Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gonpachi

If the screen shots of Uma Thurman in a yellow jumpsuit didn't clue you in, Gonpachi is the place that inspired the Lucy Liu sequence in Kill Bill (think Charlie Brown and the Crazy 88). Located in the middle of Roppongi, one of the busiest and foreign friendly parts of Tokyo, the building itself is almost quaint outside with a nice garden, some seats with umbrellas, but nothing flashy hinting at the sprawling room inside.


There are lanterns hanging from the ceiling and simple lighting throughout the space. Though the menu isn't authentically Japanese, the decor is undeniably Edo. Reserve early for a booth on the 2nd floor overlooking the crowd below. There's a sushi room on the 3rd level, which is separate from the rest of the restaurant.  The food at Gonpachi isn’t considered fine dining by anyone’s standards…including their own. It's intended instead to be an elevated Izakaya experience - shared small plates.  We didn't have reservations and thus had to wait 30 minutes to be seated.  Luckily we were seated in the main level in a corner booth with a nice view of the main bar area.


Keith and I looked over the menu and found several items that peaked our interest.  Unsure of how small each plate would be, we decided to pick several things to start.  Keith also ordered some sake and a Japanese Imperial IPA.  The Yukke, blue fin tuna and avocado tartar, was served with toasted seaweed instead of chips and was my favorite of the night.  The Karaage, fried chicken, was simply prepared and served with a lemon wedge that gave nice flavor.  The Ebi Shinjyo, fried shrimp dumplings with yuzu chili sauce, was a wild urchin looking creation that was a bit oily but had a kick of spice from the chili sauce.  As vegetable sides, we had the Tanuki, a mushroom cap stuffed with chicken and Asparagus that was wrapped in homemade bacon.  Keith didn't find anything special about the vegetables, but I really enjoyed the asparagus.

For a "main" course, I chose the Gindara - miso glazed black cod.  The portion was a bit small, but the flavor was great and the fish super tender. It came with a big pile of shredded radish.  Keith indulged in the Kuroge - Japanese beef sirloin.  Again, he was a bit disappointed with the small portion for 1500 JPY. But the meat was good and it also came with its own pieces of asparagus.  We were feeling satisfied and didn't want to stuff ourselves, but had room for dessert.  So finally, we tried the Kuzumochi and Kinako Ice Cream with black sugar syrup.  It had cubes of jellied mochi pieces with a sweet vanilla ice cream and was divine.

I was shocked by the relatively low prices. One would assume, with the fame the movie has bestowed on the place, that prices would be high…it is Tokyo after all. Also the large space, long tables and secluded rooms are perfect for entertaining large groups. At the table next to us was a pair of guys - coworkers, I would assume with their business dress and briefcases - who ordered plate after plate after cocktail after cocktail.  They appeared to be just winding down after a regular day's work.  At the bar, I noticed many other foreigners.  I think everyone should visit at least once, at least for a quick bite and beer before heading into manic Roppongi.  If you're a tourist looking for a nice meal in Roppongi, a seasoned traveler who needs to entertain some out of town guests, or just a rabid Tarantino fan, Gonpachi is a great value that shan't be missed.

Total Rating: 3.65
Food: 3.5, Price: 4.5, Service: 3, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 3.5

What I ate:

Yukke
blue fin tuna and avocado tartar

Karaage
fried chicken

Ebi Shinjyo
fried shrimp dumplings with yuzu chili sauce

Tanuki (mushroom stuffed with chicken) & Asparagus (wrapped in homemade bacon)

Gindara
miso glazed black cod

Kuzumochi and Kinako Ice Cream
with black sugar syrup

Plus Keith ate:
Kuroge Beef
Japanese beef sirloin

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