Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Ah, a play's the thing! Cafe Eight.

Ever the urbane sophisticate, Gentle Reader, I was delighted to be invited by Ashley Associates to the recent Tokyo performance of the Bard's Hamlet by the International Theatre Company London. Hamlet, performed brilliantly by this talented cast of seven (!), is one of my favorite Shakespeare pieces and never fails to reveal new insights and highlights.

And repairing for a post-performance bite with the troupe and various Ashley associates, the Child Bride and I found ourselves - obviously (after the Danish play?) - at the all-night Chinese restaurant Cafe Eight [Map] located hard by the Grand Hyatt and famous for its Peking Duck.

I must admit, Gentle Reader, that your Humble Correspondent has a h-u-g-e soft spot for Peking Duck [and Jaiozi (dumplings)]. I firmly believe that this duck dish is the third great contribution of Chinese civilization to humanity, after paper money and gunpowder, and have tried it all around the world from Beijing to Hong Kong, Guangzhou to Glenelg.

Cafe Eight could work somewhat on the pancakes to make them a little lighter (or prepare them fresh rather than well in advance!), but the duck itself is among the best I've ever had and the accompanying soup and stir-fry certainly don't wilt in its limelight. At Y3,680 this is a real bargain and I'm deeply grateful to Sir James (that paragon of elegant eating in Tokyo!) for the introduction and the meal.

The rest of the menu is both exciting and comforting, and with dishes and banquet courses to cover every budget, I commend Cafe Eight to you for gatherings that you know will be enthusiastic and effervescent. The side dishes we tried were good-to-great, with a cap doffed especially to the Chinese Greens and Fried Fresh Garlic. The drinks list is fulsome and interesting, although one should expect a predilection to the Orient rather than the Occident. I opted for flavour and familiarity with TsingDao which remains one of my favorite ales despite 30 years of competition from other well-meaning brews.

Cafe Eight has three branches in Tokyo (and one in Ontario apparently), but I am reliably informed that the Roppongi venue is the oldest and best. Visit Cafe Eight with rambunctious friends and tipsy colleagues.

Chinese Cafe Eight [Map], Nishi-Azabu 3-2-13,Court Annex 2F (opposite Grand Hyatt), 5414-5708; Open 24 hours a day.
Rating: Food: 8/10; Beer: 6/10; Ambiance: 6/10; Service: 7/10; Price ($$): 8/10. Total: 35/50

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