by Charles J. Waggon

The Christmas lights are up here and there around Tokyo, and it’s sure getting lonely outside. I think a lot of you folks from stateside start feeling the same as I do.

My best memories of the Waggon place in Cuello Rojo are set in the holiday season, when big turkeys and huge hams right out of the brick smoker out back at cluttering up the long table along with sweet yams, big bowls of slaw and greens, and that terri­ble tub of Uncle Lester’s Kentucky Bourbon egg nog.

Couldn’t make it back this year because of all these year-end parties, and this year the Big Cheese CEO from General Strategics is coming over for a few himself.

‘Course he’ll be missing his family at their place, too. Well, since the 23rd is a national holiday here and there are no corpo­rate bonenkai on his dance card, I thought I’d take him out on the company tab for a good taste of home. Bring a few of my Old Japan Hand buddies in Tokyo along for the ride, too. The B.C’s got an expense account that’ll feed an army.

Now the problem was where. I asked Kumiko where in Tokyo you could take a guy like that to. Gotta be a big place, with big tables and big chairs. Be nice to have a little smoke in the air, too, but I was just dreaming.

Wouldn’t you know she’d pick a winner?

“There’s only one place I know of like that, and it’s The Oak Door, just down the street in the new Grand Hyatt,” she whispered, knowingly. So we booked a table for a little holiday dinner recon.

Man, when I first walked in, the place was so gorgeous I felt like a kid bee-lining for the tree in the living room first thing Christmas morning. Huge. High ceilings. Wood all over the place. Not veneer, but good honest thick wood make a real man proud.

When I saw the bank of wood-burning ovens I had to hold back the tear in my eye. Dadgummit, reminded me of home. Wait till B.C. gets a load of this.

Me and Kumiko couldn’t wait, so we ordered up some grilled asparagus, long and fat like good Cuban cigars. A big salad with no silly stuff on it. This is real American food; no surprises. But we were surprised by the thick sirloins, good U.S.-aged prime. Didn’t think you could get steaks like this in Tokyo.

Asked for medium rare, and we sure got it—crispy charred all over the outside, pink inside with just a touch of blood in the cen­ter. Came with four kinds of sauce, but I don’t know why, ’cause this meat don’t need no sauce. I found out why later, though, when I took a taste of each and found they made a real nice spread for that thick sturdy house bread with a tasty crust you could really chaw down onto. None of those wimpy soft dinner rolls here, pardner.

When the waiter brought the wine list as thick as the Cuello Rojo phone book, Kumiko went into heaven. By about the second page, though, she went white. Most all had five-digit price tags, and that’s what gave her the sticker shock. She passed it over to me, and I managed to find a halfway decent Argentine Syrah for ¥5,500. This don’t matter to B.C., though, on account of him being a Bourbon high-ball drinker.

Desserts? Sorry folks, we was just too plumb stuffed after the meal to have one. They are indeed bigger than a piglet, and I think the idea is that you order one per table.

Well, the steaks were ¥5,500 each, too, and we managed to get out of there for less than ¥25,000 after all the service charges were said and done. So don’t come here unless you have at least that.

Still, this is some powerfully good American food, with serv­ice and setting to match. Charlie Jake sez two thumbs up if some­one can expense this for you, and two hands up in the air if you’re payin’ outta your own pocket.

But heck, it’s the holiday sea­son, and some things are just plain worth it.

The Oak Door
Grand Hyatt Tokyo, 6th Floor
6-10-3 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 4333-1234
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
Dinner: 6 to 10:30 p.m.