We fully admit that if you’re a foodie our blog probably isn’t your “go-to” when traveling. Totally get it. Our kids are pretty high energy and generally we travel on a moderate budget. Thus going out to that fancy-shamancy Michelin Star restaurant that makes all the top city “must lists” usually gets a pass from Dom and I. However, there are just some restaurants that we just simply can’t overlook…enter: Gonpachi in Tokyo’s Nishi Azabu area of Roppongi.
So why does Gonpachi get a “by” from us? There are certainly a lot of other restaurant options in Roppongi. Well, for starters, They serve modern versions of classic Japanese cuisine (think sushi, soba noodles, pickled grilled vegetables, yakitori, chicken skewers, etc.), so there’s that. But secondly, as any Quentin Tarantino fan will tell you, it is the restaurant that inspired the epic bloody massacre between Uma Thurman and the Crazy 88s and Lucy Lou in the 2003 movie, Kill Bill: Volume 1. Inspired is the key word, as the actual scene was shot on set modeled after Gonpachi (actually in China, not Japan).
It does get busy, so we encourage you to make a reservation, especially if you’re a party of more than 2. Reservations aren’t 100% necessary, however, if you are planning to come for dinner we think it’s best to make one just in case!
Walking up to the actual restaurant is pretty picturesque in itself – beautiful plants, glowing lanterns, a rock wall…it’s all super romantic (especially with young kids – I kid, I kid.). Once inside the establishment, you’ll notice photos of movie and political stars alike all enjoying this iconic place. If you fancy to dine at a restaurant that Lady Gaga , Kanye, or Stallone has stepped foot into, well, you’re in the right place. Heck, the former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and former president George W. Bush also enjoyed dinner here together, too!
When we entered the restaurant before being shown to our table, the check-in person yelled, “Irashi!” (welcome) and the staff (we think) echoed the same sentiment in return. It definitely takes away any trepidation you may have and immediately makes you feel at home. We soon found that (unfortunately) this was just the standard welcome that apparently the staff gives every.single.group. of customers. Unusually warm and kinda neat…I’ll take it.
Our family of four meandered on into the restaurant and gazed up at the busy second floor of tables above. We were seated on the ground floor in front of the open kitchen at a small booth (while smaller parties are generally seated at the counter facing the open kitchen). In any regard, the ambiance of the place is really great and there really isn’t a bad seat to be had in the house. Round lanterns hang from the ceiling, fire from the open kitchen blazes, and steam can be seen billowing off the fresh dishes. The dim lighting, wooden beams, and bamboo make for a very comfortable and relaxed environment.
The menu itself is on the pricier side (certainly not unreasonable), but it does offer a wide range of options. We (of course) also very much appreciated the English descriptions and pictures that accompanied them. Moreover, the restaurant has a great drink menu (both Dom and I ordered hi-balls) and surprisingly for being such a touristy spot they are fairly reasonably priced.
Bottom line: There are way more tourists than locals on any given night and the food is slightly pricey, however, the ambiance more than makes up for the cost. So, if you’re a Kill Bill fan and have some extra yen to splurge we think this is a great spot for a night out. On the other hand, if you’re a traveler, on a serious budget we would recommend steering clear (or visiting for lunch rather than dinner) as Tokyo is home to a vast array of restaurants that will give you the same quality of food (or better) for a lesser price.
- Hours: Daily, 1130 – 0330 (yes, the next day); Lunch: 1130 – 1500 (last order 02:45)
- Admission: Lunch begins ~1,000yen; Dinner begins ~4,000yen. For those traveling on a tighter budget, but still wanting the Gonpachi experience we recommend dining here for lunch as the sets during that time are much less expensive compared to dinner sets and offer a very similar portion and (of course) the same quality.