classic

Trader Vic's

Tokyo, Japan
Bar & Restaurant
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4-1, Kioi-Cho
Tokyo, Japan
Opened in 1974
Daily 11:30am-midnight
81-3-3265-4707

Critiki ratings

Trader Vic's

8.3

Overall

by 14 people

1

10

Detail
Everyone You
Decor 9
Drink Quality 7.7
Drink Selection 9.8
Food Quality 8.1
Food Selection 9.1
Mood 7.9
Music 7.5
Service 9.3
Tikiness 9.1
Tilt 7.1
Vibe 7.3

Regulars & Visitors

View all 17 Trader Vic's regulars & visitors

Humuhumu’s description

The Tokyo Trader Vic's opened in 1974, and is located within the Hotel New Otani. This location remains one of the finer examples of high end Trader Vic's design, with service to match. The Boathouse Bar still serves some drinks in rare Trader Vic's stemware.

How to find it

Trader Vic's is located on the fourth floor of the Hotel New Otani Garden Tower.

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Regulars & Visitors
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View all 17 Trader Vic's regulars & visitors
Comments
Otto von Abbattoir
Otto von Abbattoir is a semi-regular at Trader Vic's.
January 25, 2016, 5:09 AM
I recognize Trader Vicís Tokyo (TVT) is a dream destination for tikiphiles and I hope this long review allows potential customers to make a more informed choice. Iíve closed TVT more than a dozen times over the last several years so thereís drinking experience fortifying my observations. Also, if you decide you must travel to Tokyo to visit TVT, itís also critical to visit the Old American Bar at the Imperial Hotel. Your local rumbullion dive may have casual decorations like vintage Frank Lloyd Wright fixtures and original animation art of a sozzled Tinkerbell drawn by Marc Davis, one of Disneyís original animators known as the Nine Old Men, but your place is definitely not the home of the Mt. Fuji: Japanís most important contribution to the classic tiki cocktail menu. Dress in a clean and pressed Aloha shirt and let the man in the silver thread tuxedo guide you through a world class drinking experience.
Back to the main topic: Trader Vicís Tokyo is really a tale of two bars. One bar is the best tiki joint on the planet and the other is a restaurant/bar entertainment complex with a confused management structure that treats a real gem like cheap glitter. This should not be the case at the worldís most expensive tiki bar and itís certainly not an issue at the Old American at the Imperial.
First, the good stuff. TVT is essentially a functional museum from when it was built (c. 1974). Almost all the vast tiki swag is original, in almost Ďas-newí condition and with 40+ years of patina to make the glow even more golden. Youíll be bumping into things from jaw-dropping awe even before you start drinking. Functionally, itís little more than a hallway connecting several dining rooms and a compact drinking area adjacent to the bar. Everywhere you look is tapa cloth, carvings, tikis and seashells. They use giant clam shells, which today are worth thousands and were once used as multi-person stemware, as floor decorations and, during the Christmas season, fill them with glass ornaments. They probably wouldnít last more than one night in any other country. After youíve poured enough 7-year Havana Club down your gullet, it can be intimidating to move around for fear that youíll crash into some priceless relic that fell out of The Book of Tiki. This is why there is usually someone around, typically a lovely maiden in a cheongsam, to help you negotiate some of these obstacles. It is freakish to realize that all the eye candy is American-made and old. Exquisite vintage Trader Vic branded dinner china meant purely for display.
Second, the cost of all this wonderfulness. Most costly tiki bar on the planet. Budget at least $150/person/night just for drinking plus ride home. Cost of the drink plus service charge plus tax plus entrance fee if live music. Expect to be tormented by a fourth rate Cuban band, instead of lovely hapa haole, that is more interested in getting back to their smartphones than playing music: too small for surf bands or amplification. Surprised the Cuban government doesnít file a complaint for cultural defilement. Almost all aspirational tiki bars on the planet do a better job with their music. For most, better to avoid such nights and spend quiter evenings talking to the bartenders and girls. If itís really quiet, the bartender will slip something soft and appropriate into the sound system.
Third, the cloudburst of what youíre drinking. Sorry to be a cranky pirate, but the rums available at TVT are just not good enough. There are not enough rums bartenders or other rum enthusiasts use at home to mix their own drinks. These drinks would be an entire order of magnitude better if made with better matched and better quality rums. One Okinawan rum that tastes like sochu is no excuse for an absence of Demerara. No one should have to travel to Nakano, a district in west Tokyo, to find a 15-year-old bottle of Havana Club poured, along with a 17-year Caroni(!), at Murakamiís eccentric Bar Zingaro. Liquor is not taxed heavily in Japan and, given the wide variety of other exotic brown liquors available at TVT, a better selection of rums should be available.
Fourth, the bartenders are very skilled and concoct magic with what theyíve got. Besides yourselve(s), they will be the only persons present wearing an Aloha shirt. The staff will immediately bond with you as one of them and most definitely not with the smelly and greasy guy looking for shot specials on Bundaberg. He will always be accompanied by an employee.
Now that Iíve harshed on their cocktails, Iím filled with remorse because they really are magnificent works of art. Huge orchid(s) in my Tiki Puka Puka, plenty of freshly cut garnishes for my Suffering Bastard, perfect blend of sweetness in my Honi Honi, et al. More gaspingly, several of these are served in vintage American-made barware. Youíve pretty much got to earn your way into getting drinks served this way; they also know how valuable they are. It canít help but be powerful to be served the same drinks as your grandparents were in the same stemware.
Next, itís very possible you will be the only person in TVT drinking a tiki cocktail. Most of their bar business is selling whiskey, cognac and cigars (real Cuban Cohibas from a fancy humidor box). The hotel where the bar sits is in the diplomatic quarter and I never saw a dude in a leopard-print fez lounging. On the other hand, not being immune to the charms of other brown liquors, I had plenty of time to experience things I canít get in the US like IW Harper 12-year, Yamazaki 18-year and Hibiki 21-year. Hence, in some ways, youíre in an alternate world with the theme dressed staff while most everyone else is in a suit or formal attire. Other customers are likely to think you work there if you are dressed in your best tiki finery. Ultimately, this isnít a tiki bar as much as a food service operation (which looks scary from my brief glimpse inside), where you overlook an undermaintained garden (other hotels have better), that uses its bar to sell the kinds of brown liquor its guests expect in order to pay the bills. The now-vintage tiki is an artifice to get people through the door and not an attempt at some ethereal Polynesian Pop dream where people celebrate joyfully.
Understandably, this is a buzzkill if youíre searching for the luau of your dreams. No Mai-Kai shenanigans here. Just a drunk truckdriver from the Pilbara who asks, ďWhatís a tiki bar?Ē The staff lacks ĎOhana. More depressingly, ever more of the staff seem to be New Otani employees, not Trader Vic employees, and TVT is just the latest bar theyíve worked at within the New Otani complex: there are dozens of restaurants and many bars within this complex. The New Otani senior managers run a vast property complex and TVT is entombed within. They currently do a lousy job. I recognize a work force, easily in excess of 1000 people, under tremendous strain by management and it bleeds through every aspect of the site. The wa, the Japanese spirit of harmonious teamwork, is under grueling ordeal among the entire labor force and it canít help but impact your experience at TVT. I suspect the relationship between Trader Vicís corporate and the New Otani is strained. I donít know enough to take sides.
There is a rock in the garden of the New Otani that symbolizes this lost connection. It is a large boulder of pink granite given by Vic Bergeron c. 1980 as thanks to the Japanese people in general and to the New Otani staff in particular for the incredible hospitality theyíve demonstrated in the past. The image on the rock of Mt. Fuji, traditional fishermen and Kanji characters would be familiar to any long-time Trader Vic fan. Once polished to a high sheen, today it is filthy, stained, covered in perpetual freeway scum and almost always in shade and darkness. This conscious neglect offended me on several different levels and surprised myself at how angry it made me.
The boulder would be the altar/centerpiece of any tiki bar just about anywhere else. In Tokyo, itís a decoration for the HVAC maintenance men. Disgusted, I marched into the garden and poured my hotel issued bottle of water over the rock and started to scrub the rock face with my hand. Thatís when I stepped onto the bronze plaque mounted into the ground that tells us gaijin what the rock is about. Buried in the weeds, it was invisible. Hence, I had to remove the overgrowth in case a future visitor came to this forlorn spot. Regardless of the relationship status between TVT and the New Otani, if I were the general manager of TVT, I would take personal responsibility to make sure that boulder was clean and glowed as testament to Mr. Bergeronís enduring vision. Any tikiphile would be astounded at this shocking breach of etiquette even if tikiphiles arenít known for etiquette.
Would I make a special trip to Tokyo to visit TVT? No. Would I make a special trip to TVT if I was in Tokyo? Absolutely. Would I stay at the New Otani when I was in Tokyo? Absolutely not.
May 29, 2012, 5:07 PM
I searched for this place during 2 hours walking around!! Never found it.
I'm so disappointed when I watch these fabulous pictures. So sad.
PackmanWSU01
PackmanWSU01 has visited Trader Vic's.
July 15, 2010, 12:12 AM
This was my first expirience at a Trader Vic's. The service could not have been better. The maitre' d was very kind and took pictures for me very often. He also gave me a complimentary drink menu (as a souvenier) when I was distressed to discover their gift shop had closed. The food was excellent. Only complaint was that despite the huge drink selection many drinks tasted the same. A bit pricey but was well worth it.