Food without memory is just digestion

Monday, 11 February 2008

A Place for Lost Boys

Twice recently I've had the pleasure of eating at Le garcon de la vigne in Hiroo. A little out of the way, but trust me ... the result is well worth the journey of discovery (Map). Head down from the subway station all the way past Smash Hits to the end of the Hiroo shopping street, and turn left. It's less than 100 meters down on the left side with a large wine cask outside.

The restaurant name translates as "the boy of the vines", a reference to Front-of-House Iino-san's soujourn in France after serving as sommelier at Marche aux Vin Yamada in Minami Aoyama. It seems Iino-san was led to some sort of inspiration by this experience, and Le garcon de la vigne is the result. Watanabe-san is the chef at this eclectic little jewel, creating great food from the ever-changing materials sent by the contract farmers.

Forgive me for being a little flippant, but these two remind me of Peter Pan's lost boys, forever playing at adventure and not worrying about the world slipping by. And it's a grand result - at any time I expected Robin Williams to bounce out from behind the bar to start a food fight. don't get me wrong - I love it. After all, my kids have twice given me Christmas gifts of marbles and a box to keep them in! I am definitely a lost boy playing at Neverland in Tokyo.

The deal here, Gentle Reader, is that Iino-san and Watanabe-san are completely committed to "natural" cuisine - organic where possible, with free-range/wild catch meats and fish - and it shows through. The farmers and suppliers are trusted to send whatever is in season and at its peak. What a breathe of fresh air, and what a result!

I've journeyed there for pleasure and for business, and while Iino-san can seem a little eccentric at times, the meal and the atmosphere have been outstanding. You'll need to know your French organic wines to sort your way through the wine list - or like me, you can leave it to Iino-san.

I've really enjoyed the warm vegetables served here as an entree, as well as Roast Pork cutlet and the Veal filet with truffle sauce as main dishes. You can opt for cheese instead of dessert, and they serve herb teas post-prandially. There are 2 course options for dinner at Y3,800 and Y6,000 which represent great value for money. Do yourself a favor and make this place one of your regular haunts - you'll be supporting a brave adventure by Messrs Iino and Watanabe, and maybe you could become a lost boy too!

Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price: 7/10 ($). Total: 35/50
Le garcon de la vigne: Hiroo 5-17-11-1F 03-3445-6626

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