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Daniel Robson forks out for a “classy” dining experience

As you know by now, the Japanese love nothing more for Christmas dinner than a bucket of KFC, and Colonel Sanders is so revered that when a life-size statue of him was vandalised by a fan of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team in 1985, it led to them suffering a two-decade losing streak known as the “Curse Of The Colonel”. But now Japan’s obsession with the Rolf Harris lookalike has gone one step further, with the opening of Route 25 – a finger-licking new bar in the studenty Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo.

Yes, Route 25 is a Kentucky Fried Chicken bar. It occupies the third floor of a KFC on Shimokitazawa’s main drag, opens from 5pm till 11pm (and till 3am on weekends) and aims to re-create the deep American South. Southern Comfort and Jack Daniel’s take pride of place on the drinks menu, while the food offerings include chicken staples alongside pizza, pasta and nachos.

As theme bars go it’s relatively low-key. A stylish wooden counter takes pride of place, with glass cabinets housing the bottles and tumblers behind it. Rather than the usual white tables and chairs found in a KFC restaurant, here everything is wrought iron and hardwood. Light jazz trickles from the speakers as a mute flatscreen TV shows some sports game or other.

As is common in would-be high-class bars in Tokyo, the bartenders wear smart black waistcoats and trousers/skirts with spotless white shirts, and serve you at your table. You pay not when you order but on the way out.

The Americana fix comes not only from the dishes and drinks but also the red, white and blue menus (with the English text more prominent than the Japanese), and the good ol’ Dixie-whistlin’ photos on the wall – alongside an enlarged history of KFC overlord Colonel Sanders.

And then out comes the chicken: exactly the same as the stuff you buy in a regular KFC, but served on a dainty china plate and eaten with a fork. Actually, KFC in Japan tastes slightly different than in the West: It seems to be higher quality and not as greasy. Will Route 25 bars roll out across the rest of Tokyo, or indeed the world? No idea. In a city like Tokyo, where there are already more bars than there are lard-arses in Texas, it’s hard to work out why anyone would want to spend a whole evening there.

And that’s because what really sets Route 25 apart from other American-style bars in Tokyo is the faint but inescapable smell of secret recipe chicken. It permeates the place, and while this may be an inviting aroma when you walk past a KFC with an empty stomach, it’s quite another thing after a few hours’ boozing.

Still, there’s no question that KFC tastes better when you’re drunk, and at Route 25 you have the means to become exactly that.

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