Seems like Akasaka is full of illusions.
Take, for example, Hitotsugi Street, where it would be easy
to mistake the bark-covered street lamps for trees. Then there's
Usagiya, a bar set inside the grounds of Jodoji Temple. Unless
you happen to be visiting the temple at night and see the
glowing sign of a moon and rabbit, you might take this unassuming
building to be a private residence. And the illusions don't
stop upon entering. With two magicians performing nightly,
Usagiya is literally a magic bar.
After being seated at the intimate, candlelit counter, we
were greeted with a wonderful, intensely mint-scented hot
oshibori (hand towel). The young Japanese woman who served
as our personal bartender/waitress took our orders.
The tartness of the Dan Da Dansu, a cranberry liquor-based
punch (¥1,200), made our tongues do a dance, but the
Ichigo Milk (¥1,200) was an average affair. Turning
to the eclectic food menu, we followed our waitress'
suggestion of shiso gyoza (¥800). The surprisingly crispy
yet juicy fried dumpling made our mouths water. The tomato
crab salad (¥1,200), with hints of parmesan cheese,
was even better. And though our waitress's attentiveness
didn't allow for much privacy, her banter made a welcome
addition to our conversation.
Usagi means "rabbit" in Japanese,
and rabbits could be found everywhere in the décor, from
the chopstick rests to framed cartoons on the wall. Our waitress
explained that rabbits, like people, are creatures that need
attention or they will die from loneliness, so Usagiya pays
extra attention to their customers.
With all the talk about rabbits, we half-expected Scott Hitchcock
to pull one out of his pinstripe suit. A native New Yorker
who was a house magician at Las Vegas's Caesar's
Palace for six years, Hitchcock is performing at Usagiya until
May. He dazzled us with tricks involving glass globes, rubber
bands, and even Disney's Nemo character, all timed
to swing music from his portable cassette player.
Having a magician right at our seat allowed for a perspective
a stage could never allow. It was mesmerizing to witness things
appear right under our noses, although we were worried about
our second round of drinks being spilled. Hitchcock's
act was followed by Toto, a Japanese magician who loved to
use the word "amazing." His humorous English
emphasized Usagiya's foreigner-friendly and fun atmosphere.
Even though the bar looks like a private lounge inside (and,
in fact, there's a posh hostess club on the second
and third floors), its vibe is extremely welcoming for a high-end
watering hole. That's a trick many bars in Tokyo don't
seem to have mastered.
¥2,000 table charge, reservations
required. 4-3-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3583-5344. Open
Mon-Sat 6:30pm-5am, closed Sun and hols. Nearest stn: Akasaka,
courtesy of Usagiya
bars with METROPOLIS readers at