Imagine you're at a 3-star chef talk-fest, Gentle Reader, and after a hectic day of celebrity chef-ing you are feeling a little peckish. All that talk of molecular gastronomy and the Elysian pleasures of fine dining. You venture:
"What ho, Heston! Hola, Ferran! Alors, Joel! Oi, Tetsuya! We're in the food capital of the world, so let's step out for some first-flight sushi or some delicate kaiseki".
Where do you think you would end up? Tsukiji? Ginza? No doubt you would be as taken aback as your Humble Correspondent if you learned that they actually went to Hutong of Beijing (only in Japanese) [Map] in the Azabu Juban area. If you had family history in the Boxer Rebellion like your Humble Correspondent, you would know that a hutong is a narrow street associated mainly with Beijing. Basically, one takes a group of siheyuan courtyard houses that share a well and build a wall around them to create a hutong. Which habit commends itself serenely to a restaurant name? But I digress.
On the wall on the way up the stairs at Hutong of Beijing, the more observant of my excellent readers will find a number of signatures which indeed belong to the demi-gods of gastronomy mentioned above, who visited Tokyo last year for the World Summit of Gastronomy 2009. What possessed them to visit this restaurant totally escapes me, save that it was to try the excellent siu mei style Canton Duck or epynomous Peking Duck, wonderful shrimp dumplings, and the tongue-tingling spicy fried rice. Your Humble Correspondent would surely have recommended these dishes, having enjoyed them perhaps 50 times, had he only had been asked.
The Once and Future Blonde rates this venue as a weekly "must go" restaurant, except when she's on the "diet" in which case poor Hutong becomes merely an excuse for breaking out. Like champagne. Frequented by the celebrity types who congregate in this part of town, Hutong is a busy and bravely non-decorous place which actually brings to mind its Beijing cousins through the very narrow layout, crowded kitchen, and steep staircases.
Part of the mega-group Kiwa Corporation (361 venues under management, of which 285 are company-owned), Hutong of Beijing is one of those rare examples of a good idea, executed well with no pretensions. Long may it grace the Tokyo dining scene!
Go to Hutong of Beijing with good friends who appreciate getting down and dirty with good Chinese food. Provided you can elbow the celebrity chefs out of the way, you will find an hour or two spent at the long rural eating hall tables well worth the investment.
Hutong of Beijing: 5-19-19 Roppongi, Minato Ward. t: 03-5770-2280
Rating: Food: 8/10; Wine 5/10; Service: 6/10; Hutong-ness: 8/10; Price Performance: 7/10. Total: 34/50
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