“All four elements were happening in equal measure – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambiance. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.” ~Charlie Trotter, American chef and restaurateur
Shiodome (汐留) is a district in Tokyo recently developed at the turn of this century, redeveloped and remade into an attractive, somewhat upscale area full of shops, eateries, and businesses. Its spectacular skyscrapers are the home of the headquarters of Nippon Television, but more importantly for tourists to the city, a large variety of cafes, theaters, hotels and the subject of this blog – “Sky-View” restaurants.
Shiodome (pronounced shee-oh-dome-eh, meaning “halt the tides”) was originally a tidal marsh sitting between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Bay. During the Edo Period in Japan (1603-1867), the marshes were dried up and reclaimed as land for the then many feudal lords hungry for space.
In 1872, Shiodome was chosen as the site of the Shimbashi rail station, originally the Tokyo terminal of Japan’s first railway line. When the modern site of Tokyo station was developed as Tokyo and rail in Japan grew, Shiodome was basically converted into a train freight yard, a state and function in which it remained well into the 1980s. Today the district is unrecognizable, featuring all the modern aspects of city planning with motorized pedestrian traffic, elevated walkways, and underground passages that connect most of the densely packed buildings in the area.
Ar’s Italian Cuisine, one of the Sky View restaurants located in Shiodome, was recommended to us by our hotel’s very helpful concierge. A short but cold walk away, our journey was made easier by the pedestrian ways connecting all the buildings in the area.
Ar’s is located in a modern skyscraper above the 40th floor, providing amazing views of Tokyo and the famed Tokyo Tower from a warm and tastefully decorated space. But there is a much richer experience to be had here than just enjoying the view. Ar’s is an upscale eatery, and although there were only a couple of other groups there upon our arrival at about 2000, everyone was dressed in business formal, all men wearing coat and tie and ladies in dresses and heels.
Our wait staff was headed by a man who spoke actually very good English. Tatsuhiko Tochimoto, the establishment’s Assistant Manager and true professional in terms of service, acted as our interface to the rest of the facility, providing detailed explanations of our menu in terms of ingredients and preparation. We had reserved a table by the windows, not realizing that almost every table had a fabulous view. Jody and I both ordered full course meals (see their menu for more) and a bottle of wine, and while the food was absolutely delicious and presented as creative works of art, what will stay with us for the rest of our lives is not the food but the way we were treated.
The service at Ar’s was outstanding and very attentive. It seems that there was a staff to customer ratio of about 1 to 1, which meant that we never asked for anything. Water and wine was poured as if on que, and Tochimoto-san stopped by often between courses to chat, and with each course to explain our food in great detail. While at time I would find this overbearing, especially being during date-night with my lovely wife, Tochimoto-san made us feel warmly welcome, much like family would.
At one point he came up with a camera, and asked if he could take our photo. “Sure,” we said, somewhat confused. What does he want with our photo? He mentioned something about taking pictures of their special guests…. An hour later, delivered with our courses of sweets and dessert, was a small framed photo of me and Jody there at dinner; the staff had printed and framed the photo as part of our dinner! Such a uniquely fabulous touch to an already first-rate dinner.
Then, after we finished dinner, Tochimoto-san asked if we had a few moments. Again, “sure” we said, this time with some eager expectation. He brought us to an area down the hall from the restaurant, into a wedding chapel that they work in combination with. This chapel is “special” we were told, because it overlooks both the Tokyo Tower AND the newer, taller landmark, Tokyo’s SkyTree. He offered to take photos of our quickie wedding ceremony over the city lights of Tokyo. His business card states “A to Z Dining,” and that is no exaggeration. Such a fabulous night in Tokyo for us both!
Full disclosure: this level of service and quality of food does not come cheap in Japan. And while we spent a relatively enormous sum eating dinner at Ar’s, both Jody and I will tell you, without hesitation, that our experience there was worth every single dollar. And email Tochimoto-san directly at “firstname.lastname@example.org” to reserve your own unforgettable spiritual dining experience.
Ar’s Italian Cuisine & Sky Bar SPADE
Lunch starting @ 3,000 JPY, Dinner @ 10,000 JPY
Dinner 17:30-23:30 (last order 22:30) and Lunch 11:30-15:30 (last order 14:30)
Rail: Toei Oedo Line to Shiodome Station, take Exit 4-minute walk
Address: 41F, 1-5-2, Higashishinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-7102