Gotta catch ‘em all | Review: The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo


Victoria Gill heads to Tokyo before the weirdest Olympics ever staged, and has a strong desire to dine with Pikachu

Gotta catch ‘em all | Review: The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

It might have been the molecular duck smoke crowns in the 37th floor Michelin-starred restaurant that disappeared like the ticker tape of bullet trains snaking the maze of Tokyo below. It could have been the semi-private thermal hydrotherapy suite with infinity views across the glittering skyline. Or perhaps it was that egg-shaped bath from which the gaze luxuriates across contemporary cedarwood screens, over the magnanimous king size bed and chaise longue artfully positioned before the dwellings’ panoramic glass fourth wall affording twenty four seven snapshots of one of the world’s most iconic cityscapes. Alas, no. For me, what left the stand out and most lasting impression was the whole Pokémon experience.

“But can you find me a table at the Pokémon Café?” I blurt, staggering fresh from the red eye

I had 48 hours in the Tokyo outpost of the Mandarin Oriental hotel to secure a table at the Pokémon Café. The hotel is situated in Nihonbashi, the Japanese capital’s oldest district, helm of inter-generational artisanry, Edo-inspired architecture and a stone’s throw from the Olympic Village. There’s in room check in, invisible dry cleaning and the amenities of my wildest dreams. “But can you find me a table at the Pokémon Café?” I blurt, staggering fresh from the red eye and up through the sleek black elevators into an atrium reception where the grey lacquered environs blend seamlessly with the cossetting clouds.

The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

It transpires that it’s easier to obtain a ticket to the Oscars than a table eating rice arranged like a Snorlax while rubbing shoulders with Bulbasaur et al. Prior to arriving I’ve worked time zones, diaries and perks to try to secure a reservation. TBF the receptionists turn to the Pokémon mission quicker than I can say “Charizard”.  “We’ve got something at 12.45 tomorrow!” Damn… “Impossible! That clashes with the Robot show!” A few hours later… “They have a cancellation! You have to go now though!” “Gosh, so sorry, I’m currently buried under fifty kittys in the cat café across town..” Returning to the hotel I’m given a steer towards the best nightlife in the city. With no scent of a date with Charmander I venture out, eager to sample what the Tokyo nightlife holds. Adrift in a sea of Prada, nowhere will let me in. Desperate to glean some experience of Japan after dark, I wander to the adult entertainment district…“Japanese only, no Westerners, so sorry!” The sylphlike doorman smiles, patronisingly. Alarmed that I can’t access a strip club, let alone a whiskey, in this city, I skulk back to the hotel. Clocking the scowl across my face, the receptionist says: “I’m so sorry, we’re hopeful we will find a reservation at the Pokemon Cafe tomorrow…”

The next morning I’m roused from the bitter recollections of being rejected by several bars, a sex show and the Pokémon Café by eggs benedict in the clouds and the momentous news: “We have found you a table at The Pokémon Café tomorrow!

The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

I’ve long empathised with Linda Evangelista when she said “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” (Bet they’d let her into a sex club though, hey?). I rarely leave the confines of a superlative hotel without ample enticement, either.

That day, I accept an invitation to a private origami class crafting paper Pokémon characters. Next, I melt away the jetlag and previous night’s humiliation with rice packs on my stomach, hot towels around my neck, blissful Kneipp methods and undulating strokes before I open my eyes to gaze down upon the views of this city. The finale of my day is a peerless, nine course Cantonese multi-sensory tasting menu at Sense. Except it isn’t the end. Stepping into my room, heady from jellyfish hors d’oeuvres and the lip-numbing, tongue-fizzing black pepper coating of the Yamagata beef sirloin, I discover that the walls have been decorated with cardboard cut outs of everybody’s – or nobody’s – –favourite manga-hued, sharp-eared characters for a turndown Pokémon treasure hunt while I dined, climaxing with a Pikachu emblazoned across the bathroom mirror. The next day I will skittishly skip to the Nihombashi Takashimaya department store and be ushered by the white-gloved lift ladies up to my hard fought reservation, where the sight of a human-sized Pokémon chef weaving between the pale wood tables will be as unforgettable as the sight of the tail-shaped omelettes and monster ball-styled pasta casseroles (and, alas, their taste, but for entirely different reasons).

THE Pokémon Cafe

That night, before going to bed, starstruck by the thought of rubbing shoulders with Mewtwoo, Evee et al the following day, I concur that my concierge has truly met the mantra and more so, that no request is ever too big, or too small. I gaze through the in-room binoculars surveying the twinkling stars and lights dotting the Tokyo skyline, and I almost think I spot two yellow ears scampering along the grey Edo thoroughfares below. C


Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, 2 Chome-1-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-8328, Japan
+81 3-270 8800;

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