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, 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:
Richard-san,Hello .It’s big news.My Bar on TV.
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!