A heart-filled dinner at Trader Vic's

Tha Good Life - by John Paul "JP" Tanchanco

Posted at Sep 22 2013 10:06 AM | Updated as of Sep 22 2013 06:06 PM

TOKYO - Tokyo's iconic celebrity restaurant, led by its dapper GM Larry Murakami, hosted a sumptuous dinner during my visit to Japan.

I dropped by the Trader Vic's located at Hotel New Otani Akasaka to hang out with Murakami, who is a long-time family friend.

Polynesian ambiance sets the mood

Trader Vic's is a global resto chain from the US. The Polynesian-designed restaurant serves international fusion cuisine with an American twist. It started in Oakland, California in 1934 and takes its name from its founder Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. aka "Trader Vic's."

Brian Tanchanco, Larry Murakami, JP Tanchanco

"Our place has been serving Tokyoites for 38 years. It's actually the first ever franchise of Trader Vic's in Asia that started in San Francisco, USA," said Murakami.

The night started with a round of critically acclaimed cocktails that complemented warm stories of fun memories with Murakami during his past visits to the Philippines.

Honolulu cocktail found only at Trader Vic's

According to reports, the place is known to have invented the popular "Mai Tai" cocktail.

"Our founder created it one afternoon for some friends who were visiting from Tahiti. Mai Tai is actually a phrase that means very good. We mix two of the best rums with our special Mai Tai mix of fresh juices," explained Murakami.

Trader Vic's world renowned Mai Tai

I enjoyed munching on some of their mouth-watering appetizers that went really well with the drinks.

Cosmos Tidbits of St Louise Cut Pork Spare-ribs, Crab Rangoon in Wonton Skin and Crispy Prawn.

I really loved the dish called Cho Cho that they served. Cho Cho is made up of Japanese beef flank steak with special Asian sauce. The beef literally melts in your mouth. We all had fun roasting it on a hibachi fire pot on the table.

Murakami demonstrating how to use the hibachi fire pot

"We cut the flank really thin and make sure it's very tender. Many of our guests love the part of roasting it on the hibachi," said Murakami.

For dinner, we headed to their private room called Puka which is used for special functions and VIPs.

Murakami served a delectable set of popular menu items such as Avocado Tomato Salad, Cosmo Salad, Bongo Bongo Soup and US and Japanese tenderloin steak.

Cosmo Salad with hearts of palm, artichoke and celery

I specifically loved the smooth-textured Japanese beef tenderloin that was cooked perfectly medium.

Japanese Beef Tenderloin

The heart of Trader Vic's Tokyo

We were happy to bump into Marilyn Pefianco, a regular Pinoy customer. She was celebrating her birthday with her long-time partner John Geron from Texas.

According to Geron, Trader Vic's Tokyo is the best Trader Vic's branch she has tried.

"I've been a fan of Trader Vic's since I was a kid in the US. This branch in Tokyo is the best. Aside from the distinct menu items only exclusively available here, it's Larry's personal care and passion that has drawn us to this place," said Geron.

Larry Murakami, Brian Tanchanco, John Geron, Marilyn Pefianco, JP Tanchanco, JC Manas

Murakami is an important part of the success of Trader Vic's. His personal approach in dealing with his guests has been acclaimed online by tourists and celebrities. In fact, I checked Trip Advisor before heading to the resto and saw that most of the clients who did the reviews specifically cited Larry.

"I've been working in Trader Vic's Tokyo for 25 years. Many of my restaurant guests love our warm and friendly personality. Aside from the great food and drinks, the family-oriented values make our guests come back," said Murakami.

Even celebrities, royalties and politicians frequent Trader Vic's, which is conveniently located near the Imperial Palace and the National Diet building.

"Among the celebrities who have eaten in Trader Vic's are Prince Takamodo, Prime Minister Hashimoto, Prime Minister Hatoyama, George Benson, Sumo Wrestlers, Prince Takamado and his wife the Imperial Family, Cindy Lauper, David Beckham, Natalie Cole, Japanese Soccer Team, NFL, Red Socks. Just the other day, George Benson was here singing his song to my staff. We're all family here, it's all about heart" added Murakami.

Visit Trader Vic's at Hotel New Otani 4F, 4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan.

John Paul C.Tanchanco is a travel, food, party, film and music aficionado. He is also an economist, businessman, MYX/Awit award-winning media producer and Kala guitarist.

"Tha Good Life" is a special feature for ABS-CBNnews.com about pop culture, travel, music, entertainment, business, food, clubbing, shopping and events.

For questions, features and comments, e-mail him at [email protected]