Looking for a way to indulge in the glorious fall weather and Halloween festivities, my 3-year-old daughter and I ventured out to meet one of her friends at Toyosu on Sunday afternoon.
Our destination of the day was The Third Park, an American barbecue spot featuring outdoor grilling with all food and implements provided. I have to say, I am not particularly outdoorsy and probably the last person to suggest grilling or camping, but this seemed manageable. And it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, stress-free dining experiences with a young child I have had yet, a refreshing departure from the sometimes rather nerve-racking experience of vainly trying to convince my little girl that, yes, it is a brilliant idea to sit and eat for hours on end.
Luckily for her, at The Third Park, roaming is of the essence. Nestled in 16,000 sq. meters of grassy land are 86 barbecue sites, each with their own grill, and some even equipped with tents or trailers for overnight stays. Scattered with shabby-chic shipping containers and with a vintage vibe, The Third Park invites visitors to wander and explore — perfect for restless little ones.
It’s located right along the water, with magical views of the Tokyo skyline including the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower, and our spot was one of three new Go-Cam (a contraction of “Gorgeous Camping”) grilling and camping sites. This particular site sits atop a wood deck and features a tent decked out with heaters, heated carpeting, mattresses and sleeping bags.
The girls immediately got comfortable in the tent as we fired up the grill. Each grilling site is equipped with a cooler containing the same assortment of meat and vegetables, vacuum-packed for freshness. At dusk, oil lanterns were handed out to each grilling site, and we proceeded to cook by the light of the lantern as the wildflowers and willow-o’-the-wisps faded against the backdrop of the bright city lights.
As the coals died down to a faint glow, it was time for the stars of the show, American smoked steaks (generous slabs of chuck eye roll seasoned with a blend of spices including onion powder, sage, allspice and cayenne pepper) and churrasco pork (thick slices of pork shoulder seasoned with lemon peel, roasted garlic, oregano and rosemary). Although my favorite was the succulent pork, moist and flavorful fresh off the grill, the girls’ favorite hands down was the grilled chicken, a kid-friendly version of the establishment’s specialty beer-can chicken. With its mildly spicy mix of paprika, thyme, cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger and cinnamon, the chicken was devoured in minutes amid cries of “More!”
The rubs used on the meats pack a flavorful punch, with the kitchen staff at The Third Park having been trained by U.S. chefs the BBQ Pit Boys.
Our meal came to a close with giant puffy marshmallows toasted over the grill, which left me craving some chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores. The good news is that The Third Park encourages you to bring items from home to add to the menu, as well as beverages, both soft drinks and alcohol. Each site comes with plates and utensils, but guests are asked to provide their own cups or to purchase them from the food stand on-site.
It was also the first of The Third Park’s weekend Halloween celebrations, with more to follow on Oct. 25 and 26. Our stomachs full and with little Sleeping Beauty and Princess Sophia in tow, we meandered through the grounds, stopping at the grilling sites of other guests who had brought candy to share with the costumed children — about 20 or so on the evening we were there.
All of this comes with a somewhat hefty price tag. At the affordable end of the scale are the South Park and North Park sites, starting at ¥4,000 per person (all prices exclude tax) for four hours including food. But I would recommend paying extra for the more spacious West Park and East Park sites, starting at ¥4,500 per person. The luxury camping experience with the Go-Cam Plan starts at ¥12,000 per person and includes dinner and breakfast. Elementary school-age children and younger eat for free for lunch and dinner, while children up to age 5 stay and eat for free with the overnight plans.
Loaded down with our Halloween loot, we left The Third Park to make our way home, amid protests from the girls, who did not want to leave. By the time we got off the subway, Sleeping Beauty was fast asleep, a sign of a successful night out if ever there was one.
6-1-23 Toyosu, Koto-ku, Tokyo; www.the-third-park.com; reservations required (online only, up to five days in advance); English spoken; no English menu.
More griller thrillers
Bring the festivities indoors at Salud Familia Ebisu (4-23-9 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 050-5570-4326; www.saludfamilia.net), an establishment in Ebisu specializing in rotisserie chicken. Its private room with Halloween decor can be reserved, with sofas and floor cushions that are great for crawlers and toddlers.
On the sweeter end of the spectrum is Accueil (2-10-10 Ebisu Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-6821-8888; www.accueil.co.jp), a darling, kid-friendly cafe perfect for a Halloween brunch. Pumpkin donut pancakes (¥980 plus tax) served in a festive Halloween bucket are available until Oct. 31, and the cafe is filled with cute seasonal decorations. Accueil also has a Yokohama branch (045-534-6661).