A Little Watering Hole (& part-time Russian Dumpling Place) in Ginza

I met Hiro-san on October 17, 2007.  I was in Tokyo for a business conference.  One evening, after the official reception and dinner at a  swanky hotel in the Chiyoda Ward, I changed out of the suit and did what I often do: I roamed.  The number of tiny little restaurants and lounges and bars and clubs in and around Chiyoda, and neighboring Ginza, is staggering and choosing which to duck into can be daunting for the non-local.  But walking down a Ginza street, late, I saw a sign, “The Bloody Doll,” outside of a building that directed passers-by to the 2nd Floor.  The name was too provocative for me to pass it by.  I entered, up and into “The Bloody Doll” — a vodka bar.

Hiro-san. Owner & Manager of "The Bloody Doll."

Hiro-san, it turns out, belies his little establishment’s creepy name.  It turned out that not only was Hiro a gentle, kind-hearted proprietor of an astoundingly well-stocked vodka bar, but that he’s a literary nut, too.  “The Bloody Doll” is the title of a series of noir mystery novels (centered, eponymously, around a little Tokyo bar . . . “The Bloody Doll”) by Japanese author Kenzo Kitakata.  It’s also the, likely inspirational, name of a 1924 Gaston Leroux (of Phantom of the Opera fame) novel,  La Poupée sanglante, that’s chock-full of mayhem, murder, vampires and the like.  Hiro’s place, though, is just a quiet little, jazz-infused, vodka bar in Tokyo.  We stay in touch here and there.

I’m heading to Tokyo at the end of May.  After all my duties and responsibilities are done for the day I hope to pay Hiro a little visit.  I’ve got a recipe I want to share with him anyway. Four nights agao, before I could email Hiro about possible evenings I might be able to drop by, I received an email from him, to wit:

GREAT NEWS

Richard-san,

Hello .
It’s big news.
My Bar on TV.
He sent a YouTube link with his email.  I note from The Bloody Doll website (link above) that this was broadcast on the “Asahi Super Channel.”  The vid’s just below (bottom of the page).  While I won’t attempt a word-for-word translation, here’s the gist of it (after reading this you should be able to follow-along with and “get” the little 4min 7sec, vid with no problem):
What’s the food you can only get once a month?  What’s this mysterious food?  This “violent” dumpling?  “Perian” (pron: phe*ree*ahn)?  What’s that?  We’ll check out the place where they serve it.  A bar?  A bar called “The Bloody Doll?”  Can we not eat here now?  Hiro-san explains that this mysterious meal is only served on Tuesday, during the daytime.  Every time we’ve come here during the day there’s been no signboard, but next Tuesday we go back and, what!, there’s a sign for special dumplings out front!   So we go back inside.  I mean, uh, this is a BAR, right?  What are you doing serving dumplings?!  By night it’s “The Bloody Doll,” but by day (Tuesday) it’s a dumpling restaurant. . . Russian Dumplings!  You see . . . my wife is Russian.   And now we introduce the beautiful “Irichi”[?] (36 years old).  In Russia, when we make dumplings, we make a lot of little ones.  So, then, here you go.  Ah!  Wow, there’s a lot of little dumplings in this bowl.  Ummm. . .  when you bite into it the meat’s juices come out!  Same with the dumpling itself.  The smell of a (traditional) dumpling restaurant comes forth from the inside of the dumpling.  A little spicy, too.  This is delicious.  A regular serving costs ¥1000.  It made a couple of transitions, from China, back to Mongolia, then back to Russia.  The outer dumpling’s made with flour, egg and salt.  The center’s ground beef, pork and onion.  Even if I don’t intentionally go in for Russian food, I really appreciate this place.  Delicious!  Other types are also ¥1000.  We do this every Tuesday and Saturday during the day.  Twice a week only!

.

Outside the B'Doll. May '10. After I wrote this piece. Photo credit to Hiro-san.

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  1. 1. Russian dumplings taste great to be honest 🙂
    2. That was some weird TV show with a weird sounding dude doing the commentary part in the background 😀
    3. Whenever I go to Tokyo I have to visit this place during the day ( don’t drink normally and not vodka 😀 ) only because of the name itself 🙂

      • letsjapan
      • April 16th, 2010

      I’m very glad to have introduced you to a great little place. As for “weird,” by Japanese tv standards it was pretty typical.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m happy to see that you’re stopping by. Please stay in touch.

      Kind regards to you,

      R

    • JaxDem
    • April 16th, 2010

    Thank you for the e-mail alert to this story/video. How clever Hiro was in choosing Bloody Doll for the name. I see the cleverness in his eyes and perhaps some mischief behind that smile?

    I don’t know how anyone could make a choice of where to stop in with so many options as you pointed out and is evidenced in the video. Were you just lucky or is it, as I suspect, that you don’t meet many strangers in your travels?

    I enjoyed this one in particular and am still exploring, slowly as to savor, the rest.

      • letsjapan
      • April 16th, 2010

      Thanks for visiting and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the site.

      As for how I found this place, well, as long-time friend — who’s a she, by the way — told me (via email) last night:

      “I wouldn’t have been able to pass up a place with the name Bloody Doll either. Good call on your part…”

      Heh.

    • David Case
    • April 16th, 2010

    This commercial is long enough to qualify for “infomercial-hood.” Is the saxophone riff in the middle taken from the intro to a song by Wham! ? Parts of it are intentionally funny, right? On ne sais jamais.

    • letsjapan
    • April 16th, 2010

    Dave,

    No, regarding intentional, or ironic, humor (re: the television spot). Of course it’s certainly meant to be “light” television but it’s Main Thing is a sincere — utterly sincere — “shout out” to a cool little bar that two times a week serves hand-made Russian-style dumplings. That is a unique thing in Tokyo. I venture to say that it’s a unique thing anywhere in the world, save for Russia.

    .

  2. If “Light Television” is like that in Japan I have to tune in to Japanese TV shows more often. And of course I follow your blog, you are giving me a perfect way to look into Japanese culture and that is what I crave right now 🙂

      • letsjapan
      • May 2nd, 2010

      Yes, B, that’s just a “typical” television piece. Cool, surreal, and produced and presented irony-free.

      R

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