Saturday, 17 May 2008

By Charlie! Epanoui Hiroo

One wonders, Gentle Reader, how people navigate their way through the mesmerizing, myriad selection of great dining opportunities here in Tokyo. How easy it is to just fall back on the old favorites, happy in the knowledge that all will be well and familiar.

It falls on your Humble Correspondent to slave on your behalf to discover the hidden jewels in Tokyo's culinary crown. So it is with great delight that I introduce Epanoui in Hiroo 3-Chome [Map], where I dined with a self-surrendering colleague recently. A true delight, Gentle Reader, with a deft touch in the food, the service, and the atmosphere it has created in this stand-alone house just off Komazawa-dori near Kokugakuin University. Epanoui comes from the French for "to bloom", and is used in the wine industry to describe the sensation when a wine's bouquet "opens" up.

One of the characters-in-residence at Epanoui is Charlie, the Wire Hair and Fox Terrier who serves as Maitre D' with aplomb and quiet reserve. Charlie has his own section in the Japanese-only website, and seems to regard most of we humble diners with a touch of disdain and distance. Chef Shindo Takeshi has plenty of experience both here in Tokyo and in Paris (mainly in the 8e), and uses it with great aplomb at this wonderful suburban restaurant. He and his wife live "above the shop", and they are truly dedicated to l'art de cuisine.

We went for the safe middle ground among the 3 set menus (A: 1 entree, Meat or Fish, Dessert @ Y4,200; B: 2 entrees or 1 entree and Fish, Meat or Fish, Dessert @ Y5,985; C: 1 entree, Fois Gras, Fish of the Day, Meat of the Day, Dessert @ Y7,560).

My colleague ordered first, and so snaffled the Foie gras poêlé à la sauce aux truffes, which I matched with Terrine de canard challandais. Both were delightful, and served as a great introduction to the experience this husband and wife team seek to provide their lucky customers. Our second entree was the Asperges Blanches à la sauce mayonnais, served with an interesting Mascapone and Salmon mousse, that delivered on every promise and provided us both with something to discuss other than mundane work matters.

We both chose the Confit de canard as our main course. Simply brilliant, Gentle Reader, and worth the sometimes frustrating navigational headache that Epanoui can provide (see directions below). The champignon and squeezed duck jus rissole that accompanies it is delightfully light and balanced.

Our wine was a 2004 Chablis, which was complex and elegant without showing that cloying sweetness that can dominate the chardonnay grape. It was excellent with my Basque tart dessert.

I shall be back at Epanoui in very short order, eager to try the other options on this interesting menu. Try Epanoui with only your best friends, or we'll find the 20-odd seats will fill way too quickly!

Epanoui [Map], 3-2-14 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. Tel./Fax 03(3407)1513
Rating: Food: 8/10; Wine: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Price ($$): 8/10. Total: 37/50 Add a bonus point for Charlie!

Directions: Have your driver head along Komazawa-dori from Shibuya-bashi towards Roppongi, and look for the 7-Eleven conbini after the second traffic light. Get out and cross the road, turn left and look for the first lane way on your right side. Turn into the lane, and Epanoui is the 2-storey house in front of you as the lane turns again to the right.

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