Inside Park Hyatt Tokyo: Weekday Lunch Buffet

Although I have eaten dinner at the Park Hyatt Tokyo‘s New York Grill on several occasions (though none since the Diamond free drinks were moved to the Peak Bar, taking away some of the fun of the NYG experience), I have never had the chance to eat this restaurant’s lunch buffet.  The hotel breakfast is quite filling, so when we stay, we always tend to have a light lunch, either through room service or one of the basement restaurant options.

However, after reading a follower’s review of the lunch experience, I knew that this was something that I would have to experience for myself.  A month later, the stars finally aligned enough for me to take a late lunch from work to check it out!

I can’t compete with Ms. Sakamoto’s excellent review (she does food and picture taking far better than I), so I will just fill in some of the blanks.  First off, the menu:

A choice of six main courses, plus all you can eat appetizers and desserts.

A choice of six main courses, plus all you can eat appetizers and desserts.

I didn’t quite get the price in that picture, but the base price for the appetizer buffet, dessert buffet, and main course is 5,000 yen.  This includes neither the 13% service charge nor the regular 8% tax (sadly, Park Hyatt Tokyo has chosen to post tax exclusive prices, which Japan law has allowed since the sales tax increase from 5% to 8% on April 1st), pushing the actual minimum cost to just over 6,000 yen.  While I would have liked to have tried a beef dish, all of them would have incurred extra cost that would have pushed my lunch into five digits.  Ms. Sakamoto’s review already shows the chicken and the lamb, so I decided to order the penne.

The appetizer buffet is set up at the large table in the New York Bar:

Kind of loses its mystique in the daytime...

Kind of loses its mystique in the daytime…

There are many different kinds of cold meat and vegetable dishes to choose from, but it was hard to distract me from the shrimp cocktail:

Protip: In Japan, it is rude to take the entire bowl back to your table.

Protip: In Japan, it is rude to take the entire bowl back to your table.

Shrimp cocktail like this is quite rare in Japan, and usually quite expensive.  I have paid upwards of 1500 yen for just six shrimp of these size, so at this point I was already feeling like I was getting my money’s worth.  And this cocktail sauce was awesome…not quite “homemade ketchup that comes with the duck-fried french fries awesome”, but still among the best I’ve tried…tangy, a little bit spicy, but not so much that it overpowers the flavor of the shrimp.

Of course, man cannot live on shrimp alone, so I picked up a few other items as well.  My favorite of the rest was the Caesar salad…tasty crispy bacon, plenty of Paramasan cheese, and a bold dressing that puts the store-bought varieties to shame.

When I returned to my table, I was pleasantly surprised to find the freshed baked bread that I often enjoyed at dinner.

You get a full loaf even when eating alone.

You get a full loaf even when eating alone.

After two such heaping helpings of appetizers (27 shrimp in total!), the penne arrived:

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Penne Rigatte Gragnano

To be honest, I was underwhelmed with this.  It seemed to be technically well-executed, but I’m not a big fan of Arrabiata sauce to begin with.  I wish they had two different kinds of pasta to choose from, a tomato base and a cream base.  Actually, I wish they had an option to do without the main altogether;  I would have been happier going back for another round of the appetizers.

But at this point I was already quite full, so I had to turn my attention to the dessert:

Placed right next to the food so as to taunt you. I very nearly topped my Caesar salad with a brownie.

Placed right next to the food so as to taunt you. I very nearly topped my Caesar salad with a brownie.

I couldn’t quite try everything, but everything that I did try was marvelous.  My favorite three were:

3. Key lime pie.  I’ve been a key lime pie fan since I was a kid, so I’m fairly fussy in this regard.  This was a bit lighter than I’m used to in a key lime pie, but the flavor was well-balanced and quite delicious.

2. Chocolate brownie: Thick, moist, and fudgy. Perhaps my favorite brownie in Japan.

But number one, by a large margin, was the strawberry ice cream:

Strawberry ice cream is on the right. My stomach vetoed coming back to try the frozen yogurt on the left.

Strawberry ice cream is on the right. My stomach vetoed coming back to try the frozen yogurt on the left.

I do not know if this was their own special recipe, but I do know that I cannot go back to eating Haagen-Daaz after knowing this.  So fresh.  So creamy.  So strawberryey!  My words can’t do it justice.  Next time I stay at this hotel, I am definitely ordering this ice cream again from room service, regardless of what it costs.

The staff certainly does its best to earn their 13% service charge.  They brought me a newspaper without asking, water was always refilled quickly, and no matter how many times I went up to the buffet, somebody was always waiting to tuck in the table cloth for me when I returned to my seat.  Unfortunately, the only hiccup was a significant one for me;  it took over 20 minutes for the check to arrive once I asked for it, delaying me from getting back to work quite a bit later than I was hoping for.  But it’s hard to hold this against them;  they certainly aren’t gearing their services to the salarymen, and the rich Japanese housewives that seem to make up the majority of their clientele probably couldn’t care less about extending their time in the restaurant…I certainly would if I could!

Delay aside, the New York Grill lunch buffet was a wonderful, luxurious experience.  Not something that I could pull off everyday, but it would be great way to celebrate such accomplishments as discovering gold in Shinjuku Central Park or defeating the Kraken.