Tokyo 7-7: The David Blaine of Fusion Cuisine
Tokyo 7-7, like most places of magic, eluded me for roughly 8 months. While living in Culver City, I oft passed this bizarrely-located cae, only to find it consistently closed. And I mean, consistently. I attempted to dine there twice; both times, it was closed. (Granted, I never looked at the hours of operation.)
Then in April, magic struck. I visited Tru Value, only to see the neon signage of Tokyo 7-7 glowing a fiery pink and blue: “OPEN”. Unfortunately, I was on the clock and couldn’t stop to eat; but, my dream rekindled, I made May’s Mission #1 to eat at Tokyo 7-7.
A few weeks later my first attempt was made. It was closed. For my records, I snapped a shot of the hours (and this crazy “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” sign…what’s up with that wonky toe?). I googled my little heart out, learned about their American/Japanese fusion foods (“omelettes on rice!”), read reviews and cross-checked hours. I was prepared to live the dream at Tokyo 7-7: I was going to find the perfect dive diner, complete with free-range elderly patrons.
I actually left work early so I could make the 3 pm last call. Arriving at a generous 1:50 pm, I met a friend and prepared for magic.
First off–the basics: seat yourself, cash only, booze and cigarettes are available for purchase. They sponsor a little league team and have a shelf full of magazines for you to peruse at your leisure. Flute-heavy classical music fills the air. An ample amount of seniors. The decor is absolutely amazing. Along with felt banners for various MLB teams, there are also signed photos of famous people, a la Pink’s… but with a twist. You won’t find any Richard Simmons glossies in Tokyo 7-7, instead, feast your eyes on the likes of several obscure Asian actors, Aladdin and Jasmine from Disneyland, and a shrine to Dale Ishimoto (of Nissan commercial fame, though we were fairly convinced it was Chairman Mao until we realized he had sunglasses on… then we thought it was that guy from Zoolander who played the Prime Minister of Malaysia… boy, were we wrong). The hands down best part was the signed cast photo of Full House, complete with blocky, kindergartener signatures from the Olsens. This alone is worth a trip to Tokyo 7-7.
But the food, oh, the food.
Being a vegetarian, I find it hard to ever try really “adventurous” food, and I have found very few good “fusion” places that offer enough veggie selection. Tokyo 7-7 did not disappoint. For the lunch menu, I was limited to sandwiches of the cheese variety, milkshakes, and sides. We both opted for the avocado and cheese sandwich on wheat, a side of fries to share and 2 sodas. I must say here that the service is incredibly speedy…almost… magical.
They say pictures are worth a thousand words; in this case, these pictures are worth roughly $9.04. Yes, you’re seeing it correctly. That’s your generic store brand bread. But toasted. See that Kraft single? Me too. And I ate it. Sigh.
I chose the “potato salad” option, Kim went for the slightly more adventurous “macaroni salad”. Both arrived, positioned gingerly on a piece of lettuce, in a perfectly circular ice cream-scooped ball. I took a bite. I looked at Kim. “This…this tastes like cold.” A raised eyebrow. “No, seriously, not temperately, I’m saying, if you were to eat the notion of ’cold’, it would taste like this.” She took a bite of her macaroni salad. Her eyes widened. “This does too… it’s as if you went to Antarctica, landed, and took a big bite out of the ground.” We tried salting it- absolutely no change. Magic. What’s also magic- I was actually hungrier after eating.
It was the type of meal you get at a day camp. It was most definitely homemade; that home belonging to an Appalachian family of six.
But you can’t argue when the price is right, my dear friends; two avocado and cheese sandwiches (with complimentary sides), a side of freezer fries, and two sodas will run you a meager $9.04. You could do worse. (You could also do a whole lot better, but still, you could do worse.)
As we were leaving, I asked how long they’d been in business. Twenty years. I believe my jaw dropped. They’re practically a Culver City staple! What the fuck?! This means that when I was watching Thundercats in footsie pajamas, they were laying the foundation for Tokyo 7-7; an establishment that has magically survived for twenty fucking years on mediocre food, cheap prices and an amazing eye for interior design.
“So why the David Blaine title,” you’re probably not thinking. Well, like Blaine, Tokyo 7-7 has existed in a world of vagueness, secrecy, build-up and magic. There’s a certain reassuring je ne sais quoi about the vinyl chairs that takes me back to my youth in the Midwest. Pure magic. Just like when you leave the restaurant and feel like you’ve been propelled two decades into the future: what a time warp. (Also magic because finding a decent “fusion” eatery that has good vegetarian options is about as difficult as watching David Blaine. Or maybe even being David Blaine.)
The only thing more surreal than Tokyo 7-7 is their next-door neighbor: Tru Value Hardware and their obsession with Laurel and Hardy. At least at Tru Value, you get free popcorn.
3839 Main St Ste B
(aka where all of the alleys converge, sort of by the big parking structure, BofA, and Tru Value Hardware)