Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Party

They say that back in the old days before the economy tanked, the annual holiday party my office held was a model of decadence, the kind of affair held at a big hotel and involving things like ice sculptures, Champagne, and evening wear. That was all called off by our CEO in an attempt to stay solvent, and last year the holiday party consisted of some hors d'oeuvres in the office board room. This year we went a little more upscale - it was still funded by the partners out of their own pockets, but at least we had a venue, the exclusive Ark Hills Club in the Akasaka-Roppongi Itchome area. The food was a step up from last year, too, except for the desserts. You will notice that - gasp - there isn't even a picture of cake here. That's because there was just one tray of cakes, and it disappeared in about five minutes and was never replenished. All the other food and drink on offer was plentiful and tasty, however, so I can't give the event a terrible score overall.

There was a whole buffet of hot dishes, like the one above, as well as the sandwiches pictured at top and some cold dishes like the smoked salmon and the marinated octopus in the platters at the back of the top picture. The hot foods were all heavily sauced - the only one I sampled was a platter of sea bream pieces in a silky sesame sauce, but there was also a creamy shrimp gratin, a thick, spongy-looking omelet in demiglace, and the pork dish above, which was the prettiest, being decorated with those tasty and shapely shiso leaves.

Even Tokyo Tower gets dressed up for the holidays. This was the view from the Ark Hills Club, which is on the 37th floor and has panoramic windows looking out over the city towards the bay. The lights on the tower (which is an orange monstrosity by day) changed color every few minutes, going from multi to all orange to all blue, etcetera. It was pretty.

After the long table of hot and cold western-style dishes, there was a shorter table on one end of the buffet with a couple of Japanese foods. Literally, a couple: the tempura above and the nigiri-sushi below. Tempura is one of those things that should really be eaten hot, but I must admit that didn't stop me from having four or five pieces. The sprinkle-your-own-salt thing was a big draw. And the sushi was quite tasty, too - a step above the pre-packaged grocery or convenience store quality, though like tempura, it's amazing what a difference freshness makes. On the whole, the food was beautiful, plentiful, and tasty. It was a really nice party, and since I don't have any personal experience of the old days to compare it against, I would even go so far as to call it decadent.

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