Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lebanese Lethargy

So imagine you've booked a farewell function at a Lebanese restaurant near Daikanyama for 20 people. Not so difficult to think through, and surely not something to waste too many brain cells on, right?

Now let me say up front that I love good Lebanese food, and that I'm at my most pleasant at social gatherings. But our recent experience at a well-known place on Komazawa-dori was amongst the worst I've ever had the misfortune to suffer through. The food was poor - I could tell it was fresh dung because it was still warm - and the service worse.

The construction of the party plan menu was reminiscent of a Picasso painting - all the pieces were there but they bore no resemblance to life as we know it and require one to postulate dimensions outside of rational existence. Torn between culinary Cubism and Realism, the cook chose Minimalism so that all were left hungry after the mandatory 120 minutes. Now I know what Purgatory will be like: I will be in a restaurant, there will be the promise of good food, there will be plenty of good company, ... and I will find myself back in this tiresome and paper-mache slice of egotistical nonsense.

I'm thinking that small restaurants don't get bookings for 20 all that often in Tokyo, so the fact that drinks were not included in the price at first, then included, then un-included, and finally re-included convinced me that the venue is not really in the business of meeting let alone exceeding customers' expectations. In my mind, we needed one of those large kane bells you find at Japanese temples to attract the attention of the staff who were obviously bound up in one another's scintillating presence rather than worrying about the herds out in the dining area.

While the wait staff spoke Arabic and French, no-one had apparently thought to make sure there was an English speaker or - wait for it - a fluent Japanese speaker. Orders and requests seemed to vanish into a haze perhaps caused by the overwhelming odour of disinfectant that pervaded the establishment. I like "clean", and perhaps there was a sensible reason for the Pinetarsol but it really was discomforting and distressing.

A word on Lebanese wine - I am sure that there are some excellent chateau, but none of them were represented at this restaurant. Colored grape juice with a mild hint of alcohol, awful on the front and the back of the palate served in glasses that were probably made from bullet-proof fiberglass or kelvar.

Unless you're looking to court favor at a major Japanese/French auto maker, you could best serve your own interests and Tokyo gastronomy by avoiding this place. Then perhaps it will go bankrupt and painlessly vanish.


Dom said...

yes terry, i went there for lunch a couple of years ago and they were STINGY. if there is one thing you do not do in a lebanese restaurant it is skimp on the food.

rikonick said...

Isn't it a bit much expecting Lebanon to produce great wine? That's what France, Italy and Chile are for.