Food without memory is just digestion

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Magnifico! La Taperia

12 September 2007
Tired and frustrated after another "ho-hum" day in Tokyo, I put in a quick call to the Child Bride and Cost Centre #4 to have them join me at La Taperia in Yotsuya. I had just found it on the Web while searching for an Italian restaurant in Ichigayadai-machi (I know, don't take me there...). Ever sensitive to the complaint, Gentle Readers, that I tend to the upmarket side of the Tokyo dining scene (and having dined at Twenty One the night before), I decided we should try to re-capture the magic of our one month soujourn in Spain almost 10 years ago to the day.

What a find! This is a delightful little restaurant with 32 seats, run by Carlos Berrocal, and tucked away in Yotsuya 3-Chome. Carlos is quite a character, who first came to Japan about 15 years ago in search of Aikido nirvana. He's a Madrileño, and very typical of the gatos we came to know and love. It's fortunate for us all that he's still here. He's been running La Taperia for a little more than 3 years after refusing numerous requests by Japanese owners "to cook spaghetti". I agree - there's no such thing as Mediterranean cuisine unless you're a thousand-store US budget chain operation, and as a supporter of regional cuisines within the traditional Spanish pantry I'm grateful for people like Carlos with the integrity and passion to make a difference.

We started with a platter of Iberico cold meats, with the heavenly Iberico jamon that melts in your mouth, chorizo, and salchichon. Meant to be eaten with the fingers, ours threatened to turn into an arm-wrestling contest as we jostled for more of this pleasure.

Now I'm sorry to disappoint our Pacific neighbors, but tortilla in Spanish is not a flat unleavened bread. Maybe it is in Mexico, but in Spain it is an omelette typically containing potatoes and onions with herbs designed to serve as an accompaniment or as a tapas offering in a small cervecería. The Tortilla Espanola at La Taperia is light and filling, and immediately brings to mind the efforts of Africa our Spanish chef during our soujourn in Campo Salobrena 10 years ago.

Having enjoyed a CruzCampo Spanish beer, I was delighted when the wait staff produced an Antonio Barbadillo Palomina Fina 2005 as the white wine choice. This wine had been the lubricant for many a world-saving conversation in Spain with The Don and his Bride. Maybe Antonio had lost some of his skill over the last 10 years or my palate has changed a little, but this wine is only enjoyable after the second glass these days. Darn!

We also enjoyed Pata Campagna, Gambas al Ajillo, and Champinon a la plancha as well as a wonderful peanut-butter ice-cream served with Carlos' "secret" ingredients. "Secret" - Humph...that's a challenge!

La Taperia is a great place to enjoy with family and friends if you want good food, engaging staff and the warmth of the immediate friendships typical of everyone we met in Spain. We'll certainly be going back, and I fully expect to upgrade my rating as we get to know Carlos better.

Rating: Food: 7/10; Service: 7/10 ; Wine: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price: 8/10; Total 36/50 (3 Forks) Beware: NO CREDIT CARDS ARE ACCEPTED
Restaurante La Taperia, B1 Stream Yotsuya Building, Yotsuya 3-3, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo. T: 03-3353-8003.

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