Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

No num-nums at Burdigala!

I must confess, Gentle Reader, to an almost childish delight in the humour of the Goons and in particular the special style of silliness that was Peter Sellers. In one famous outing, he plays an Indian actor who repeats the phrase "birdie num-nums" a number of highly inappropriate times in the movie "The Party". Apropos of nothing really, except it always came to mind when I saw Burdigala in Roppongi Hills. And gave rise to a giggle ... so I couldn't go there for fear of embarrassing myself!

I have no doubt, Gentle Reader, that you know that Burdigala is actually the Roman (Latin) name for the city of Bordeau in the Aquitaine region of Gaul or modern-day France. It was originally named by the Celtic Bituriges Vivisci tribe who settled the area in about 300 B.C. So it's a splendid and honorable name for a restaurant, and shouldn't give rise to mirth at all ... if not for that rascal Sellers.

With The Expat heading back to the United States for some undeserved vacation time, we decided to try Burdigala literally as we walked by. What a happy accident! From the honest and cheerful welcome we got on arrival through to the happy and restrained farewell on leaving, Burdigala makes sure the dining experience is thoroughly pleasant. This is a welcome change from many other places in Roppongi-Azabu, where one sometimes is an unwanted distraction rather than a guest.

The Menu Degustation came as a welcome relief - Burdigala has a wide-ranging menu and we were finding it somewhat difficult to make up our minds. It also offers excellent wines by glass at reasonable prices. We opted for a glass each of the 2005 Domaine Jean Claude Courtault Chablis, an excellent choice for the two hors d'oeuvres of Sea Bream Tartar au Vermouth and warmed Pate de Canard. The tight construction of this wine means it doesn't dominate food ... and the vermouth seemed to bring the flavours together into a neat package. Nice touch, Chef!

As we pressed on towards the fish and meat dishes, The Expat demanded red wine and I had little choice but to go for the big artillery. I ordered the 2004 Gevrey-Chambertin Geantet-Pansiot. Gevrey-Chambertin is often called the "King of Burgundy" and is one of the finest examples of the surprising intensity that Pinot Noir can achieve. Given that it was Napolean's favorite wine, it was likely to suit our little emperor as well.

The fish - isaki, much less attractive in English as Striped Grunter! - was whimsically served in a bouillabaisse broth. This was a well turned-out variation, deeply redolent of the traditional Provencal treatment and delightfully full of flavour.

Your Humble Correspondent has seen a bit of beef in his day, but few as delicious as the Wagyu and Fois Gras with Summer Truffle Sauce that Burdigala now presented. With the Chambertin, this created a taste sensation that was stunning. Ah le beau Burdigala ... your Celtic forebears would be proud of you!

Visit Burdigala with friends and visiting relatives you wish to impress. It's not quite Bordeau, but it's as close as you'll get in Tokyo. Look for the fat boy in the corner, and raise a glass to me!

Burdigala [Map]: Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka-dori, Roppongi 6-15-1; t: 03-5786-7708
Rating: Food: 8; Wine: 8; Service: 7; Ambiance: 7; Price: 7 ($$). Total 37/50
*** Interesting aside: Years and years ago (1,200 to be precise), the village of Gevrey followed the example of many of its counterparts throughout the Cote d'Or and took the name of its most famous vineyard - "Les Champs de Bertin" (the fields of Bertin). That was shortened - no doubt by thirsty drinkers - to Chambertin. The vineyards were eventually gifted to the Abbey de Beze.

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