by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2008/04/08 - Ninja Restaurant
Last week I was finally able to eat at the often talked about Ninja-themed restaurant in Tokyo. I had heard good things about the branch they opened in New York, and figured that the one in Tokyo would be at the very least as good, and probably even better. Happily, I was not dissapointed!
First off, the ninja atmosphere was very well done. Though undeniably a little kitsch, it was very enjoyable. The entrance to the restaurant was just a foreboding hole in the side of a big shopping building. Inside, the staff were all dressed in full ninja regalia, and both spoke and acted the ninja part. The decor of the restaurant was astonishingly elaborate, and the path from the maitre d' to one's table included trap doors and caverns. The setting of the actual dinner itself could have varied tremendously; open seating, private room or VIP room. We made reservations ahead of time for the private room, unfortunately all the VIP rooms had already been booked.
Our private room was situated in a "ninja village" which had a smoky grotto at its core. The menus were all on scrolls, and the meals would usually tie into the Ninja theme somehow. The ninja throwing stars above were part of the first course of the meal. Sometimes the dishes would involve some sort of deception or surprise, I suppose because of the ninja's natural proclivity for "dark arts", even in the kitchen. One course was a salad, and when it arrived there was nothing but the greens and an unbroken egg on top. But when the shell is opened, one doesn't find an egg but instead shrimp and carrots and all the rest of the salad's more flavourful content. On the right side of the picture below, you can see that another course has been presented in a mysterious dark box with dry ice spilling out of it, and obscuring its contents. Whether it was suculent grilled lobster, or poison-tipped darts, I will not disclose.
The reason that I had such a good time at Ninja Akasaka was that in addition to its entertaining atmosphere, the food was in fact very good! If all the Ninja fanfare had only been accompanied by mediocre food, the evening would surely not have been worth the price. But the meal was of a very high caliber, and each course was made of high quality produce put together in a gastronomically interesting way. Having looked into Ninja before going, I had heard a few complaints about the size of the portions. In fact, we were warned by the server before ordering that the a la carte menu was very small. It seems that the Ninja staff themselves were aware of the complaint about the portions. However, I found that after my ten-course meal my hunger had been fully satiated. Ninja is not a cheap place, and if on a tight budget it would of course not be advised as a means of nourishment. But for the combination of a fun environment and good food, Ninja provided a very enjoyable evening. Ninja's menu can be seen here, and if one is willing to spend such an amount on dinner than Ninja is surely worth consideration. It seems as if to get the full experience it is better to pay for the course meals rather than selecting a la carte. Below is a picture of the desert which I had. It was a mini-bonsai tree made out of chocolate and ice cream. Looking at it makes me want to go back again.