Disclaimer: In exchange for meals and drinks at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, I am writing this review.
Although I had known about the Shinjuku Park Tower before, I have to make two confessions. One, I used to think that the whole building was the Park Hyatt Tokyo (it’s also an office building; the hotel occupies the 39th to the 52nd floors, but I reckon if it did occupy the whole tower exclusivity would be diluted). Two, it was precisely because of the 2003 movie Lost in Translation that I was drawn to it.
As I already had accommodations for the night, I arranged with the kind, upbeat and patient PR manager to sample lunch at Kozue, the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s signature Japanese restaurant, as well as to have cocktails later on at the New York Bar, where just a few of the many memorable scenes from Lost in Translation were filmed.
Earlier that day I had just come from Kyoto, thus I was carrying all of my luggage. To my surprise, the Park Hyatt Tokyo offered to look after my bags for the day. It was a much appreciated gesture!
For those Japanese language buffs, Kozue (梢・こずえ) means “the tip of a tree branch.” Indeed, the name might make one conjure up a tranquil and natural setting, even amidst the endless urban jungle that is Tokyo. Kozue’s decor is clean and minimalist, and augmented by western exposures of the Tokyo metro area.
Formal Japanese cuisine is lauded for its seasonality, presentation, and freshness of its ingredients…but you probably already knew that. Undoubtedly, it is for those reasons that I wanted to try Kozue. Who knew what the chef de cuisine would be serving? (Unless you cheated and previewed the menu online. On that note, the Kozue online beverages menu should be changed from “Sake/Wine” to “Beverages,” because it also includes non-alcoholic choices.)
To start, I chose the herbal tea tincture called Sei, which contained pu’er, kumazasa (Veitch’s bamboo), hatomugi (Job’s tears), perilla (shiso/beefsteak plant), red rose, and dandelion (known in Japanese as tampopo, which is also the title of another of my favorite movies):
The tea concoction was delicious, and had a good mix of sour, bitter, and fruity flavors. It was recommended to me by my waitress, though all waitstaff appeared equally eager to help.
For the meal, the “En” bento – in spite of having the same contents as the “Kozue” bento – was suggested to me by the Park Hyatt Tokyo PR rep., in part because of how it is served. Prior to eating the bento, there was a small appetizer:
The upper dish is called suimono (吸い物・すいもの), which refers to a clear broth soup, this time with a short neck clam fish cake, and Japanese pepper tree leaf buds. The lower dish was a prime example of how the seasons affect Japanese cooking. It’s a firefly squid (蛍 烏賊・ほたるいか・hotaru ika), which comes into prominence between March and June. Firefly squid are quite unusual in that they’re bioluminescent— they glow in the dark to attract prey. Delicious stuff, and this time served with simmered taro and soy milk sauce.
On to the bento…
So that’s what she was saying about a nuanced decoration…if only it was made out of yuba (湯葉・ゆば), or tofu skin.
They tricked me! I thought it was going to be one box, but the containers stack up.
My explanation of each dish won’t do this justice, so I’ll leave a cheat sheet here:
My main complaint with any Japanese set meal is that they’re never filling enough…perhaps I should have ordered another? But then, the point isn’t to incapacitate yourself for the rest of the day. It’s to appreciate the delicate nature of each item, to introduce to your taste buds a diversity of flavors and textures, and in my perpetual case, to learn about ingredients that may be completely unknown/incapable of being imported to my hometown.
In the case of En, there were clear winners. The scallops were brilliantly prepared, as were the sashimi set and the eggs. I tend to think that Japanese food errs on the salty/umami side, but many of the items in the bento were lacking in that department. Still, on the whole I liked En, and on that note enjoyed sampling various seafood and vegetables cooked in ways to which I’m not accustomed.
Much to my surprise – in spite of it being clearly noted on the original Kozue menu – the bento included a dessert and tea/coffee at The Peak Lounge, the popular spot that you first encounter when you alight the elevator at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
The Peak Lounge is a busy, afternoon tea spot with a bar and full menu becoming available later on in the day, too. To me, it looked rather drab (but still quite orderly), but the views more than made up for it. On an overcast day, though…
Never mind that, I’ve got an espresso with a mango cake and coconut ice cream to down!
You may not think of Japan when it comes to Western desserts – save for Kit Kats and Pocky – but once you try some of the tarts, croissants, and kouign amann at random bakeries throughout the country, you’ll be thoroughly convinced. And overweight.
The main course at dusk was the 52nd-floor New York Bar, where the characters played by Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray exchange glances for the second time. It adjoins one of the more well-regarded restaurants in Tokyo, the New York Grill (maybe I’ll try you next time), and has sweeping views of the megalopolis, and if you’re lucky, Mt. Fuji:
You may say “you should have ordered a Hibiki Suntory whiskey like Bill Murray,” but you probably won’t. Besides, why would I want such a monochromatic drink when I’ve got choices such as these:
Instead, I opted for the L.I.T. (know what that stands for by now?), which had sake, cherry blossom liquor, peachtree, and cranberry juice:
OK, so the color is off-putting, but the ingredients didn’t try to hide the fact that it would be that shade. All drinks come with snacks, better known as otsumami (お摘み); in this case, I had smoked edamame and peanuts.
As pleasing as that cocktail was, I wanted to try something else. But first, a look around the iconic New York Bar:
I walked through the bar to the New York Grill, which also has an open kitchen. The mood of the bar was spirited and relaxed, but I really couldn’t get enough of the views. Rather liked the art work on both sides of the bar, too. Be aware, however that the bar levies a cover charge during certain weekend hours.
The New York Bar/Grill felt like a “power” meeting spot, somewhere deals are made on a daily basis. What does that mean? I have to go back there some time, to make a deal.
Though I may have been feeling a bit woozy by that point, it was time to explore the drinks menu again. For my second cocktail, I went with the “Monkey 52,” which had Monkey 47 gin, elderflower syrup, and lime and cucumber juice:
Apologies for the extreme close-up of the Monkey 52 (must’ve been feeling slightly tipsy by then). Whoever their mixologist is should continue the good work (both on creating quality drink, and consequently on liberating patrons’ imaginations from reality).
Thanks to the PR management, I had a quality, appetizing, and photogenic day at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. お疲れ様です！
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