Wednesday, 4 June 2008

In Vinum Veritas - Les Vinum

One of the joys of being Australian, Gentle Reader, is that we have at least 2 chefs in the world's Top 10 (Q: who gets to choose that list, how do they judge, and will they consider me?). One of those is the food wizard Tetsuya Wakuda. Yes, that name may sound Japanese, but Tetsuya moved to Australia from Hamamatsu in 1982 and learnt all his magic in Sydney starting his cooking career with Tony Bilson.
And getting to the point, I have it on good advice from NHK-7 (Melanie) that Les Vinum [Map] is Tetsuya's favorite restaurant in Tokyo. Whether the redoubtable Ms. M knew this when she booked me in for 3 is doubtful, but I shall bathe in the splendour of the serendipity.
Les Vinum is difficult to find, and a simple location to remember once you have enjoyed the subtle combination of Japanese and French cooking styles complemented by an excellent by eccentric wine list. Superb ingredients treated with sweet Japanese sensitivity is what drives the Les Vinum view of fusion, and I for one am an enthusiastic convert. There is something about Japanese charcoal broiling (sumibi-yaki) that adds extra dimensions and diversions to a dish, and little gems like Curry Rice that speak to comfort and sensibility.
I visited with the Child Bride and NHK-7 to be seated at the counter - a party of 12 was booked for the evening and things were expected to get busy. Les Vinum seats about 16 in the dining area and 8 at the counter, and has a quiet and purposeful demeanour which promises delight and diversion. While there is a set menu, the obvious choice is to go with the 15 or more daily specials that grace the large blackboard above the kitchen counter.
I advise sampling the excellent regional meats sourced from around Japan, and teaming these with the vegetables straight off the grill. Don't look for salads and mash at Les Vinum - it revels in its charcoal grill and I'm convinced that Chef would not sully his hands with lettuce or rocket.
We tried the Seafood Frites, Grilled Vegetables with Sakura Shrimp Sauce, Iberico Pork and Fois Gras Tsukune, and the Homemade Lamb Sausage for our starters. Once the self-satisfied giggling subsided (as we congratulated ourselves on our brilliant selections), we moved on to Australian Angus Beef, Chiba Pork, and French Duck Breasts. Oh happy day!
We watched both a Poilly Fuisse and a Nuits St George evaporate before our very eyes all the while being wonderfully well looked after by the excellent staff. Visit Les Vinum with friends and visitors - it's an excellent way to introduce Japanese cooking without the additional challenge of unfamiliar ingredients. Still, if you're looking for a quiet evening it's best to check that NHK-7 and the Child Bride are not booked for that night!
Les Vinum [Map]: Nishi-Azabu 4-5-8 1F; Tel: 03-5466-8607
Rating: Food: 7; Wine: 7; Service: 8; Ambience: 8; Price: 7 ($$$). Total 37/50

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