Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rainbow Kitchen, Sendagi

It would be practically impossible to walk past the dingy exterior of the Rainbow Kitchen without giving it a second look. The rusty corrugated metal and rough bleached wood that make up the facade are a carefully designed fashion statement. This funky little spot looks like it's been rusticating for decades, but in fact it's been less than 10 years since Rainbow Kitchen joined the ranks of Japan's meticulously-stylized faux-American burger vendors.

Fortunately, these places often have pretty good food. After working a bit on this holiday morning, I resolved to spend the rest of the day exploring the 'downtown' areas of Nezu, Sendagi and Nippori by bike. Remember that 'downtown' just means 'old-fashioned, lower class', and it'll only take a few minutes in Sendagi for you to see exactly what the term means - small streets, small shops, limited renovation, lots of charm. Rainbow Kitchen is doubly hard to miss because it's a retro-Americana-styled place in a neighborhood like that, and triply so because it's on a minor street with few other stores.

The carefully-curated thematics continue inside - the old Coke sign with press-in plastic letters is a great touch, joining oddities like the 50-gallon drum marked 'corrosive'. I guess they're going for a combined Southwestern/50's Americana theme here, because the tables are all wood (and could be confused for izakaya tables, as in fact the interior could be confused with a renovated izakaya) rather than the more expected chrome and mother-of-toilet-seat. Oddly, I don't remember there being any background music, which is funny when you consider that the wall decorations are mostly:

Album covers, and in fact some odd assemblage of Japanese artists covering or playing with famous jazz and blues performers. I didn't get close enough to discern the theme, because I was fixated on...

...this funny cover. Believe it or not, I realized it was Gatemouth Brown right away, and my main concern was why he was picking up a guitar-playing Cheech Marin by the scruff of the neck. I guess I'm not as familiar with Japanese blues stars like Mitsuyoshi Azuma as I should be. This record doesn't show up in my quick Googling, but it seems to be a compilation of him playing with Gatemouth, Muddy Waters (in the middle of the three guys), and others (maybe John Lee Hooker on the right, maybe Robert Lockwood on the left). Could be fun to hear.

So after all this extravagantly-created Americana (and, to be fair, the other review that I sort of stole the intro from), I was expecting a pretty awesome burger. And boy oh boy was this...not it. It was OK. I don't even feel like writing about it, to tell you the truth.

Everything was nice enough, but I found the patty lacking in flavor, juciness, and char (they're griddled, but you could still get some burn onto the fat). The fries were bland too. Like the turnaround of a repetitive 12-bar blues bashed out on a Supro through a 6" amp, just one thing kept going around in my brain while I was eating:

Sunny Diner.
Sunny Diner.
Sunny Diner.

It may be time for a trip to Kita Senju.


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