Thursday, October 21, 2010

Utage, Otemachi (宴)

Just got back from a business lunch at this place. I correctly diagnosed from the web site that it was not the sort of place I'd ever use my own funds to visit, but it was a bit better in practice than I expected. As a business lunch, you can't expect to see any pictures.

Being at the top of an office building (First Square) isn't a good start, and you can tell that the atmosphere is pretty corporate/event oriented. They've done a good job of keeping it up to date though - too often these places have tired carpets, walls and tables. The biggest fault I noticed here was a little scarring on the table where I sat, but the room was big and bright and had a functioning tokonoma with a modern sort of scroll in it. This was an odd point - I'd swear the scroll was a painting of a bamboo shoot, which is just horribly inappropriate for the 3rd part of October. It must have been something else. The waitresses wear kimono and serve very decorously.

The group for this consisted of Bird, Long, another guy who I have now worked in the same room as for almost 2 years but have still never spoken to (and I'm not gonna be the bigger person here; it's just too funny), and an American visitor. Probably in honor, or in fear, of her presence, we had pre-ordered the Y5250 steak lunch. I'm sure you all know that 5150 is a 'code' used by popular singing group The Van Halens as an album title. Upon the album's release, it was widely reported that it's police code for 'escaped lunatic'. In fact it's California Welfare and Institutions Code for an involuntary 72-hour commitment to custody for evaluation of whether the person's mental state poses a danger to themselves or others. And 5250 is the follow-on, where if the doctors decide said individual is well and truly whacked in the head, they can be committed for up to 14 days involuntarily. So I like to think that this lunch was a more extreme but still involuntary committal.

They asked us if we were in a hurry, and we said no, so they brought all our food immediately and at once, allowing the hot items to cool down and the cool items to hot up while we ate. This was a bit of a travesty for the steak, which was obviously cooked a bit before it came to the table and was already on its way through the 'luke' stage. The meat was surprisingly good, with the first few bites (while the dying embers persisted) having that delightful juciness that comes only with thorough marbling of sweet, sweet fat. The distinct grill marks were a nice touch, but I thought there was a whiff of gas as well; no charcoal was harmed in the cooking of these steaks. With the steak were mini asparagus, slices of turnip, and carrot (the carrot slice had, in fact, been further refined with beveled edges to show the staff really care. About the vegetable edges if not the meat temperature). The sashimi (these sets are always like this) was also surprisingly good, with the three slim slices of tuna being taken from the akami-chu toro border and thus having some good flavor and little tendon. The side dishes were very homely, with a kinpira gobo, some fried tofu with mushroom sauce, and of course rice and soup (the soup had eggplant in it, which is weird).

Well, I've had worse. The beef was enjoyable, especially with the lack of protein in my usual diet these days, and the variety and quantity sort of covered up for the awkward nature of the conversation. For no yen, it was a good deal.

Still, I could never in good faith tell anyone to go here - even less for dinner when the prices double and triple.

1 comment:

  1. Three pines! Jon, I am impressed your coming up with this.