by Ai Uchida
Oyster Bar & Restaurant
"The time has come, my little friends,
to talk of food and things! and down went the little
oysters through the greedy Walruss mouth, as well as
ours. Of course the walrus was dining in Wonderland, whereas
we were at the worlds second establishment of Grand
Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant. The original eatery,
which opened simultaneously with Manhattans Grand Central
Station in 1913, is itself an international landmark and in
many ways epitomizes the city in which it was born. Lively,
diverse, and sophisticated yet casual, Tokyos recently
opened mirror image gives diners a taste of the original in
our very own Grand Central: JR Shinagawa Station.
Dome-shaped ceilings covered with weathered tiles rolled above
us while we lunched at one of the red-and-white checkered
tables in the main dining room. Although reservations are
booked for months ahead, over half the seating is kept available
for walk-in customers, and the line of 20-plus groups waiting
ahead of us one holiday quickly disappeared among the 133
table seats. All aspects of the restaurantdécor,
service and foodare meant to resemble the original,
and we enjoyed playing a short game of I Spy while
we waited for our orders. Among the findings: name tags displaying
the servers first names in English; free refills on
coffee, tea and sourdough; and a wholesome Billboard Top 40
New England clam chowder (¥630) arrived
warm and rich with hot pieces of clam and potato, the old-fashioned
oyster crackers a salty and familiar addition. On this day,
11 types of raw oysters (¥189-¥483 each) were offered,
half from the US side of the Pacific and half from Japans
bordering seas, although sadly there were none from the Atlantic.
Served on a bed of ice, the pristine whites from Hokkaido
(¥378) were firm and pleasantly briny, while our favorites
from Miyagi Prefecture (¥273) were larger, deeper-cupped
oysters that were so plump they barely fit in our mouths.
The recommended Po Boy lunch (¥1,260 includes clam
chowder and coffee) featured a French bread sandwich filled
with juicy fried oysters, shredded lettuce and mayonnaise.
Although the Po Boy is lunch enough for some, we ventured
further and ordered the classic Oysters Rockefeller (¥1,365).
When half a dozen Hiroshima oysters arrived covered with a
hardened, broiled soufflé, we were sorely disappointed
at the lack of the famously rich sauce. We left the shells
unattended to, and unfortunately so did the busy servers who
left us while we faced the cooling platter.
The buzz of the restaurant succeeded in cheering us up again
and we scanned the impressive wine listheavy on the
whites with more than 60 from around the worldbefore
finishing our meal with fresh cups of coffee (¥420) and
an enormous slice of key lime pie (¥735). It seems that
the same sparks of magic from the New York diner fly through
Shinagawas branch; it will be exciting to see them make
their own wonderland from it.
4F Atre Shinagawa,
2-18-1 Konan, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6717-0932. Open daily 11am-midnight
(LO 11pm). Nearest stn: Shinagawa. www.oysterbartokyo.com
Photos courtesy of WDI