Friday, 10 August 2007

Felicita - A Happy Meal

10 August 2007

There’s nothing quite so nice as an old bastard who offers to buy you lunch, so I was delighted to accept The Engineer’s invitation to Felicita in Minami Aoyama. Although it’s a little difficult to find coming from the South (where the taxi drivers will drop you off), it’s well worth the effort.

It’s three stories worth of Italian heaven for the intrepid traveller, with a very attentive and knowledgable staff who make every possible effort to make the experience one you’re sure to remember. Urbane and elegant, this venue achieves Einstein’s dream of being able to stop time - even if only for a couple of hours at lunch. The parade of patrons seem a sophisticated lot, far from the madding crowd of OLs that seem to jam other good venues.

The Engineer, who has built a small mountain of debt creating a wine importing and distribution business, went straight to the right place for the wine - a cool, refreshing Italian white. Presented with three choices produced by magic from somewhere else than the Wine List, we went for a Coenobium 2005 (Lazio) Monastero di Vitorchiano. What a delightful occupation for a community of Trappist nuns - bound by a vow of silence, they produce a wine that is enjoyably feminine with good flavor and plenty to surprise the more it sits quietly in the glass.

We both enjoyed a Crema fredda di mais (Cold corn cream soup/冷製トウモロコシのスープ)...freshly made from real corn rather than a can, this soup had a pleasant summer feel combined with a fleeting impression of the corn fields that I found quite impressive, particularly for lunch.

Felicita’s chef seems to have a deep love affair with pork - more power to him - so I then moved onto Verdura mista al vapore con prosciuttocotto salsa di scalogno al pomodoro fresco (Steamed vegetables with Parma ham/様々な野菜の蒸し焼き プロシュットコット添え). Stop - Italian chefs in Tokyo should quietly find their way to Felicita to learn how to manage Parma’s subtle flavors along with the fresh cheerfulness of summer vegetables. This dish is a celebration of the Italian countryside, suggesting that Chef ducked out the kitchen door and gathered a basket of bounty to delight this humble patron.

Always a pig for pork, I moved on to the Fusili al ragu di verdore verdi e cotenne di miaile al pecorino grattugiato (Fusili in green vegetable and skin of pork/自家製フジッリ豚皮と緑野菜のラグー). By now I’m floating away, as this dish teased the senses and delights the nascent gourmand hidden deep inside all of us. I was beginning to wonder why I’d never had this before, when I noticed The Engineer looking deep into my eyes as he tried to wrestle the plate away. An obvious ploy, which might have worked if I hadn’t had already finished. Absolutely try this if you get the chance. It’s a lesson in simplicity, and yet has deep and luxurious flavors that dance a mistrel with the taste buds.

Well, where else to go but the Cotechino all rete di miaile della casa con purea di fagioli (Home-made Pork sausage Country-style ‘Cotechino’/自家製コテキーノのロースト). Never easy, Italian-style pork sausages like this lend themselves to very simple treatment. Perfect in every way, there could have easily been a pitched duel with raised forks at 10 paces had not there been five(!) sausages on each plate to sate even the most ravenous old bastard.

In summary, a delightful experience made all the more enjoyable by the company, an excellent light wine, and a friendly and knowledgable service team. My hat’s off to the Chef, because I thought I’d have to go a long way to top Osteria Nakamura. And 5 forks to The Engineer for a great choice of venue at short-notice.

Well, the choice is clear - Felicita for lunch, Osteria Nakamura for dinner, early morning appointment at the heart specialist...

Rating:Food: 8/10; Wine (list): 7/10; Service: 8/10; Ambience: 8/10; Price: 7/10. Total 38/50 (4 Forks from Terry!).
Felicita: 3-18-4 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-Ku 港区南青山 3-18-4; TEL:03-3408-0141 FAX:03-5775-2895

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