Food without memory is just digestion

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Suburban Italian - Collina Piccola

People often ask why I focus on restaurants in the "foreigner" part of Tokyo - there's no reason really except that most often the food is good enough to take the trouble to write. Never one to shirk duty though, I thought I would share a nice little Italian in Haramachi, Shinjuku.

Torattoria (sic!) Collina Piccola (sorry, Japanese only!) is a pleasant little restaurant in Wakamatsu, quite close to the Tokyo Womens Medical University - which accounts for the fact that I was the only man in the place on the evening we called. Not that I minded, Gentle Reader, but it means that the menu tends to the softer variety of Italian cuisine and the wine list tends to the light side.

We ordered a Dalbiere 05 Trebbiano de Romagna, which surprised as a perky little thing. Perhaps it was designed to match the younger audience here, but I for one would be happy to order it again particularly at the very reasonable price at which it is offered.

The Caprese Salad with Pesto (2 stars from Terry)! and Zuwaigani Tagliatelle were very suitable starters, which we followed with the Rissoto ala Parmiagiano (very adequate!) and Cotaletta ala Milanese (good). The amazing thing here is not the food - which is quite good - but the prices. We were out the door for just a little more than Y10,000 including the wine ... which means you'll see this humble correspondent back at Collina Piccola soon.

The restaurant is quiet and hums along with the buzz of well-ordered chaos. It avoids the temptation of turning up the BGM too loud, and the staff are attentive and happy to help those who don't speak much Japanese to struggle through.

Try Collina Piccola with your partner or a good friend - it's not a business dinner choice, but it is relaxing and represents good value for money.

Food: 6/10; Wine: 5/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 6/10; Price: 7/10 ($). Total: 31/50

Toratorria Collina Piccola: Sunword Bldg, 3-37 Haramachi, Shinjuku. t: 03-5285-8662

Friday, 16 November 2007

My Antipodean Embassy friend The Don had recently been traveling in the wilds of Hokkaido with a colleague from the French Embassy, and had the remarkably good sense to ask that representative Frenchman where he thought the best French food was to be found in Tokyo. Oh prescient Don! Oh perspicacious Don!

The Don was surprised by the response – Le March aux Puces, a little suburban brasserie in Ebisu. Showing even more remarkably good sense, he invited your humble correspondent to join him for a Sunday brunch while the two Childs Bride (or is that Child Brides?) were otherwise detained in far flung regions of the globe. Feeling very European, I cycled jauntily over to Ebisu after church and seized the best table outside this elegant little destination.

We shared a home-made pate de fois gras and some crisp baguette as we started with a palate-cleansing beer (only one of The Don’s customs to be much admired). I went for the Duck main course while The Don ventured into deeper water with the special Lobster Salad for the day. A bottle of 2005 Chablissiene rounded out a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Gentle Reader, our French friend is nearly right – LMaP serves good-to-great versions of the staples of the brasserie scene, and is a good safe choice when hankering for those French comfort foods we have all grown to know and love. It does not pretend to majesty by over-reaching into the grande restaurante menu range, yet at the same time shows enough individuality for me to heartily recommend it. A modest wine list forces the focus onto the food, and the service is very friendly and attentive.

Try LMaP with a partner or lover on Sunday afternoons, or when looking for space for two during the week.

A final word – Chef was nervous as I tried his Tarte Tatin as by this stage the staff had tumbled to my secret identity. He had no reason to fear: it was just what it should be, and turned me nicely out the door on my journey home!

Rating: Food: 7; Wine: 6; Service: 7; Ambience: 7; Price:7 ($$). Total 34/50
LMaP: Ebisu 2-5-8, Shibuya-Ku (03) 5420-3691 (Map)

45 (floors closer to heaven)

Imagine my joy, Gentle Reader, when presented with an invitation by The Expat to join with him and the lovely Kath at “45” to thank Rachel for her extra effort in a recent business exercise. “45” (Link) is the latest addition to Tokyo’s fine dining scene, located in sumptuous luxury atop the Ritz Carlton at Midtown (Map).

Apart from the slight oversight in forgetting to pick me up, The Expat had done very well to chose this venue given his recent choice of a Mexican restaurant (how can anyone imagine that there is cuisine in chilli?) forgetting that your humble correspondent isn’t good at spicy pap masquerading as food.

While my 3 companions chose from the excellent set courses (although the Heaven, Earth, etc names for the degustations are a little trite), I had over-indulged the day before and took things easy by opting for some fine pate de fois gras with truffles followed by a gamecock dish that was a real delight to the eye and taste buds. The food here is great-to-excellent, and as the kitchen begins to flex its muscles I believe we can expect some pleasant surprises from this team.

One receives a glass of Dom with the set courses, but with Kath expecting another Clark I was first in line to snap up the alcohol she couldn’t drink. Of course, calling Dom Perignon “alcohol” seems a little sacrilegious, but …. I chose a nice little Savignon to accompany the meal, and finished with the tea selection (Note to self: Do this again if only to enjoy the aromas!).

As one might expect “45” is still struggling with some set-up issues, but the fine food and wonderful view make up for it in good measure. I liked the décor and the openness of the space, and I’m hoping to make “45” a regular feature on my calendar.

Rating: Food: 8; Wine: 8; Ambience: 8; Service: 7; Price: 7 ($$$$); Total: 38/50