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the [perfectly calm] adventures of david-andrew

arabian rock

I hear Tokyo doesn’t really have bars like the ones in the US that are just bars. They more closely resemble restaurants that serve drinks. These bars are often themed. Hiccup and Sister wanted to take us to an Aladdin themed bar in Shinjuku called Arabian Rock. They had been here once before. I’ve since read online that it is one of the wackiest.

We entered from the street and climbed approximately eight thousand claustrophobic, neon-flashing stairs. I don’t mean the stairs had bright colors. They were internally lit, literally flashing, and I’m guessing, intentionally disorienting. Inside the first door at the top, we were inside an entry about the size of a coat closet. There was a giant, sinister head in a turban on the wall and a small space in the wall with a genie lamp. Having been there before, Sister directed us to rub the lamp. So I gave it a touch with a bit of trepidation.

Rubbing the lamp caused a sudden commotion. Steam shot out of the lamp, there was a whistle, the next door flew open, and a woman in bare belly costume greeted us. We stepped inside and she gave a synchronized presentation with two other women chiming in at various points. She held up a second lamp to rub, which also burst smoke, but this time, with sparks. Good thing, I was planning to thin out my eyebrows anyway. As soon as they grow back, I’m sure they’ll be nice and thin. She pointed us to a bench and we waited for seating.

I mentioned on our first day that we had met very helpful people on the street in Tokyo. We have had the opposite experience in restaurants. Most of our food ordering experience has involved a server waiting patiently, but silently, as we try to choose a picture that seems appealing. Sometimes there are explanations from servers, appropriately, in 日本語. I know some 日本語, but they never covered what was coming next in any of my Japanese classes.

A television above our heads played Disney’s Aladdin. As it was the first thing in English from the US we had heard in a long time, our eyes fixed on the screen. It was the scene where Jasmine attempts to seduce Jafar and get him off guard. As her outer clothes are falling to the floor she says, “Jafar, I never realized how incredibly handsome you are.” Out of context, it seemed so weird and I accidentally voiced my thought, “Jasmine, I never realized what a whore you are.” Hiccup let out a polite “ha!” just as our host reappeared.

The nice woman in the belly costume led us to a semi-private booth and handed us a single menu. At the table there was a map of the restaurant and a table number should we get lost in this Arabian maze. It said we could tell anyone our table number and they would help us with directions. I wondered if this happens often. There was also a gold bell button to call the server when we were ready to order. I guess these are actually common in 日本.

I pushed the bell button. A non-themed server kneeled by our table and asked us for our orders. Sister told us there was a fun specialty drink called “The Lamp.” It seem to fit the surroundings and sounded fun. We never found it on the menu, but she asked the server for it anyway. The server seemed to understand and left.

After a few minutes she returned and put a small wire basket with four golden eggs on the table. She said a few sentences in 日本語 while periodically pointing to the eggs. No one understood, but we all nodded politely. Then she poured a red liquid from a bronze lamp into shot-sized glasses until about a quarter full. Then she talked about the shots. She bowed slightly, gestured toward the eggs and shots once more, and left.

We looked at the table and at each other. We had no idea what was happening or where to begin. We each handled the golden eggs. Tapping, rolling, turning yielded no answers. They seemed solid and there weren’t any moving parts. Nothing was clanging around inside. Theories started to emerge. Maybe they are souvenirs? Maybe we put them on the top of our tiny glasses when we don’t want more? They do fit there nicely and there is an all-you-can-drink deal on the menu. We returned the eggs to their home in the little basket.

We hadn’t figured out the things before us yet, when the servers returned with more. They put out a glass lamp with sake colored liquid in it and three stem glasses with ice and red, green, and yellow liquids. There was more confused discussion about having only three glasses of colors and four of us. We definitely told her four would be drinking. What are these liquids? Is one of them alcohol? Are all of them alcohol? Are they just flavors with no alcohol? Are we supposed to mix them? Will we explode if we mix them?

Hiccup and Sister tell us it was different last time they were here. “It was very apparent what to do last time.” We decided that it might become more apparent if we were drinking and decided to drink the liquid in the shot glasses. It tasted candy sweet and not alcoholic. I put my egg on top to signify I didn’t want more.

We were much luckier with our food choices. When ordering from a menu you don’t understand with pictures of mostly fried foods, you just have to choose and hope for the best. We had chosen a few items by group consensus. When they came we poked the fried item to see what was inside. Taking a small bite, I realized it was potatoes. It was perfect, yummy relief. The only thing that stopped me from gobbling all of them down was courtesy to the other three at the table. The fried potatoes and onion mixture disappeared quickly. As I was looking at the empty plate, wishing there were more, Hiccup says, “This is bar food in Tokyo, by the way.”

Another table sat behind us. It occurred to me to watch them to see what they did with their golden eggs and lamp drinks. I peered through the filigree on the booth wall.

Someone asked, “What are they doing with their drinks?”

“They’re drinking beer.”

“Oh. Smart.”

Their server came and put eggs on their table too. She went through her little talk, gesturing again at the golden eggs. The men chuckled and started handling the eggs almost like we had. One man tapped his egg on the table edge. Lightly at first, then he drew back and really whacked it. There was a cracking sound and he began removing the golden shell. Next he took a bite. The four of us began laughing. Hiccup cracked an egg open and took a bite of his too. “Oh! It’s an egg!”

Laughing, we went through all the silly motions of putting the egg in our glass and looking them over again. Feeling foolish, we joked that we might be on hidden camera show soon.

When the check arrived, we quickly paid the 7100円 and made for the exit. The End.


Except we weren’t quite free yet. We tried to leave the way we came in, but found ourselves stuck in the tiny entrance with the lamp again. There was no handle to let us out to the stairs. We couldn’t go back in without rubbing the lamp again and, thus, restarting the process again. We looked in circles for an escape. Hopefully, we really were on camera at this point and someone would come to help us. Maybe the host with the lamp has a trapped gaijin sense. She stuck her head through the door, said something while politely nodding, and reached up to a button about six feet above the floor. The outer door popped open and released us back into the less confusing Tokyo streets.

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Posted in food and travel by dA on May 17th, 2013 at 11:24 AM.


3 Replies

  1. Anonymous May 22nd 2013

    Ah this makes me smile and laugh like crazy remembering the fun of that night. So tired – so very hungry- and not a clue of what we were eating!! Love-s you!!

  2. Uncle$am May 23rd 2013

    That sounded so awesome! What an adventure. Those eggs most def do not look real.

  3. Wow! What a fun/crazy story!! I bet the whole night was full of anticipation of what unexpectedly was going to happen next!