Sometimes a dining experience sticks in your mind. The company. Getting dressed up to match. The long line of eager diners anticipating the fare, having been excited by the critic’s words. The artistically plated chef’s specialty. Just one Michelin Star, should have been two.
In May 2012 we dined here, having walked the busy lanes off Asakusa-dori on the lookout for that special place. Me with my daughter Madeline, and Andrew with his son Dean. Only a few days into our trip to support the Central Coast Mariners, luck was on our side.
So this time around in June – another football trip, this time chasing the Australian Socceroos – our new group trod those lanes again to relive that 2012 night. After some back tracking and serious doubt (a building had been torn down in the intervening year, so Andrew and I were disorientated) there it was, calling to us: come in Gentleman.
So much for that wanky foodie polava, here is the real story.
It’s fair to say that simple dining is preferred by 5 guys in their mid to late 50’s. The memories from the previous year had faded somewhat but not fully. On being on a corner were right. The memories of a youngish guy with the key jobs of beer waiter, order taker and announcer of “no English” to any foreigner daring to step over into the place.
But having been there before we knew the routine. No tables outside, nor inside. Finding 5 seats together adjacent to the island cooking area, we went about ordering the delights using the tried and true method of:
- looking around at other tables;
- pointing at something that looked both interesting and at least half-cooked;
- sticking up the requisite number of fingers to Mum or daughter. It worked well except when we ordered just 2 of something, and son got a bit upset.
Chicken and beef skewers. Sweet potato. Something like an omelette. Rice. Noodles. Lots of beer. Much noise and chatter as tables of business types ate and drank into the night. Much cigarette smoke – in stark contrast to eating places in our home towns. Quite a few locals pointing and laughing at us, particularly when we tried to order something.
Cheap, quick and tasty pub food. Ordering beer was much easier. Hold the glass up and gesture with all fingers and smile. Sapporo in seconds.
But what was it that really drew us back? Having told this tale to our family and friends a number of times, we just had to let our new travelers take it in as well.
And it all revolved around the mother, daughter and grandson running this place. (atleast that is how we created the family setup). Son meeting and greeting, pouring endless beers from the mini kegs of Sapporo. Daughter plating up the mostly fried delights, although plating up might be a little bit of a stretch. And Mum? chief cook on the two small charcoal grillers.
On the 2012 visit it is fair to say we were just a tad surprised when Mum ducked down below the bench in front of us to take in a few surreptitious drags on her cigarette. As if stating defiance over planned restrictions on smoking at restaurants and the like, this year Mum just stood over the griller sucking them in. In her defence, it was getting late, and most patrons seemed to be exhibiting varying degrees of happiness associated with too much beer so were unlikely to remember seeing her do that anyway.
Should we be offended? No, we went back of our own free will. And after a fairly long game of charades, we even coaxed her into a photo as we left.
I think that sometimes we can get a bit precious about eating out. Here, we just did as the locals did.
Would I go back there again? Absolutely. I can take you there. I think this is the place.