Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bel Age Lounge, Otemachi

America would do well to heed comments about Japan's Lost Decade. It's a scary prospect - your economy goes sideways for 10 years and then never really recovers. I think it's too early to declare a Prognosis For America (this would be my sweeping social contract-like name). 'Green Shoots' sentiments aside, you really shouldn't be too optimistic too soon:
I don't know, but I think the worst of this may well be over.   - Alan Greenspan, October 2006
The impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained.   - Ben Bernanke, March 2007

I don't think we're headed to a recession.   - George W. Bush, February 2008
The worst is likely to be behind us. - Henry Paulson, May 2008

But you know the worst thing that happens in a Lost Decade? Architecture, design, and furniture all get stuck in that period too, since remodeling budgets dry up permanently. Such is the case at the quiet, pleasant and thoroughly dated Bel Age.

Koala has advocated this as a destination for some time. She said it was 'bubbly', which I agree with. That's not 'bubbly' like champagne, it's bubbly like "Reminds you of the happy days of the Japanese economic bubble when everything was going great and everyone spent money like water, but it's depressing because it hasn't been updated since then." Today's term is 'bubbly'. Say it with me.

Bel Age's bubbly-ness resides in the couches and the food. Well, and the service. The couches look like 1992 leisure-room rejects - pastel blue and pink in simulated brushstroke swatches, with a deep, semi-round shape that's at once relaxing and difficult to sit in since you're meant to eat. The food is equally classic - Mitch and I had this week's sandwich, the chicken-bacon. Served on classic Japanese ultra-light white bread (toasted), it was pretty good in an artificial and mayonnaisey way. Like the bubble. Came with chunky fries. Koala had the other dish of the week - Turmeric Curry. Evidently they realized that this was a hard sell after getting it on the menu, because the waitress followed the name with the description "It doesn't taste that much like turmeric." It certainly looked OK, and came with multi-grain rice. Lunch sets also include a drink afterward, coffee, tea or iced, and a small dessert (cheese mousse with berries).

Many of the servers are very dark-suit, bow-tie, slick-hair men. It's exquisitely professional, which is why they can charge you 10% for it even at lunch. Another thing they're charging you for, though, is the quiet atmosphere, relative emptiness, and the nice southerly views of Oazo, fragments of Tokyo Station, and the water beyond. Just let your mind go and dream about better days while you eat some bacon on white toast.

Ahhhh, those were the days. I remember this one time when we booked suites at the Bay Sheraton and got all these strippers...

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