Wine and Dine - Ninja Style!
Ninja Kyoto Restaurant and Labyrinth
I'm usually averse to theme-restaurants, especially the more obviously themed ones, but Ninja Kyoto Restaurant and Labyrinth in - where else - Kyoto has been put on my top-ten list of must visits while in the city.
The venue is actually three different shops. There's Dining Theater Ninja, a "theatrical restaurant where guests can enjoy a live Ninja show as well as aesthetic food and drinks"; Sweets of Ninja, a "Ninja buffet with desserts handmade by pastry cooks and snacks such as sandwiches and pasta"; and finally Restaurant Ninja, where they "welcome honored guests with entertainment and Ninja-style cuisine".
I visited the latter.
Of course I went for the fun and entertainment value. As a professional magician, I'll visit anywhere someone's performing. So I wasn't expecting anything more than chain-store quality food and maybe a good magic trick. What I got was a lesson on how not to underestimate "the enemy".
First, the decor was top notch. Not the balsa-wood and paper mache facades that often pass for an interior. The simple act of walking to my table was a mini-event in itself. I felt like I was descending a natural cave, only to be led to a private table for two.
Second, the food was exceptional. Dishes with absurd names like "Salad - Ninja Style" turned out to be absolute works of art, with the salad hidden in a walled-ring of crouton, which blossomed upon opening. Their sashimi was also incredibly fresh and beautifully presented. Ninja-style Black Fried Chicken sounded obvious enough, but was a complete surprise when it arrived. And I'll let you discover their shuriken crackers on your own (they were so incredible and life-like, I took one home as a souvenir).
Finally, the entertainment, a 4-5 magic routine presented by a fully-outfitted ninja, was outstanding. I know I'm not the only who enjoyed it, because I could hear the oohs and ahhhs and shrieks of delight from the others in the restaurant.
In fact, I ordered an extra cheese plate, just to stay longer - that's how much I had a great time. Truth be told, my dinner at Ninja Kyoto was more memorable and delicious then the dinner I had the next night - at a very famous reservation-only "kaiseki" restaurant in the high-end part of town.
But you don't have to go all the way to Kyoto to revel Ninja-style, their original store is in Akasaka, where I'll be visiting soon enough to compare the two.