Food without memory is just digestion

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Chez Pierre, avec Eric

Ever up for a challenge, Gentle Reader, I sallied forth on a recent evening to a wine tasting at Chez Pierre for a wine tasting organized by my friend Eric Dahler. We were to be treated to some wine not seen in Japan before - Chateau d'Estoubon from Vallée des Baux in Provence.

Truth be told, I had interviewed Chef Pierre Prigent a few days earlier for a new web site launching soon in Tokyo (stay tuned). The man is an amazing dynamo, and has such a passion for food and ingredients that your Humble Correspondent felt completely in awe of this icon of Tokyo fine dining.

Pierre has been in Japan for 40 years, and while he didn't open the first French restaurant in Japan (my guess is that Au Cheval Blanc can claim this honour, opening in Mita way back in the early Meiji era), he has been the father - nay, grandfather - of the genre almost ever since he first arrived.

The menu (for 28!) was elegant and underlines Pierre's preference for "la cuisine traditionnelle". We started with a very pleasant assortment of entree, of which the stand-out for me was the terrine de lapin. Oh, what a delight, Gentle Reader! If you respect only the courage that it takes to prepare this dish, I urge you to get along to Chez Pierre at the earliest opportunity.

Our fish dish was a saddle of monkfish, delicately wrapped in jambon, and cooked to firm perfection. The texture was superb, and the flavor sublime. On then to a saddle of lamb with herbs, which filled the mouth with complex hints of herbs, garlic, and sea salt that left this mere earthling making a mental note to return, avec diligence, with the Child Bride to Chez Pierre as soon as possible.

A note then on the wine - I do not profess to be any sort of authority on Provence wines, and the glasses did the wines no justice at all. At first I was taken somewhat aback by the brashness of Chateau d'Estoubon, and I was preparing to be harsh. But somehow, the wines seemed to grow on me - while I think that even the Cuvee will benefit from some time in the bottle, I'm tempted to purchase some from the cheerful M. Dahler and try them with the ingredients and cuisine of the Provence area. Somehow, I know I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Pierre's standard wine list is an adventure, with wonderful examples of all the great appellations without the outrageous prices charged by some. Pierre works hard to keep the wines under Y10,000 (there are some exceptions, but the mark-up is still only a mere 100%).

Repair to Chez Pierre with all speed accompanied by friends and foodies, but please note my rating below is "temporary" pending a return visit. My guess is we'll go to 4 forks. However, fear not - Pierre and his restaurant is definitely a Tokyo dining experience you don't want to miss. Look for the portly boy devouring wild boar in the corner, and I'll raise a glass!

Chez Pierre: 1-23-10 Minami Aoyama, Minato Ward. t/f: 03-3475-1400
Temporary Rating: Food: 8; Wine: 8; Service: 7; Ambiance: 9; Price: 7 ($$). Total 39/50

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