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La Clave Restaurant: A Real Holiday Treat

Author: Author Unknown, Issue: December 1996, Topic: Events, Restaurants, Location: Tsukuba City

This restaurant is now called La Clave Casa de Marron and it is on Route 6 west of Joyful Honda. See: http://clave-marron.com/

If you're looking for an interesting place to meet and eat, La Clave (or Ra Kurabe, as it's pronounced in Nihongo) is an interesting place to go. Located on the third floor of the MOG building across the plaza from Seibu and Jusco (just above Lotteria), La Clave features a Latin touch, with colorful Latin decorations, music and food. The name "La Clave" comes from the name given to rhythm produced by a unique percussion instrument call the "clavis", which is two rounded pieces of hard wood that strike each other with a sound very similar that heard at the finale of Japanese sumo tournaments.

Upon entering, one is greeted by an array of bongos, drums and other percussion instruments. The owner, Yasuyuki Watanabe, is himself an accomplished percussionist, and every night (except Mondays), he and some of his students give mini-concerts beginning around 7:30 and 9:00 pm. Watanabe san's own arrangements of Latin music are played in the background, while he performs on a variety of drums a wide array of percussion sounds and rhythms. The contents vary from night to night, with and occasional saxophone and trumpet. The decibels tend to be a bit high if you are at the front, so if you have sensitive ears, you may want to sit towards the back. As there is no cover charge for these half-hour shows, music lovers with a good appetite will find this a real bargain.

When live concerts are not in session, two large television sets are showing music videos of the background Latin music. Thus, while waiting for your food, you can sit back and watch the performers dancing or singing the songs.

The menu consists of a good variety of South American and Mexican dishes varying from 500 yen to 1500 yen for the dinner menu (from 5 to 11 pm). The menus are bilingual, with a separate lunch menu in effect from opening time (11:30 am) until 5 pm. They also serve a variety of home-made dessert for around 550 yen. Drinks include several unique rum and tequila based drinks in addition to the usual fare.

While not a big restaurant, La Clave is still large enough to comfortably hold tables and chairs for about 60 people, and thus fairly large groups can be handled. The back part of the restaurant (which in a sense is the front, as it faces out over the stairs leading up from the Seibu/Jusco square), is several steps lower than the main section of the restaurant, and thus offers a certain amount of privacy.

Special Concerts Twice A Month

On the second and third Fridays of each month, La Clave features Latin musicians from around Japan. On these days, the restaurant opens at 6 pm and tickets are required to enter. There are two shows each time, beginning at 7 pm and then again at 9 pm. Prices vary depending on the particular concert.

This month, the two concerts are as follows:

Dec. 13 -- Orquesta Jalapeno, Latin sounds with percussion, flute & sax. Tickets 1000 yen in advance and 1100 yen at the door.

Dec. 20 -- Salsa Jazz Night, Christmas Special Live; Kyoko Yamamoto, vocal, Hitomi Uchida, Mituaki Uchida and Hitoshi Aikawa, Trombone, and Yasuyuki Watanabe, percussion. Tickets 1800 yen advance and 2000 yen at the door.

As a special offer, La Clave will given each person with a copy of this issue of the Alien Times a free drink of your choice (not including cocktails) on either of these nights or at the Jan. 10 concert as well (which has a 1000 yen price).

For further information or to make reservations, call the restaurant at 58-4489. Tickets reserved in advance by phone can be picked up at the door if you prefer.

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