Saturday, 28 November 2009
Although my family moved out a while ago, I was born and grew up on Omotesando Street in Harjuku, that was originally an approach to Meiji-jingu Shrine through the Aoyama area.
This highest street in Tokyo is now known as the “Champs Elysees” in Far East, the epicentre of shopping and fashion trends. In the pre-booming period of a couple of decades ago, however, the atmosphere had a different face. According to my mom, she hardly passed her neighbours when taking an afternoon walk with me in buggy. Low-rise buildings and houses were dotted around, and our apartment was located next to a birds-singing garden attached to a big Catholic church. All were in peace and tranquillity, but, those days have gone...
If you say that giant metropolises like London, Paris or New York are changing “monthly”, Tokyo is changing “minutely”. So, it happens that your Tokyo guide book (even Michelin's) is turned into rubbish easily. Beware!
In my childhood, eating out was still a special activity because the food-service industry was limited in variety such as sushi restaurant, hotel dining, ramen (Japanese-born Chinese noodle) bar, Korean BBQ, coffee shop (not chichi cafe yet) and some McDonald’s & KFC outlets. It is quite recent phenomenon that Japanese became fussy for international cuisines with incomprehensible words of “patisserie”, “boulangerie”, “gelateria”, bla bla bla.
My sweet reminiscence is traced back to American 70’s style “Olympia Diner” on the ground floor of Coop Olympia Apartment near Harajuku station. (Obviously, both were named after Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when the building was founded.) We used to stop by there before or after shopping at the supermarket in the basement. For me, that's such a grown-up space to offer “decent Western foods" including burgers with chips, coleslaws, sugary doughnuts and chocolate shakes. The diner has gone too, though.
Today, my burger recipe is a homage to the diner’s chef.