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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
HARD ROCK CAFE
We have dined at Hard Rocks all over the world and knowing that the Japanese love American culture, we were curious to see how the Tokyo branch would compare with other outlets. At the time of this visit, there was only one Hard Rock in Tokyo. Now there are two. Our visit came at the Roppongi restaurant.
Being seasoned world travelers we asked our hotel concierge at the incredible Park Hyatt Hotel to give us a business card with a map and instructions on how to get back to the hotel in the event the cab driver got lost. Turns out that even with this little trick, getting back was an adventure.
The doorman at the Park Hyatt summoned a cab for us and we piled into the back seat. The doorman explained to the hack driver where we were going in Japanese but the cabbie had a very confused look on his face. The discussion continued until another doorman asked us to pull forward so that other cabs could enter. The discussion continued and continued. Finally the doorman left and the cabbie rolled his window up but remained in the parking lot. Then he grabbed some map books about the size of a small telephone book and started leafing through them muttering something in Japanese. Finally, still with a puzzled look on his face, we started to roll. He seemed fairly confident at first. But about forty minutes into the journey he got that frenzied look again. In fact he pulled over twice to review his map books.
Finally with a sigh of relief on his face, he pulled into the small parking of the Hard Rock!
We were expecting a massive Hard Rock with all kinds of neon and so forth. But as you can see from the picture, this is one of the smallest Hard Rocks we've ever visited. It's on the second floor of a small building that is shared with a Tony Roma's on the ground floor.
Once seated the menu featured all the usual suspects along with some Japanese specialty items. I ordered a set price special off the menu which featured a burger, fries and two beers for something like $25. Remember this is Tokyo where a cup of coffee often goes for ten bucks and that doesn't include refills. My wife had a salad and a Diet Coke.
Even the lunch was exciting. I was seated facing the rear of the small restaurant and my wife faced the entrance. Through the window of the door she noticed firefighters racing on foot to a nearby building. Then she saw smoke coming out. Choppers arrived and circled overhead from the local TV stations. Turns out a small, narrow high-rise building was on fire just about the same spot where I snapped the picture of the Hard Rock above. It was quickly doused with no injuries.
Now came the challenge of getting back to the Park Hyatt hotel. We asked our server about getting a cab and she suggested that we just head out onto the street where there would be no problem flagging one down. We strolled through the neighborhood checking out little grocery stores (where some cantaloupe type melons were selling for $30 U.S. each!) and finally decided to hail a cab, which was not a problem. However when we handed the driver the hotel card with directions in Japanese, he looked even more confused than the driver we had going to the restaurant!
He, too, pulled out huge map booklets, studied them for 4 or 5 minutes and then we took off. The driver had a very un-confident look on his face. Like the first driver, he spoke no English, which is the norm in Tokyo. (By the way - we certainly don't expect others to speak our language in other countries. I just point this out because it was a fact and it's something you're going to encounter if you visit the great country of Japan.)
About an hour into the journey back to the hotel it was painfully obvious that the driver had no idea of where the hotel was. While waiting for stop lights to change green, he would get out of the cab and run to the cars behind us asking them if they knew how to get back to the hotel! When the light would turn green, horns started blaring behind us as the driver ran and dove back into the car.
The driver muttered something to us in Japanese, smiled, threw up his hands. He then pointed to the meter, which he turned off. He was obviously trying to tell us that he was lost and didn't want to keep the meter running. Japanese people are very cordial and honest.
He stopped and ran into a small grocery store asking for help in finding the hotel. Still no luck. However we recognized some buildings ourselves and my wife actually got a visual fix on our hotel. How? Because it was the tallest building in Tokyo (or one of the tallest, anyway) at more than 50 stories. So Cindy pointed at the building in the distance and the driver made the connection and we were finally there!
The driver apologized profusely in Japanese (I guess that's what he was doing) and deposited us at the hotel. The round trip taxi fare to the restaurant was about $80.
Bottom line: If you're a Hard Rock aficionado and need to add this to your collection, it's certainly worth the adventure and visit. If you're just curious and might like to try the place, I'd save your yen. The food was good. The service was excellent, friendly and cordial. But it was a mighty expensive burger when you consider the cab rides. All told the outing probably set us back $130 U.S. Plus, a meal that usually takes an hour or so including cab rides took more like three and a half here.
You'll find the Hard Rock Roppongi web site here listing hours, the address, etc. (Notice on the web site picture how they managed to snap the shot without getting the Tony Roma's sign in it!)
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