Food without memory is just digestion

Friday, 5 December 2008


You can imagine, Gentle Reader, the breathlessness with which I had anticipated the opportunity to dine with Jon (Eating Out in Tokyo with Jon). Your Humble Correspondent pales into insignificance when compared to this paladin of grace and virtue ... one feels like Edgar Linton to his Heathcliff, or like Boswell to his Dr Johnson. Jon, whose lofty vocation is masterminding strategy for a multinational financial house. [Brief pause for thought] On reflection, perhaps "masterminding" is a stretch given the uproar in that sector!

We settled on Artichaut, a little French venue hidden away in Ebisu. Chef Yamane has overseen this restaurant for some 2 years after 5 years in Paris most notably at the heavenly 3-star Pierre Gagnaire [note to self and Jon: get to the Tokyo edition in Minami-Aoyama asap]. At His Jon-ness's suggestion, we went for the Chef's special o-makase menu but asked for 2 dishes of game rather than game and fish.
In the view of this admittedly jaded interlocutor, Artichaut seemed to progressively lose the plot as the evening ran its course. Our dinner started well with Oyster au Natural, plump and sweet. The Sancerre worked well with this jewel of the sea, although your Humble Correspondent was so a-gush that Jon had finally arrived that I neglected to note which particular example it was.
We moved on to a Presse of Kamkura vegetables, from whence our downward spiral commenced. Perhaps I wasn't ready for the delicate flavors, but it disappointed. This was followed by an Artichoke, Unagi and Fois Gras terrine which was serviceable and workman-like, but which didn't stand for anything we could easily define.
At a little of a loss by now, I opted for the 1983 Malescot St Exupery from Margaux - not through any deep knowledge of the Chateau or terrior, but because I was intrigued by the connection to the famous French aviator and author Antoine de Saint Exupéry (The Little Prince and others). His great-grandfather Count Jean Baptiste St-Exupery bought the property in 1827, although his subsequent extravagant lifestyle forced his widow to auction the property in 1853. Tangential perhaps, but the wine was excellent.
The Venison (Ezojika) and Fois Gras Risotto was a much better effort, although my companion The Delphi seemed a little less impressed that I. The rice was "plump and sticky", and done to about one tick less than perfection. My Pigeon was well-prepared, without any of the chopped liver-ness that can afflict this dish. Jon will no doubt report that his Pheasant was better.
At Artichaut, one feels slightly let down by the experience, but it's hard to put one's finger on exactly what's missing. Your Humble Correspondent will be returning in the New Year to see if it was just the brilliance of the company that took the shine off the food. For the meantime, it's a place for friends rather than those you seek to impress.
Artichaut: 2-6-29 Ebisu, Shibuya Ward. t: 03-3446-9747
Rating: Food: 6; Wine: 7; Service: 7; Ambiance: 7; Price: 7 ($$). Total 35/50

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