Roppongi has quite a bad reputation. Located about 15 minutes from Shinjuku it has become some kind of foreigner centre. Go there for a night out and you will be propositioned by a collection of people promoting bars, strip clubs and even “massage” parlours. Once a girl grabbed my hand and said massage 3 times before I could wrestle my hand away from her.
This kind of thing has resulted in me giving Roppongi a bit of a wide berth when having a night out. Recently though I had to go there to get myself a Chinese VISA. As I had to get there ridiculously early I found I had plenty of time after to explore. To my shock I didn’t find people jumping out at me promising cheap drinks, cheap live music or cheap love but a rather nice bookshop. So after a bit of exploring I found a couple of interesting places that anyone who comes to Japan should check out.
F1 Pit Stop Cafe
I have been quite a big fan of F1 for the last 20 odd years, following the ups and downs of the drivers with much interest but I never expected to see an F1 themed restaurant. Inside is a treasure trove of F1 memorabilia, a load of celebrity signatures and even a Red Bull F1 car.
I came in at lunch time and the lunch menu had an optional salad bar and dessert but oddly every dish I could see on the menu was pasta. Is pasta particularly popular in F1 circles? Is that Bernie Ecclestone’s favourite? Why only pasta? Whatever the reason, I felt they missed a trick with the naming of the food. Why call something Spaghetti Bolognese, when you can call it David Coulthard This is my Year Bolognese? Why not have Ferrari Team Orders Lasagne or Champion’s Wall garlic bread? A missed opportunity indeed.
One more thing about the food is that they serve large portions for no extra cost, which is a bit of a bargain but I was not so hungry so I chose regular size. I was shocked that 2 different waiters had to check 4 times that I didn’t want large. Very odd, despite this strangeness the food was very tasty and I yummed it up.
Around the restaurant they had a number of TV screens showing an F1 race from 2009, can’t remember which it was though. There was also a shop were you can buy a large amount of overpriced F1 souvenirs.
As I left the bar I noticed that someone was eating steak and chips. Maybe I should have turned the page when reading the menu.
This is an unusual one. Ever play any Dragon Quest games from Square-Enix? If you are from the UK then maybe not, only about 2 have ever been released there. Here in Japan however there have been countless Dragon Quest games and spin-offs made, it is really popular here. Despite never playing the games myself, I ventured in here and they really have gone the whole hog with it.
It is built to resemble a Tavern as seen in about a million fantasy stories but was a bit smaller that I expected and is a standing bar only. The food and drink all are given difficult to translate names and themes based on the video games, I especially liked the slime shaped niku man I ate, a clever little idea. On the bar there are a load of turkey legs and strange looking ball things under a heater, which is the last thing you expect to see when you walk in anywhere. The bar is also decorated with various swords and trinkets which I guess are from the games.
The staff (well the female staff anyway) are dressed like serving ladies from the games and here it all takes a maid café like turn. Maid cafés are hardly my favourite places in the world, the girls are basically paid to make chatter with you, smile and looked nice. One asked me in Japanese if I had played Dragon Quest 4, it has funny and interesting characters apparently.
For what it is worth, the food was rather tasty but I didn’t eat too much, I had just eaten a slap up (regular sized) meal at the F1 café so I was fairly full. I do think the menu is a little pricey though, my beer was 1000 yen. On the way out of the bar I got a loyalty card (hmm) and a slime fan for those hot summer days (yay).
So these are just a couple of places of interest in Roppongi, I’m sure there are plenty more, I heard people say Tokyo Midtown is nice but I think it is just a posh shopping centre with a load of expensive shops and a Starbucks. Even though I was wondering around in the middle of the day, I felt I couldn’t quite escape Roppongi’s seedy underbelly, I often saw vans marked Escort Location Service with a seemingly endless number of girls in kimonos exiting them and walking somewhere.
Anyway, where ever you happen to be, go exploring, you just may find something interesting.