The newly opened Jim Thompson’s is one of Tokyo’s toughest tables. Showing up without reservations on a recent Thursday, we were greeted at the entryway by a sign saying the place was already full for the evening. We tried calling ahead before our next visit and were able to book a spot—for early on a Tuesday night.
It shouldn’t have surprised us that this restaurant has become so popular so quickly. Occupying a prime location in the trendy new Akasaka Biz Tower, Jim Thompson’s is the second Tokyo branch of a popular Thai eatery (the other is in Ginza’s Marronnier Gate complex). Diners can stroll Biz Tower’s multilevel, mall-like courtyard and have their choice of just about any cuisine they fancy. But it’s difficult to pass by the exotic smells emanating from this cozy restaurant.
The quality that most impresses us, is the spice factor—at Jim Thompson’s, unlike at other Tokyo restaurants, diners disregard the menu’s chili-pepper symbols at their own risk. During our first visit, at Biz Tower’s opening party, starters like larb gai (ground chicken and herbs, ¥750) and som tam (papaya salad, ¥950) had us beseeching the waitstaff for more Singha (¥800) and Chang (¥850) beers. Other palate-coolers include original cocktails like cassis and Cameron tea (¥750), and the Thai mojito (¥900), a sweet concoction with Thai basil and lemongrass.
Maybe the best way to navigate the food menu is via one of the three prix fixe meals. We chose the ¥4,200 course and enjoyed a feast that included an appetizer assortment, chicken tom yam kun, seafood salad, pork red curry, fried rice, and a selection of desserts. The appetizers were particularly impressive in their range and deliciousness—pork with cashew nuts, niku dango with sweet chili sauce, spicy marinated seafood with ground pork, deep-fried fish cakes, and spring roll with green chili sauce.
Prices are a bit on the high side compared to Tokyo’s many down-home Southeast Asian eateries—if you’re looking for a budget Thai meal, you’d do well to go elsewhere. But everything at Jim Thompson’s tastes wonderfully homemade. The pork red curry, for instance, was a hearty stew of meat, onions, green beans, eggplant, and red and yellow peppers. If ordering à la carte, don’t miss the gai yang grilled chicken, which comes with a fantastic tamarind dipping sauce (¥1,500).
Unsurprisingly for a restaurant that sits in a mixed-use office complex, Jim Thompson’s attracts a business crowd, with many OLs and couples in attendance. Service is affable and prompt, and we got a big kick out of an Inspector Clouseau-esque waiter who bumbled his way through our meal but endeared himself with his sunny disposition.