Ninja NY

Ninja comes to NY. This giant Japanese restaurant chain features ninjas that leap out at you while you eat, or something to that effect. I heard that after a frightened patron had a heart attack in the LA facility, they turned the lights up and cut back on the ninja theatrics. The few reader reviews up at the NYTimes suggest that the type of geeks attracted by this theme aren't likely to be able to afford to eat here, let alone spell omasake. Rarely has kitsch cost so much.

Searching for information on what it's like to eat at Ninja, I stumbled upon a review from Alex, lead singer of Franz Ferdinand, on his blog. Since I couldn't figure find a permalink, I've excerpted it below. You can also find the original at his weblog by scrolling down to the July 30, 2004 entry. He visited what I assume is the flagship Ninja restaurant in Tokyo. That the most detailed review of dining at Ninja would come from the lead singer of Franz Ferdinand, who I'm seeing in concert in a week and a half, is a bit odd. So odd that I just looked up at my ceiling to make sure no ninja was clinging by his fingernails, ready to aerate my forehead with a few well-thrown stars.

Leaving For Fuji Rock, Tokyo
30 | 07 | 04
We arrived last night. It's close, humid and warm, the opposite of what we left down South. It's amazing here, almost overwhelming. There's too much to absorb. I feel like I've run my finger across the icing of a huge, intensely rich chocolate cake and licked it. A taste, that's it.

Last night, after we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we went out for something to eat. The restaurant was called Ninja and it wasn't just a restaurant. It was a themed adventure. When I walked in, the girl at the bookings desk brusquely ordered me back outside. "Your Ninja not ready yet! Outside!" I stood sheepishly in the street with the others, feeling the perspiration grow across my skin, watching the blocks of lucky salt by the doorway dissolve in the warm mist. "Hai! Come now! Ninja Ready!" We clattered back down the stairs. "Ninja! Ninja!" she cried, then clapped her hands twice. Another girl burst from a secret door into a forward roll in front of us. She was dressed in black with a scarf around her head. She wasn't an out of work actress, she was a Ninja. "Follow me! Watch head!" We followed her through another secret door into a dark passage. It was lit with a low green light. We stopped by an artificial fountain built into the wall, with plastic plants surrounding it. "This Ninja Shrine!" We murmured appropriate awe and agreement. It reminded me of the boat trip you can go on in Blackpool, where you go for a journey around the world, seeing what a guy from Blackpool's idea of Egypt and Africa is. "Watch head!" We followed her further along the dark passage, abruptly stopping by two windows with bars over them. We looked through and could see more plastic plants and fake rocks. "This Ninja Nest!" We murmured appropriate awe and agreement. "Watch head!" We followed her still further down the passage. We turned a corner. The Ninja's face creased in dismay. "Oh no! Not ready! Go back!" We shuffled back round the corner. The Ninja disappeared. Then reappeared. "Right! Come now!!" We shuffled after her. "Oh No! What happened?" I wasn't sure. She was pointing at the floor in front of us. There was now a sheet of perspex over some more fake rocks and plastic plants, Swith dry ice curling between them. "Oh no! How we get cross?" We murmured appropriate anxiety and perplexion. "It's OK! I'm Ninja! Hai!!" She clapped twice and a draw bridge suddenly fell down, allowing us to cross the thick perspex in safety, into the restaurant beyond.

...I sat down on a cushion at a low lacquered table on lacquered floorboards, enclosed by paper screens. Our Japanese friends ordered a selection for us, including warm Saki. That stuff is fantastic. As the food began to arrive, so did another Ninja. This one was a magician. He asked us if we liked card tricks. Before we could finish saying yes/hai he puked up a deck of cards across the table. There was then an intense ten minutes of concentrated, very impressive tricks, no time to linger on applause, just trick after trick, before he disappeared into the Ninja night. The food was incredible. Leaves with frozen smokey dressing and jellyfish. Soft-shelled crab tempura, like eating a tarantula with excema. Fish eggs, some tiny, some huge, translucent, red, yellow, black and orange, all glistening like jewels. Fatty belly of tuna, minced into a raw paste. Cuttlefish scored with a cross-hatch. Sea anemone perched on seaweed. Silver mackerel skins. Cold noodles in cold salty soup. It all tasted so wonderful, so many new flavours and textures, food like I've never eaten before, the feast of a lifetime. The saki melted my limbs and I began to slide under the low table.

When we got back outside, I'd forgotten how close and humid it was. The cicadas were belting it out in the trees, drunk businessmen fell out of a whisky bar with bottles of every Scotch ever distilled stacked in the window. I got back to my room and decided not to negotiate the electric toilet's high-powered cleaning jets, despite the helpful diagrams which illustrated exactly where the jets were aimed. I put on the complimentary kimono, span round a couple of times and collapsed on the bed, falling into a very satisfied sleep.

posted by “Alex”