Tonneau (also known by many foreigners at The Barrel Restaurant) is one of the places that everyone hears about sooner or later through the grape vine. Why is really no surprise; it’s shaped like a huge barrel. Why it is shaped like a barrel is honestly news to me as there is no theme that continues throughout the restaurant consistent with barrels other then wood (of which the barrel is made of). It’s fun and unique though so I suppose you could say that the shape of the building is doing it’s job in catching the eye of those who want a unique experience.
The interior of the restaurant is one decorative cut of wood after another. From benches to floors to tables to the decorations throughout the interior wood is absolutely everywhere. This creative (and very thorough) use of wood creates a very warm atmosphere.
The restaurant itself is massive on the inside allowing for a good number of tables ready to accommodate parties of any size. There are also separate floors. The second floor accommodates for larger groups where as the first floor has a bar and accommodates for smaller groups. There is also a back room which offers space that is semi-private which is where we were seated during our most recent visit. It was nice to be in one of these private cubical tables however I personally feel that it put us “out of sight, out of mind” which I will talk about a bit later.
Before we even start talking about the food we need to talk about the little asterisk that comes with eating at Tonneau. First and foremost the restaurant is operated like a Japanese style house which means that the shoes come off right at the front door (or genkan) and go into a cabinet. This is something that you should keep in mind if you’re visiting. Don’t wear shoes that are hard to get on or off because you might struggle a bit. The second little contractual agreement is that when you eat at Tonneau you are going to be served an appetizer of the restaurant’s choosing which you will pay for. During this particular visit the appetizer was ¥350 each which included a small salad with two small pieces of fish on top. The fish was ok, dry and the salad was mostly cabbage. This little appetizer agreement is something that is hit or miss I suppose depending on what is available at the restaurant on that particular day. Personally I am not sure how I feel about the fact that all four of us in the group had to pay for an appetizer that was just ok regardless or not if we wanted to eat it.
After the appetizers were out of the way it was time to check out the menu. Tonneau has a menu which features English (although the translations are not always the best) and includes a little bit of everything. There is Japanese, Chinese and American selections. There is pasta, sushi, yakitori, pizza, chicken, and much much more. Like other izakaya (pub) restaurants the food is a la carte where you order a dish and enjoy it family style. Our group had two big eaters, an average eater and a picky eater which made this style of ordering ideal. The down side to this style of menu is that the dishes come out individually meaning our picky eater who wanted to have a particular meal had to wait until the very end of the meal for her dish to arrive.
The food was subpar to say the least. Most dishes that we ordered were bland, dry and didn’t taste as one might think they would. The Roasted Garlic Chicken for example did not taste of garlic and was very dry as though it had been either under a heat lamp all night or in the oven too long. Another notable item we ordered was the garlic bread which was hard as a rock. It was so difficult to eat that we ended up putting it in a broth from another dish we ordered just so that we could eat it.
As far as service goes Tonneau left a whole lot to be desired. We started off our meal with one server who took our order and then at some point in the middle of our meal the servers changed. This would not have been anything worth noting if the new server had picked up with the original server left off which was unfortunately not the case. After a 45 minute lull without any food having been served we tried to called a staff member on the provided phone not once but twice before one arrived. When she did she brought the check which included the 3 dishes that we ordered but had not received. After much confusion and trying to explain what the situation was our original server finally came around and explained that the cook forgot about our remaining dishes. We then had to wait for the dishes to arrive. When this whole situation rolled out I first thought that maybe it was the amount of other people in the restaurant which might have caused the delay but on our way out it was clear that we were one of only two small groups who were in the entire restaurant so I am not sure where the breakdown of communication happened. All I know is that I would not want to be in the restaurant on a day where there are a lot of people if they could not manage only two tables.
Price point is the final topic for discussion and unfortunately it was not much better then the other topics that we discussed today. Each item was easily double what we would have (and often do) pay at other restaurants around the island and in this particular area. Four of us came to over ¥10,000 which was very steep considering only one of us had a beer and we honestly didn’t order much food at all. (In fact the next night we went to another restaurant that I have reviewed in the past called HUB and enjoyed more food then we did at this restaurant and more of us drank and had dessert and paid over ¥3,000 less). The price coupled with the food and service makes this a restaurant I will not be visiting again. It is a shame because it was at one time a “go to” place of mine but clearly the quality has gone down quite a bit.