Looking for somewhere to have dinner one night in Hirosaki, I was exploring the main Dote Machi shopping street when I found a door opening onto a flight of steps. The sign was kind of funky, the menu on the wall looked reasonably priced, so in I went.
What I walked into was a very quirky, characterful space, with a mishmash of furniture and decor, mostly of 50s and 60s vintage. There are low tables and couches, knick-knacks and oddments all around the walls, a big rocking-chair, and chairs upholstered variously with denim, pieces cut from leather pants, and grain sacks. Along with the background music choice of 50s rock, swingy jazz and bebop - Life Would Be a Dream! - the effect is to create a fun, lively atmosphere.
I started with a fresh salad and a bowl of potato soup, brought to me on a solid wooden platter. The soup was cold, which was a surprise, but light and tasty, and the salad included some pleasingly crunchy vegetables among the usual greenery. For my drink I chose the 'Violet Apple', a concoction of sumire syrup, apple juice and ginger ale: the juice and syrup gave it a sweet, fruity tang, but the ale added a sharpness that made it refreshing rather than cloying.
For the main dish I went for the nasi goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish: more fragrant than spicy, it was tasty, but not heavy, with a couple of firm, big juicy shrimps, and a poached egg on the side.
As well as the nasi goreng, main dishes on the English-speaking menu include pasta, keema curry and a teriyaki bowl, all around ¥700 or ¥800: on weekdays, ¥1280 gets you a set of the kind I had, with a main dish, salad, soup and drink. On the sweets menu there are pumpkin cheesecake, panna cotta and chocolate banana parfait but, perhaps surprisingly in a city that promotes itself as an 'apple capital', no apple desserts! Apples feature only on the drinks menu, in my 'violet apple' or apple juice, neat or as a mixer.
Other drinks include your standard range of beers, wine and cocktails, and a handful of original cocktails, among them some off-beat concoctions such as tea liqueur with apple juice, and orange liqueur with cocoa. If you want to try something a bit different, fun and off-center, then Tube Lane's a good place to go.