeling of a Tahitian getaway and certainly adding an Instagrammable factor.
Bar customers still get access to all the same culinary staples, but the menu ventures more towards what many would describe as comfort foods. This includes sandwiches as well as Polynesian-Hawaiian bite-sized appetizers also known as pupus.
Both the bar and the dining room also offer seasonal Hawaiian lunch menus and a Holiday Brunch on Sundays. And if you fall in love with the decor? You can take home a small piece of the Trader Vic’s experience. The line-up includes everything from kitsch salt and pepper shakers to their original cocktail mugs so you can recreate a similar mood at home.
Trader Vic’s Tokyo