Thursday, 18 October 2007

Downtown Delight

As a country boy at heart it is not often, Gentle Reader, that I venture into the bullishly bank-littered heart of Tokyo. The contingent liability and risk profile discussions don't bear thinking about, and traffic control seems to be in the hands of a manic depressive.

But hearing only good things about Salt, I took my life into my hands and headed there with El Presidente and The Expat to enjoy the company of bon vivant Richard Cohen of the ever-reliable Village Cellars. Good choice!

Salt has been established by some brave yet insightful investors, with Australian food icon Luke Mangan as both the inspiration and overseas partner. I was first introduced to Luke's Sydney restaurant Salt by his brother, and then was proud to have Luke at the Australian Embassy for a promotional event. Luke has gone on to even greater heights, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey ends.

The Child Bride was to descend on the hapless Salt staff in a few days with the Chicken & Chablis coterie, so I was doing my best to maintain a low profile. That option was ruined by the arrival of Roger Moore at another table, but he accepted the glass of sparkling mineral water I had sent to his table with an urbane smile and a pleasant degree of confusion.

Richard feigns to be on doctor's orders to reduce consumption (and to be fair he looks the better for it), so he went a la carte with the Mackeral followed by the Lamb. Undaunted, we Three Amigos waded bravely into a degustation menu - theirs with the Aussie wine tasting option, and me with an eye on Salt's excellent wine list. The tasting is a elegant touch, and serves to introduce the punters to a range of high quality Australian wines without overwhelming the wonderful food.

I chose a Reserve Riesling from the Watervale region - this is how Riesling should taste, delightfully free of the cloying sweetness of its European cousins and fresh to the point of perkiness. Richard followed with a Frankland Cabernet for the latter courses, and the '98 showed all of the best features of West Australian reds and none of the faults.

The food is carefully prepared to highlight the subtle flavors of excellent ingredients (note to self: get an invitation to go to Market with Chef Binnie!), and lavishly presented with a low key explanation of the dish that our friends at Global Dining could benefit from copying.

Salt is a stunning addition to the Tokyo dining scene, and the Australian accent of Head Chef Shannon Binnie immediately fills one with confidence that here is a destination that understands food and wine, and how both subtly combine to create a stunning table experience. The food is great to excellent, and the location has been used to considerable advantage so that a visit to Salt provides both Tokyo residents and visitors with the highlight of any week.

Visit Salt with colleagues and clients, or those pangs of the heart where a full airfare to Sydney seems a slight exaggeration. And visit the bar next door for pre- or post-prandials - at last an elegant and sophisticated location with the energy and verve of New York, Sydney, or London.

The English website seems to be in need of a careful eye to keep up to date with what's happening in the restaurant, and doesn't seem to have been updated for some time. For details of the degustation menus currently on offer, see my poor effort just below the rating line.

Salt Tokyo: Shin-Marunouchi Bldg. 6F 1-5-1 MarunouchiChiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6506 Japan Tel. 03-5288-7828Fax. 03-5288-7836

Rating: Food: 8/10; Service: 7/10 ; Wine: 8/10; Ambiance: 8/10; Price: 7/10 ($$$$); Total 38/50 (4 Forks) Map

Degustations:

Terry: Mushroom Broth; sashimi of Lobster; Seared Sea Scallops; Roasted Guinea Fowl; Australian Spring Lamb Assiette; Hazelnut Parfait
Others: Shellfish Bisque with truffle; Seafood tasting; Pork Belly Confit; Roast Lobster; Australian Wagyu Beef, Chocolate Plate

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