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Tokyo: Buttu Trick Bar
Shibuya

I met Yoko in Shibuya, near the Hachiko (dog) statue. We were wandering the crowded neon-night streets looking for some eats; she wanted to try somewhere she'd never been able to get into before.

The restaurant was up on the six floor of a non-descript shopping building. I could tell I was somewhere hip because it was dark and everyone waiting on us was young. And they had lots of tables! No intimate dining here. I was used to small traditional joins; this was more like a happening San Francisco restaurant, or some place Rich Melman might have started.

We were about to sit down and I wanted to give Yoko a nice seat and she and the waitress kept trying to move me and I got confused so I sat down with my back to the wall. As it turns out, she was trying to provide me with a good view of a giant ten foot tall golden gilded Buddha statue. All the marbles in my head nearly spilled out when I noticed it -

Buttu!

The place is called the Buttu Trick Bar - Buttu is Buddha, and this place was dominated by this statue. It wasn't quite reverant, being places amidst loud diners; and I suspected the statue design was Southeast Asian (as opposed to Japanese) because the earlobes were so long.

The hallways were filled with Buddhist and Hindu statuettes, the menu was pan-Asian fusion. It was a bit strange to be a white guy visiting Tokyo and drop in on this restaurant that was repackaging exotic Asian culture. According to this page, the concept behind the restaurant is "as if a European had opened an Asian restaurant without ever having been to Asia." Nice meta-cultural place to eat, thank you Yoko!

Each time the waitresses visited our table, they would bow and press their hands together. This gesture reminded me much of some of the Thai greetings I knew, so I tried saying "Kap-kum-krup" and "Sa-wa-dee-krup" in response. It didn't really work much, so I tried it repeatedly. Yoko let me know it wasn't part of their vocabulary.

The waitresses, besides bowing with their hands clasped (behaviour I didn't see at more traditional joints), these women carried little handbags that looked to be made out of some kind of SouthEast Asian craft cloth. Inside the bags were wireless devices they would whip out to place your order. That was something more befitting Akihabara than Ankor Wat.

Generally when I eat somewhere, I like to have the house drink as well as the specialty dish (At most cheap Vietnamese restaurants this will get you a drink made seemingly from bitter grass). Here they had a full suite of cocktails, and asking for the specialty drink got me a "Sex in the Water" which was fruity and sweet and not terribly intoxicating. I think Yoko might have had a Buddha Sling, or maybe I did - I'm not sure.

The food was not subtle - she noticed it more than I did. I'm generally so greatful to eat that I don't often pause to judge, but after she pointed it out it was mostly salty and heavy food. We had deep fried shrimp in Mayonaisse sauce, for example. Whew. A Caesar salad with Proscuitto and another creamy dressing. Tuna tartar and steak sushi.

I was inclined to defer to Yoko to order, but I did ask that we order the strangest dish in the joint. The waitress brought a beef curry with rice she cooked at our table, and in order to properly resolve the dish, she cried out loud a magic incantation, answered by the other striding waitstaff. That was lively!

We spent nearly four hours there, watching the dining room fill up and empty again. We agreed that this is a "young" place - where the food and spiritual trinkets are designed to make a big impression. Heck the food seems designed to knock your tastebuds flat. Sitting together declaring this judgement, we seemed to be saying we were older than that. Funny thing, that maturity.

 

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