by Kumiko Matsuda

“Kumiko, have you been to the new Champagne Bar at the ANA Hotel? How about meeting there, say six o’clock?”

“Yes, Kelly, that’s the way,” I thought to myself. He’s only been in Tokyo a short time, but he already knows his way around, and knows how to treat a lady. Not like those other goofy gaijin who make their dates wait outside at Hachiko in Shibuya, or by the lions at Mitsukoshi in Ginza, or even (ugh!) the Almond in Roppongi. Especially for a woman who has spent well over an hour dressing up and getting ready!

Plus, even though we have to be absolutely punctual in busi­ness, on a date a girl is supposed to be at least just a little late. And even if he is late, it doesn’t matter when you meet in a nice bar.

In fact, waiting in an elegant bar is one of the best ways to get into the mood for a nice dinner in a restaurant, a good play at a theater, a stroll through an art gallery, or just “lazing on a sunny afternoon.”

So the setting for our ren­dezvous is The Champagne Bar which just opened this month at the ANA Hotel. If you haven’t been to the ANA Hotel in a while, you really should visit and see their newly remodeled lobby and adjoining restaurants. It’s an enormous atrium space, with high ceilings and nearly transpar­ent divisions between spaces.

Though The Champagne Bar is small enough to be intimate no matter where you are seated, it fronts into the air of the large atri­um area, with sheer, filmy walls of violet curtains hanging from the ceiling way above.

What sets The Champagne Bar apart from the ordinary are the non-smoking seating areas off to the side on two lower lev­els, leading down to a staircase that functions as the “back entrance” but is actually a short­cut from the main hotel lobby on the second floor.

The staircase itself is truly a spectacle, a brilliant translucent light jade green, the color of a mermaid’s tail, suggesting a waterfall, an ocean wave or per­haps even the short-lived foam of Champagne itself before it subsides in your flute.

We were seated in the non­smoking section at the top of this staircase, since Kelly can’t stand the smell of tobacco when par­taking of fine food and drink. Ironically, he will occasionally pull out just one cigarette, usually a Davidoff Magnum, at the end of a heavy meal.

He ordered a glass of Green Point, a sparkling wine pro­duced by Moet et Chandon’s winery in Australia.

“Every now and then I do have an Australian wine, just to keep up with how they are coming along,” Kelly explained. He’s from California, yet prefers European wine to the stunned astonishment of his friends back home.

I couldn’t help but be curi­ous about the Champagne with sorbet, and ordered one only to find out that a choice of sorbet was available. On a whim I chose mango and had no regrets. It is a drink and a dessert in one, and while the Champagne was com­promised by the addition of sor­bet, the mango sorbet itself was enhanced by the cool, tart fizz of the Champagne.

We could have stayed and had any number of tempting hors d’oeuvres, pasta dishes or other light foods, but we’d already made plans for dinner near the hotel.

Refreshed and relaxed, our dinner destination was either the Wolfgang Puck restaurant next to the hotel or Waka, the new chanko-nabe restaurant opened by Wakanohana on the right side of Roppongi-dori coming from the ANA Hotel.

Puck’s was Kelly’s idea because he does appreciate California cuisine, while Waka was my idea because I think sumo wrestlers are the last real men we have in Japan. Call me old-fashioned, but I got my way in the end.. .as I always do.

The Champagne bar
ANA Hotel 3rd Floor
1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 3505-1111
Open daily 1 to 11:30 p.m.