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Birdland -- Hawaiian???

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My husband and I find ourselves in an odd situation. We asked our hotel to make dinner reservations using a list of restaurants we supplied. We had no particular feelings about the order in which we dined at the restaurants with the following qualifications: we wanted to eat at the most efficient restaurant on our arrival day after a trans-continental US and trans-Pacific flight and we will be in Tokyo on a Sunday. Two of the reservation decisions seem bewildering to us, so I'd appreciate some Chowhound comments.

We have reservations at Michiba on our arrival night. This seems to be a more upscale choice than we envisioned for arrival night dinner. We had specifically suggested Birdland. However, the concierge simply decided not to make a reservation there for any night on the grounds that it was a Hawaiian restaurant. I thought Birdland was one of the go-to Tokyo restaurants for yakitori. I also assumed that a meal there wouldn't be a multi-course affair. If I've made any assumptions that are incorrect, please straighten me out.

Incidentally, our other restaurants are Oshima and Hakobune.

The hotel substituted Robata for Birdland. Admittedly, I have an interest in Robata because the chef is supposed to plate his food on ceramics from some of the most famous kilns in Japan, and I collect ceramic teapots and Yunomi. Still, between the Michiba booking on arrival day and the Birdland Hawaiian label, we'd love feedback from this group.

Thanks!

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  1. Tokyo is a big city with over 100,000 restaurants, spread out over a very large area. So when specifying a restaurant (either to your concierge or here) it helps to include a neighborhood and/or a phone number. There is a jazz club in Akasaka called Birdland which has Hawaiian night a few times a week, and also a yakitori restaurant in Ginza called Birdland; there are probably others too. A meal at Birdland (the yakitori one) is generally a multi-course affair - many rounds of skewers with side dishes along the way.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Robb S

      Thanks! At least I now understand the issues that contributed to the confusion! We definitely meant the Ginza yakitori restaurant; all our restaurants were chosen for their proximity to our Ginza hotel.

      Considering my list of restaurants, is there one that you think would be a particularly good choice for our arrival night dinner? Considering my list of other restaurants, would you recommend we re-introduce Birdland back into the mix over Robata?

      Again, thanks.

      1. re: Indy 67

        Sorry I've never heard of Robata. I think Birdland is well worth going to though. Oshima has good food, but perhaps less atmosphere than average. I don't know which branch of Hakobune you had planned on - they're all very different.

        1. re: Robb S

          re Birdland: I think you should try a search for "Birdland" on Google Maps. That gives 50+ results, among them the Yakitori place, the Jazz Club as well as some other, well, let's just call them "clubs". I bet your concierge did the same search...

          re Robata: Robata is a type of restaurant (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/robata), so again there will be probably 100s of such restaurants over Tokyo. Personally I have been to three, the best one being on the West side of the JR tracks between Shimbashi Station and Yurakucho Station. However, I want to add that I would not recommend this restaurant at all if you don't speak Japanese: They offer no set menu, but various daily special, many of them are not even on a written menu, but the maitre d' will only "recite" them. Also it is a very small place with quite a, let's say, conservative customer base. So if you are not familiar with Japanese etiquette and language you may feel as some Japanese dude that speaks no english at a roadside diner in New Mexico. =)

          1. re: Scharn

            I think the OP was referring to this Robata:
            http://www.sunnypages.jp/travel_guide...
            It's a funky old place that's been around for decades (it's also pricier than it looks, this being Hibiya). But the food is not that great and certainly not essential for a brief Tokyo visit.

            Bird Land (two words) would be a fine place to hit the ground running on your first evening. And since they got into Michelin they have their own web site and you can handle the reservations yourself online:
            http://ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp/re...

            1. re: zaijin

              Actually I have just been at that robata shop yesterday! Food was great, I really like their buri daikon and this pork and tomato stew (?) they serve. Also I suppose it has been featured in some english magazine lately, cause this time there were 3 foreign parties (group of bankers, western couple, some chinese guys) in the shop, and whenever i have been there before, i was the only blue-eyed blonde guy in the room.

              so, personally i really like their food. it is not exactly superbly good, but i would award it a B+. Most of it is precooked, and I think some of their stews they don't do daily, but maybe every second day. So, quality is a bit changing. (Actually I suspect that the pork&tomato thing will get better with time...) The location and atmosphere is an A+ in my book, and I would suspect that this would be exactly the type of restaurant people would remember after their japan trip.

              Edit: I'm always paying around 10,000 for two including few drinks.

          2. re: Robb S

            We landed at Narita at 3:30 p.m. and were checked into our hotel by 5:00 p.mincluding a stop by a cash machine. I think this sets the record for speed and efficiency. We unpacked, slept for 30 minutes, freshened up, and set out to find Birdland. We got within 20 feet of the entrance but all forward progress ceased. Eventually, we went into a shop on the block where we knew the restaurant was located and a helpful sales person directed us down some stairs. Unless a person goes to the head of the stairway and looks at the signage on the landing, Birdland has no visible presence on the street. We were seated at the counter, chose the lesser-priced set meal and waited for the food to arrive. The lower-priced meal is an all chicken meal while the higher-priced set meal included a cheese skewer,, a beef filet skewer, and creme caramel. The show is as good as the food and the food is very, very good. The chefs are constantly looking and touching to monitor doneness. Given the size of the chunks on theskewers, I don't think there's more than a 30 second tolerance for each skewer to achieve maximum juicy-but-not-dried out doneness. Some of our eight skewers included: chicken chunks with fresh wasabi, chicken neck meat and skin, shicken livers, ground chicken sausages, all-mushroom, chicken and scallions, and chicken with leeks. Our favorites were the chicken with wasabi and the chicken livers. The first was memorable as our first taste of fresh wasabi and the interplay between the jolt of the wasabi and the juiciness of the chicken. The latter was memorable for its juicy perfection and the intensity of the flavor; this was pure chicken liver goodness sharing with spotlight with nothing but salt.

            If I have one small criticism it is that the chefs tene to be too liberal wih their salting. Most of the dishes found that magic line between enhanced flavor and simply too salty.One or two were too salty.

            Definintely a strong recommendation simply on the basis of taste. I especially think that the show of the kitchen performing before your eyes makes Birdland a good for folks who are near catatonic from too little sleep and 12 hour time zone change their arrival night.

            1. re: Indy 67

              I forgot to mention the amazing chicken liver pate that is served as a second course. I'd describe it as old-school, smooth chicken liver pate with cognac -- two small cubes of pate served with two rounds of French bread. (Would a Japanese yakatori restaurant really use cognac? Might the liquor actually be sake?) At any rate, Birdland's pate was delicious: well-flavored and well-balanced flavors. (I've never made Julia Child's chicken liver pate, but I make Craig Claiborne's version from the NY TIMES COOKBOOK. Very old-school and, I've always thought, very delicious. Birdland's recipe was better!)

              1. re: Indy 67

                Thanks for the review! Have a great trip!

                BTW how much beer did you drink at Birdland? I only ask because the average yakitori chef seems to calculate the amount of salt he uses under the assumption that you are going to dilute the food with at least three beers. I think in their view it's only salty if you're not drinking enough.

                Enjoy Oshima and Hakobune!

                1. re: la2tokyo

                  Major smiles about the beer! My husband and I didn't make it to three beers each, much less "at least..."!

                  We really liked Oshima and liked Hakobune. I'll post a bit more about our other experiences inTokyo in a separate thread.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Great report.
                    To my knowledge, Bird Land was the first yakitoriya to offer pate, and it's always been excellent. Also probably one of the first to offer a range of wine and imported beers -- so it's quite likely that chef Wada uses cognac.

      2. That's funny, reminds me of when I first moved to Akasaka and I saw Birdland [jazz club] for the first time.
        I thought to myself that there is no way that this the famed Michelin yakitori place is it? It wasn't.

        1. If you still want to go, you could show this address to the concierge so he can book etc. for you:

          Bird Land Ginza
          東京都中央区銀座4-2-15
          塚本素山ビルB1F

          http://ginza-birdland.sakura.ne.jp/in...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Scharn

            book it online, much easier...

            www.opentable.jp