Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Monday, March 31, 2014

IWFS Tokyo February 2014 Day Five

Feeling a need for carbo, and seeing the other restaurant had its usual long queue, we had a Western breakfast before checking out of the Keio Plaza and leaving the bags at the left luggage. We had some shoes and clothes and a stolen blanket that we we originally going to bin, but I suggested that maybe we give it to the homeless people outside the Shinjuku station. There were a number of people there, but two old pitiful guys stood out. One was dazed, the other was asleep. We gave one bag to each. The dazed one just grabbed onto it and pulled it to his chest; the one who was sleeping, we left it behind him. When we walked back about five hours later I noticed the bag was still there. Guess he didn't know it was meant for him. At the same time, no one else had taken it. Pride? Or some sense of honesty among the homeless? Not sure.

Katsukura Tonkatsu Restaurant
Before we checked out, we had snagged a map from Paul as to where lunch would be. He had scored it from Reiko. It was the Katsukura, a Tonkatsu place on the 14th floor of the Takashimaya. Reiko had written on it as to what it was (which was just as well since it was all in Japanese and pretty useless to us Gaijin otherwise). Same with a map with directions to a ramen noodle place, which we never got around to visiting. But there you go. Another piece of paper to save as a memory. 

Paul and Ria at the Katsukura
We decided to go straight and first have lunch at Katsukura (as did friends Paul and Ria) and then spend our remaining Yen in the food section. Which we did. We also had coffee and cake at a sit up and beg style bar in the Taka food store, which was a good rest spot. We then proceeded to buy up a hunk of Wagyu beef offered at special discount and some parma ham and salami at the Peck outlet. Peck is a Milan legend for fine food of a pork persuasion and we always buy if we are there. We could not pass up the chance to stock up. There is so much ceremony in the transaction process here. Buying the beef was a bit of an arduous three act play requiring the service of a translator (who incidentally was from Pahang Malaysia doing a Masters in Japan and doing part time work to learn the language and who said he had earlier been helpful with friends Ria and Paul). The Japanese seem to like to make an occasion about what we would consider simple procedures. My feeling is that they are very scared of making a mistake and don't want to be called up about it. Fair enough. Buying the ham was more of a bowing match, littered with pronouncements (in Japanese) of presumably what we wanted, confirmation of what we had bought, how much it was, how much we were giving Mr Peck, how much change we were getting back and thank you very much. Bit arduous for guys who are used to fast action buying but cute nonetheless. 

Lengjai and Lenglui. And Tonkatsu. Yum.
View from the Sky Bar
Headed back to hotel with an hour to spare so went to the Sky Bar for a final drink. Lenglui had sparkling wine with cake and I had a Guinness. Very pleasant overlooking the Tokyo skyline. We had the shadow side, the other side of the Bar had the sunset which was a bit fierce on the eyes. 

Throughout our time in Tokyo, Lenglui had loved the heated toilet seats everywhere and the automatic raising and flushing. Seems you open the door and the seat raises, but we couldn't check if the seat lowered when the door closed on exit. Lenglui tried to fool the seat in the Taka toilet by closing while she was still in there, but the toilet wouldn't have it. Smart toilet seats. Yes.

Back down to retrieve the bags and pack the meat. Bit of a wait and watching some SIA flight crew getting herded onto their bus. Their luggage was large and expensive - nice top of the range suitcases. Our Bus limo to Narita airport took nearly two hours, the first of which was just getting out of Tokyo city. A more direct link via high speed train would be a winner. Apparently, it can be done on the transit which involves a change of train, and is hugely cheaper - the airport bus limo is Y3,000 whereas Transit is Y1,100. But with multiple bags the bus becomes necessary - humping bags from one platform to another is no joke. Presumably there is a reason why there is no direct link from Shinjuku, but it would be a tremendous improvement compared to the two hours on the bus. 

Another view from the Sky Bar
Got stopped by security before entering the airport to check passports and then straight to check in. Paul and Ria thoughtfully blagged the assistant and got us checked us in through their business class counter. As a result, we forgot to check where our seats were and ended up in the middle of the centre aisle. We normally prefer the aisle seat so we can pee without disturbing. But MAS now charge to reserve seats. We forgot to check at check in. Nyaaaaahhhhhhh. 

Ate a ham and cheese roll and shared some beers with Lenglui bought at the airport store for final Yen clearout before boarding. It was a very full flight. Got seated and settled in. It would prove to be probably one of the worst flights I have experienced.  Context - the flight is a seven hour trip, taking off at 9.40pm and scheduled to land at 4am in Kuala Lumpur. We have a supper at 10.40pm. Those who are able to, sleep. Sleep is necessary, since our biorhythms are out of whack to begin with. Yet Cabin crew insist on waking everyone up to feed us at 2am in the morning, two hours ahead of landing. In this, they equally insist on getting people to upright their seats so that those behind can eat in comfort. The food in question was a manky egg sandwich with a cup of cold tea. No utensils were involved. Now, where cutlery and hot food or drink is involved then I can see a point in uprighting seats. But to wake people up at 2am to feed them on a seven hour flight when most people would prefer to sleep (assuming they can sleep on an airplane) AND to upright their seats when no cutlery and no hot drinks appeared to be involved was ludicrous and inane in the extreme. It showed a stunning lack of judgement on the part of MAS Cabin crew (or presumably MAS Management - cabin crew will only do what they are told by senior management and are probably left little discretion to think for themselves). Putting food above a decent sleep and insisting seats be upright just to eat a sandwich I feel is dumb and made for a truly bad customer experience. Very angry at the stewardess for waking up the Lenglui. I will look not fly short haul MAS again. Bad food and service like this with no option not to eat is something I find unacceptable. 

Arrrived at KLIA at 4.15am, easy get through Immigration and baggage. Got whacked by the midnight surcharge for the Airport limo, paying RM175 to get home. Upside was it only took forty minutes on the early morning roads. Got home, unloaded the meat into the fridge and slept the morning off. A wonderful trip but as always, so nice to get back home in your own bed and in front of a TV that speaks your language. A hearty Three Cheers to Tony-san for organising a brilliant trip and our grateful thanks for letting us see and taste Tokyo in such excellent company and in such amazing eateries. Arigato Gozaimas IWFS and Tokyo!!

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