Friday, November 25, 2005

The Search for Thanksgiving Turkey

Day 1 - Wednesday - Labor Thanksgiving Day
Being Americans, Dan and I thought that we might have turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. Of course, Rich (Dan's co-worker stuck in Japan for the holiday) was mildly interested in this plan too. There is
not Japanese Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, but they did have a holiday on Wednesday. It is called Labor Thanksgiving Day. Basically you are thankful that you have a job. Many people go to work on this holiday to celebrate. We decided to find Thanksgiving dinner.

We had a good start, one of the women on my foreign-women-giving-birth-in-japan email list emailed about places to find American Thanksgiving dinner. There was a broad range of places. I evaluated the places, removed the ones that used the terms, "foie gras," and "mushroom gravy," then sent the remaining list to Dan and Rich for approval with my recommendation that we go to the placed described this way:

Farm Grill
Nov 20-26
Very spacious causal Californian dining in the heart of Ginza.
Turkey dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Classic roasted turkey, fall vegetable lasagna, classic pecan pie,
rotisserie chicken, classic Caesar salad, and seafood await you.
All-you-can-eat-buffet: JY2500. All-you-can-drink: JY1000.
Open 11:30am-4pm and 5-11pm. Ginza 9 Bldg, 2F, 8-5 Chuo-ku, Ginza.
03-5568-6156. Nearest stn: JR Shinbashi stn

The place sounds great. And how can you beat "all-you-can-eat" Thanksgiving Dinner?

We got a bit of a late start, Rich was busy celebrating his job at work. However, I had some snacks
and we started out optimistically. We took the subway trains to Shinbashi Station. Dan used his recently accumulated knowledge about the area to lead us past Ginza 9-1, Past Ginza 9-2, and right up to Ginza 9-3. We looked, but initially didn't see anything. We wandered all the way around the Ginza 9-3 building and found: A grocery store, a dark alley, and a new restaurant celebrating its grand opening on Friday. Rich and I convinced Dan that he should go ask for directions at the grocery store, "Farm Grill wa doko desu ka?" Unfortunately the clerk had no idea.

Being smart people, we stared at the sign for the new restaurant and concluded that we were at the
right location, the Farm Grill had closed, and it was replaced by the new restaurant. Dan researched the Farm Grill at work the next day, and the best he could tell, it had closed, back in 2004.

By now it was getting very late. Fortunately, Ginza is a neighborhood with lots of restaurants and shops. We looked down the street. I saw a British Flag near a building with a green restaurant-looking sign. "Maybe that is a British Pub!" Excited, we wandered closer to the location, determining that the flag was actually for a school that taught English. So, we walked a little further down and found a steak house. A good, if expensive, backup plan if we couldn't find anything else.
Then we walked a little further down, debated the merits of eating at the steak house, contemplated going to the Hard Rock Cafe or TGI Friday's in Roppongi (kind of far away, another subway ride), when we looked down a side street and saw TGI Friday's! Ok, so it wasn't our finest moment in cuisine selection, but we had some great burgers and fries. :)

Day 2 - Thursday - American Thanksgiving Day

We took our failure on Wednesday to mean that maybe we should just get turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Our original Thursday plan was to simply go to the nearby Hilton buffet which would include turkey. However, Dan realized that the list of places serving turkey only mentioned the Hilton for Wednesday, not Thursday. He researched and found a list of places on-line:

The first 2 places had mushrooms or foie gras, so I skipped over them. The next place, TY Harbor
sounded really good. However, it was at least 30 minutes away. Out of the remaining restaurants, Fujimamas sounded the most normal. I called to make a reservation, but given that it was already Thursday, they were booked. Next on the list was Ben's Cafe, but it sounded a little too casual for the price. So, I called the Pink Cow:

Pink Cow (Omotesando)
Chef Andy Warden's holiday buffet will be available both Thursday and Friday (24/25), and it includes turkey, lots of pie, and plenty of vegetarian choices like stuffed tofu. Y3800 per person. 03-3406-5597.

This sounded good. I can't argue with lots of pie. The price seamed reasonable. When I called, a
native Japanese speaker answered the phone. He was able to tell me that they were completely booked. However, then a woman grabbed the phone, saying, "This will be easier in native English." I agreed and we discussed the options available. She mentioned that there would be some space at the bar. I asked if there was smoking at the bar. She confirmed, that yes, that was the only place there was smoking in the restaurant. I explained that because I was pregnant, I just couldn't deal with the smoke. She then revealed that there was a single table left in kind of a cubby hole room. It was kind of small, but could seat 3 people well. I booked it for 8:30pm.

We left the hotel a little late, about 8:10pm. But it was only a 15 minute subway trip to the
restaurant. When we got to the subway exit at Omotesando, we emerged from underground to look at the map of the neighborhood. It was not terribly helpful. We wandered around the corner. No Pink Cow in sight.

After minutes of frustration, Rich suggested that we take a taxi. Certainly the taxi driver could take us to the correct place since we didn't seem to be there. We hailed a cab and Rich gave the piece of paper with the address of the Pink Cow to the taxi driver. He looked at it and told us, "No taxi,"
explaining that it was nearby. So we got out of the taxi and boldly strode in a direction down the street.

Fortunately we didn't have to go far until we found a police station. Dan, being the designated direction asker, went to get the directions. The police told him, go up 2 traffic signals and take a right. So we wandered in the direction that they told us for a while. We went by 1 signal, no problem. Then we went by a bunch of intersections with cross walk signals, but we just weren't sure if they qualified as actual signals.

Suddenly Dan decided that we should turn right. We wandered down a small road that turned into a dark alley. We avoided a slightly dangerous looking homeless person and ended up at the intersection of another dark alley. There was a building indicating a retirement home, but no more glowing signs or main intersections. I was tired of walking (wish we could have taken the taxi over there) and Rich was skeptical. We were nearly close to staging a coup of direction giving when Dan turned down the side alley and said, "There it is!" We were impressed and will never again question Dan's directional ability.

We approached the entry way to the Pink Cow tentatively. It was located on the lower level of an
otherwise non-descript building. We walked down the stairs and entered the "restaurant." Ok, actually it was billed as a Restaurant and Art Bar (see flyer that we received below). The description said that it was normally a Wine Bar.

As we walked in, we saw the "buffet." It was basically various food, including turkey, set out on the small wall that you can see on this web site review of the place:
As we were already over 30 minutes late for our reservation, Rich was concerned that the food had been sitting out for quite a while on the small wall. Plus, it was the kind of serving arrangement where everyone just serves themselves. No sneeze guards, no real way to prevent dust and stuff from getting into the food. Rich asserted that he would not be eating the food. So, it was up to us to talk our way out of the reservation. Oh yes, there was also a distinct body odor scent permeating the air which didn't sit well with my heightened sense smell.

The owner of the place, Tracy, came up to us looking apologetic. We weren't quite sure why she was the apologetic one. We were the ones who were late for our reservation. Maybe because when we spoke on the phone, she did ask if we had ever been there before, I said no, and she didn't give us directions. In any case, she explained that she lived in Tokyo for 10 years before opening the place. She wanted a community gathering place for people to hang out in. She had the Pink Cow for 5 years. We apologized for being late and then said that we were going to head out, perhaps coming back on a less busy night.

What sort of additional comments are there about the atmosphere of the place? Well, being that it was an "Art" place, there were various photographs on the walls. For instance, in our small alcove with our reserved table, there was a series of 3 pictures that involved a nipple.

But, we talked our way out of the reservation. Having avoided eating (or not eating in Rich's case) in the nipple room, we went back out to the street. We recalled that when we were back at the exit of the subway, there was an El Torito. So, on Thanksgiving night, we ended up having Mexican food. It was really, really good. It was the best El Torito we have ever eaten at. Better than the one back in Shinjuku and even better than the ones in Redondo Beach, CA.

We may go back to the Pink Cow on an evening when we are feeling a bit more
bohemian. Oh, and when Rich isn't wearing his striped Nautica sweater.

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