A couple of awesome friends were in Tokyo visiting and being the theme cafe connoisseurs with adventurous tastes, they invited us to have dinner together at the Ninja Restaurant at Akasakamitsuke 赤坂見附, which is in the vicinity of the Diet Building and the Imperial Palace. I am no aficionado myself, having only been once to a theme restaurant, the Robot Restaurant. The pictures of the restaurant on the website looked like a real ninja hideout, dark and mysterious and sporadically lit with eerie paper lantern lamps. We were stoked to see ninjas fly out of walls and throw shuriken 手裏剣 aka ninja star blade darts at us!
The entrance to the restaurant was a mere 3-minute walk from the station; the maître d’ who was decked out in a smart black suit guarded the door with a clipboard and seemingly ignored us. The sign says ninja, we should be at the right place no? It was literally a hole in the wall, in minimalistic, unassuming tones of greyish black. Such secrecy! It felt like we were trying to enter a speakeasy. After checking the reservation, he brought us in and immediately down a flight of stairs to another receptionist. This time she was in legit ninja garb, headband and tabi shoes intact. She informed us solemnly that we had to go through ninja training before we could enter. Totally missing the gravity of the situation and almost on the brink of erupting in giggles, we couldn’t be more amused when another ninja burst out from the wall behind her: our ninja trainer had made his grand entrance!
We dove head first into the rabbit hole, all eager to learn some ninja tricks. The first obstacle that we had to overcome was crossing a closed drawbridge. We had to chant “Nin, nin, nin!” in unison for the chains to work their magic. Voila! The bridge unwound and we hurried across, only to be greeted by a labyrinth of a maze where we had to duck and go down even more stairs. There were pretty water features all around that had what I thought resembled ninja treasure (or loot) on display.
Finally we reached the restaurant area. There were two floors, and every party had a private room and a personal ninja attendant for the night. The corridors were cramped and reminiscent of olden day Japanese streets with wooden screens and lantern lamps. The crusaders of the dark night were moving around stealthily, serving orders and assassinating hunger. We sat leaning against cushioned chair backs, with our knees folded against the tatami floor. All of a sudden, a shadow appeared behind the wooden door. We watched in pseudo trepidation as it slowly slid open.. It was our ninja messenger waitress on a mission to take our orders back to the ninja chefs!
The food was a fusion of European and Japanese. Course menus were available and ranged from ¥6000 to above ¥10000. As we ordered a la carte, we had to have a minimum spending of ¥4000 each. This wasn’t hard, and was also well worth given the ninja magic show we got later on. We got most of the signature ninja dishes, including the ninja style salad, snow crab and grapefruit with sword trick, black cannonball sushi roll, roast rack of lamb, stone-boiled boullabaisse soup, and original ninja cocktails to boot! There were some odd “beauty cocktails” on the menu, but why would a ninja drink that if he could just look cool with his mask right? Our messenger also whispered that there was a button that would summon her over in ninja lightning quick reflex time, but we would have to find it ourselves. We found it pretty quickly just under the table but it was fun anyways.
It was nice that the ninjas were all well-versed in English; we were told that about half of the patrons were foreigners. Our ninja messenger attended to us swiftly and kept us pretty satisfied with the service. She elaborated on the ingredients of the dishes after knowing that one of us was vegan (how thoughtful!) and also cooked the hot stone soup table-side. Another surprise came with the dessert menu. It was literally on a slip that looked like a crumpled little note you pass around in class. After taking the order, she informed us that this was a “ninja secret” and that she was sworn to silence and had to burn the slip. Say what! But being a “modern” ninja, she would use a lighter (oh mercy on the Japanese sense of humour). She promptly whipped it out and lit the slip. It burst into flames and with a swing of the arm, whoosh! It disappeared into thin air. Bravo and applause to our ninja!
Birthday songs were sung often; it seemed this restaurant was a popular place to hold a celebration. After our friends were done with their white chocolate skeleton hand crepe dessert, the traveling trickmaster came a’knocking. No photography nor videography was allowed while he showed us a glimpse of his trade secrets. He performed coin and card tricks, but the pièce de résistance came when he pulled a marked card out of a zipped purse he had in his chest pocket. The divine powers of a ninja! Given his devotedness and loyalty, he would never divulge his sacred secrets regardless of how much we pleaded… But our princess friend got the card as a keepsake!
It was time for us corporate ninjas who pledge allegiance to the daily grind to go home. We popped out of the wall right next to the receptionist, and waved bye to the maître d’ and his slicked back hair. Our messenger somersaulted (in my imagination) after us with a deftly handwritten scroll that wished us good stuff, as well as a “Please come again!” scroll. How sweet!
Overall, even though it is a little gimmicky, the ninja were all charmingly accommodating and very much into the ninja persona. The food was not bad too! I would definitely recommend or bring friends here. On another note, we took a walk after dinner to the Akasaka Palace nearby thinking that it was open to the public. We guilelessly asked the guard about the opening hours, to which he haughtily replied “It’s never open”. Who could’ve guessed that the Japanese prince lived there?!
Ninja Akasaka*Automatic translation