The relationship between Japan and the Caribbean is a close but not entirely obvious one. The dancehall scene is relatively big in Japan, as is the bridging role of hemp (for its fibrous qualities, of course). And i’m always pleasantly surprised to overhear Afro-Caribbean blokes speaking fluent Japanese; an important reminder of how narrow-minded I am. Or can be.
I would say that opposites attract, but then again there doesn’t seem to be all that much opposition in this pairing. Both are island cultures, both love the offbeat, and both recognise the good things in life. Soulful music, positive vibrations and, of course, good food.
Food glorious food. Ital is vital and all that jazz. In Tokyo there is a decently-sized collection of Caribbean-styled eateries scattered around, and, as Vegetus aficionado’s will know, there is also a great little place in Kobe. And probably many others that I am yet to unearth. But the focus of this post is one place that puts a little shwing into Shibuya: the rightly named Good Wood Terrace.
Located in the amorous heart of Shibuya’s love hotel district (Dogenzaka), GWT promotes a laid back atmosphere, real music and lots of jerk chicken. Whereas Kobe’s Jamaicana is more rootsy – the elder statesman of Jamaican culture – GWT has its finger on the beating pulsing of the island’s cultural exports. And that basically means one thing: dancehall.
Dancehall – the music, the dancing, the attitude, the styles – is big here, very big. There’re dancehall moves on the screens, dancehall beats from the speakers, dancehall flyers on the surfaces, and dancehall in the unspoken dress codes (broad-brimmed caps, oversized jeans (for the blokes), undersized jeans (for the girls), and lots of clashing colour combos). And yet in spite of the frenzy of synths and snares, the crowd remains homely and it’s an easy(ish) place wherein one can sit back, relax, and admire the palm fronds stuck to the walls. For the purists amongst us, there’s a mini (very mini) sound system by the entrance and a small selecta booth adjacent to the bar (which was even manned on a Wednesday night!). So grumble we must not.
Atmospherics aside, perhaps the best reason to come to this place is the food. It’s not a vegetarian (or ital) haven – their sights are squarely set on promoting and flogging jerk chicken – in fact, I think there was only one real vegetarian option on the menu (besides sides). But that doesn’t really matter because that one option – the ital stew – is formidable. Nothing else is needed, least of all that vaguely liberal notion of choice. I’m serious!
The ital stew (¥780, or ¥980 with rice and peas) was served in a beautifully rustic, shallow terracotta bowl that looked great and also had a practical application (stopped you/me/the eater from slopping the stew everywhere). It hosted a great dollop of veggie stew, with a shell-shaped mound of rice ‘n peas on the side and a couple of lettuce leaves to top it all off. Whilst the appearance may not be headline material (and I accept that my photo above doesn’t really help matters), the flavours were formidable. Rich and soulful and soulful and rich, this thing tasted delightful. Basic and unfussy ingredients (peas, peppers, kidney beans, carrot and some cabbage), that provided an easy, earthy sort of satisfaction with each bite. In particular, the balance between aromatic herbiness and creamy coconuttiness was absolutely spot on. If anything more is needed for a good soul-full meal, I would be very interested to hear what it may be.
Choice! Who needs it? Not me. Not when i’m dining at Good Wood Terrace.
Good Wood Terrace
2-19-3 Dogenzaka, Lion’s Mansion, Shibuya-ku
Open 12:00-16:00 (lunch) & 17:00-02:30 (dinner) Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday