Hainan Chi-Fan is a Singaporean restaurant in Shimbashi, housed within the Shiodome City Center complex. As my dining partner for the evening had booked the table, I was not aware of the restaurant’s location. If I had known, the alarm bells would have started ringing. Having a natural aversion to izakaya and restaurants inside train stations, shopping centres and corporate buildings I generally try to avoid them. They seem soulless somehow. Less “real.” Arriving at the restaurant on a Friday evening, outside the rain heavy, we found the place to be packed. A good sign I thought, relaxing a little. Happy diners, busy with drinks and conversation, seemed to indicate that this could actually be an enjoyable dining experience, as did the nice smell of the food.
A waiter led us to a small table in the centre of the restaurant. All around were larger tables, and along the walls more tables and faux-leather seating. Menus were provided, and we ordered beer. The atmosphere was certainly lively. Waiting staff bustled by every two seconds, their arms laden with trays of food. This was a problem. Our table not only felt like an island of narrow discomfort amidst a sea of gastronomic relaxation, but also was more or less in the way of the main thoroughfare from the kitchen. Not happy, we asked for a different table, two vacant ones being visible behind us along the wall. Looking put out, the waitress informed us that they were for people who had booked. Retorting with the fact that we too had booked, she said she’d ask the manager. He was of little help either, being busy showing people walking into the restaurant to the tables we coveted. Nothing for it. Downing our drinks almost in one we asked for the bill. No apologies, not even the insincere platitudes one might usually expect from Japanese restaurant staff in such circumstances.
Annoyed, we headed into the rain in search of an izakaya.
Images courtesy of Gourmet Navigator