Christmas, in my view, is more intimate than other occasions on the calendar. At least it is in the Pacific Northwest where I have experienced the majority of my Christmas celebrations. Inside the home trees, lights, fires and candles glow. Rich aromas permeate the air. Whether it rains or snows, the blackened windows reflect the backs of those seated and envelope the space. Everything feels closer.
More so at Christmas than at any other festive time, in my mind food is linked to love as beloved ones sit, eat and laugh in the circle of friends and family with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who otherwise might not attend gathered around. Geographies contract for those few hours we gather to pass plates laden with savory delights, dish up heaping helpings twice and loosen belts to sing, play games or try to walk it off afterwards.
Of course, being alone in Tokyo during my favourite time of year, not knowing a soul in the city, I had no idea how Christmas might pan out for me psychologically. Unwilling to risk sinking into a black abyss while Ikebana school remained in recess until mid-January, I needed a self-preserving plan.
Naturally, any plan of that kind needed a great dose of food-love. My Yokohama friends stepped up for Christmas Eve. Earlier, after researching and test-driving a few options, I chose to reserve and enjoy Christmas Day lunch at Two Rooms in Omotesando. They offer a main dining room with white table cloth service and an adjacent bar and patio with city night view from the fifth floor of the AO building.
Not only is the restaurant within walking distance of my apartment, it’s a chic, but warm and lively establishment without being noisy in that irritating way. The cordial front of house staff not only gives meticulous attention to the food, wine and service, but also to me.
They expertly navigate the sometimes challenging borderlines of providing service the way Japanese clients expect it (demanding greater distance and reserve) and the way non-Japanese appreciate it (polished and professional while being personal and engaged).
The open kitchen with an eclectic international staff hums with quiet teamwork—controlled activity that is a pleasure to watch.
For those reasons, I chose Two Rooms for the first Christmas lunch meal that I didn’t cook myself in about 20 years. I started with a glass of champagne while I read the extensive regular menu and the special Christmas menu. The special menu’s main option offered a roasted chicken (the Japanese choice Christmas bird) with Brussels sprouts and other trimmings.
However, my waiter assured me it was easy to substitute any other main menu item for the special menu bird should I wish. I wished. Having a splendid, accommodating restaurant nearby is better than having a fairy godmother.
Two and a half hours later I said warm goodbyes to all with the same feeling I have enjoyed at any number of tables where I gathered with friends and family to enjoy a splendid feast. I strolled home along Aoyama-dori for the requisite post-Christmas-lunch nap.
Recovered, after dark I hopped a train (packed like a sardine in a tin) to enjoy the Megurogawa Minna no Illuminations. There sakura cherry trees along the river bank are lit in petal pink for the season. A few locals were about, going to and fro; otherwise, I had the winding river path to myself.
As I walked, from time to time I talked. It doesn’t require A Child’s Christmas in Wales to “say some words to the close and holy darkness.”