Thursday, 29 May 2008

There are times, Gentle Reader, when your Humble Correspondent is not ashamed to admit that others may have better insight into particular cuisines or localities. After all, one has a reputation to defend - better the temporary embarrassment of asking than the shame of lingering doubt finding its evil way among you!

So looking for a place to take my work team for a tipple after a sally into Ginza recently, I asked bon vivant Richard Cohen of Village Cellars for his advice. The VC office is located hard by the Kabuki-za, and my inner muse (can you spell w-i-f-e ?) told me that if anyone should know the area it would be Richard and Yoshiko. Their advice – Grape Gumbo [Japanese Yahoo website] [Map] !

Oh brave Richard! Oh wise Portia (Yoshiko)! Grape Gumbo is very much a sarariman magnet, and no place could have been better suited to my purposes. One feels Grape Gumbo must have started as a New Orleans/Cajun destination (at least, that is what the Big Easy photographs, posters, and jazz paraphernalia shout at me), but has thought better of that brief moment of insanity to return to French brasserie/tabac cooking that tickles the fancy and fills the belly. My dinner companions were legion, and personalities ranged from the Wacky Creative Guy through Donna Bella and the Brand Icon to the redoubtable Ms’s Motonaga and Takano. By the way, a bottle of Australian sparkling for a collective noun for more than one Ms …!

We attacked the appetizers with gusto, and the table of seven voted the pate de campagne probably the best of a good bunch. Washed down with some flirtatious Australian white wine, the entrée-sized portions of everything from foie gras to fresh salad had my antennae twitching and taste-buds anticipating our main courses.

We devoured perhaps four different species of animal in rapid succession, and each was well-prepared and sufficient for more than one in that friendly, rough-and-ready izakaya manner. My Duck Confit was on the great side of good, and the pork looked regal and tasted better. A Montepulciano made for much laughter and less logic at the table, and complemented the food well enough that we found ourselves at the empty end of a second bottle.

At around Y7,000 per person, Grape Gumbo is probably better scheduled soon-ish after pay day, but represents good value for money with something on the menu to please both the discerning and the boisterous. Go there with peers and colleagues, or when exhausted after a tear through Ginza.

Grape Gumbo [Map]: 5-9-6 Ginza, Chuo-Ku. 03-3569-7388
Rating: Food: 6; Wine: 7; Service: 7; Ambience: 7; Price: 7 ($$). Total 34/50

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