Before heading to Japan, I have jotted down a few restaurants in my itinerary that I would like to visit, and this is one of them. You would wondering what so special about this restaurant, even the ex-President Bush dined there while in Tokyo. Take a closer look, does it look familiar to you? No... ? Perhaps you will remember hearing this quote in one of Quentin Tarantino's movies:
"Silly Caucasian girl likes to play with samurai swords."
You've guessed it right. This is the restaurant that "inspired" the set in Quentin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill Vol. 1 where Uma Thurman and the Crazy's 88 triads carnage showdown. Although the restaurant in the movie is called "House of Blue Leaves", but Gonpachi at Nishi-Azabu, Roppongi is what you should be looking for.
There are a lot of speculations claiming that the fight scene was actually filmed in the actual restaurant, but no... because firstly, the fight scene was actually filmed in a studio set in China, and secondly, Gonpachi is a lot smaller comparing to the film set for the fight scene they trying to achieve. Nonetheless, Gonpachi is an interesting restaurant to visit if you ever in Japan.
Gonpachi in Nishi-Azabu is actually not too far from Roppongi subway station, within walking distance (10-15mins). Piece of advice, make a reservation online in advance if you are planning to go, as it tends to get crowded and fully booked out quickly. I've made a reservation for 7.30pm, but we arrived half and hour early, so we decided to walk in nevertheless and hang out at the bar while waiting for our seat. Luckily the waitress was nice enough to let us through and seated us at one of the empty tables.
Seriously is one of the loudest greetings I've ever heard! All the chefs behind the counter bar stopped working, both hands stretched out and shouted extremely loud until the whole restaurant have their heads turned as we walking in. (AWKWARD!) Once we stepped inside the restaurant, we notice a massive counter bar in the middle of the room, with tables scatter all around it. One step up, there are even more tables along the walls. Then there is second floor, with Japanese floor seating dining room at extra cost.
You see, call me anal but I have a theory - if I want Chinese food, I would prefer my food to be cooked by Chinese, Italian food by Italian, and Japanese food by Japanese. So I was quite surprise to see 2 white guys, 2 middle eastern and 1 black guy behind the counter bar cooking away. And you will also find most of the customers in the restaurants are foreigners due the location of the restaurant being so close to Rappongi.
The menu (open in pdf file) is more or less the izakaya style food (yakitori sticks), and also Soba, which is one of their specialties. Then you can also choose from one of their set menu, starts from ¥3,500 (AUD $56). We decided to choose from the menu and share among 3 of us. We've ordered the "Zaru Tofu", the "special" tofu in a bamboo basket, Gonpachi house salad and some yakitori sticks to start with. Okay, call me ignorant, I didn't find anything special about the tofu. It is soft, chilled, but no "special".
The yakitori sticks are delicious. We've ordered Tsukune (ground chicken stick), Tanuki (stuffed shiitake mushroom), Wasabigamo (duck breast in wasabi) and Iberico Pork. Yes, we only ordered 4 sticks!!! 4 sticks at the total price of ¥1890 (AUD$30!). Called me cheapskate, but I really didn't feel like paying high price for some yakitori which you can get almost everywhere in Japan at a fraction of that price. Hence, our friend Angie, showing us some good Kung Fu "food-splitting" skill in picture above, so we can share that 2 pitiful stuffed shiitake mushrooms among 3 of us. It was delicious nevertheless, especially the wasabigamo, nice juicy duck breast with a hint of wasabi.
There is no surprise that we were still feeling hungry after only feeding on those entree size yakitori sticks. So second round of order, we decided to stick with hearty food and stuffed ourselves silly with "RICE" and "POTATO"! We went for the Takana Meshi, which is rice with pickled mustard leaves served in a hot stone pot.
Then we also ordered the Niku Jyaga Sukiyaki Style which is stewed beef with potatoes. The rice has great flavor with the mustard flavor on every bite. It goes so well with the stewed beef. But soon enough, we found ourselves scraping the burnt rice at the bottom of the hot stone pot, and soaked up all the juicy gravy from the stew.
The damage for 3 of us: ¥7,850 (AUD$125) with 2 beers and 1 oolong Chuhi.
Gonpachi is rather touristy, Hollywood-sy, and put on a good show. In my opinion, foodwise is rather average and on the hefty side. It is one of those restaurants that worth a visit and then tell your friends back home, "I've been to the restaurant that inspired Kill Bill movie!"
If you ever get the chance to go to Gonpachi, I would suggest you to go for the set menu, you will get to try more food with the money well spent.
1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0031
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-15:00, Sat, Sun and Holidays 11:30-14:00
Dinner: Mon-Fri 15:00-05:00am!