Some of you will recall the Tokyo Dining Group I started called "Tokyo Darkside" (post a comment if you'd like an invitation). The goals of the group, Gentle Reader, are to spend time with friends once a month, enjoy some good food and wine, and to do all of this for under Y10,000 each. Froth and bubble, I know, but we all wander around networking and/or high society events and rarely put aside an hour or two for friendship. Which is a sorely needed commodity in these troubled times.
Accompanied by The Child Bride and ten of our brave Darkside companions, we set off in search of the Holy Grail and a shrubbery ... no, in search of amusement and social intercourse ... to i Sentieri [Map] in Nishi Azabu. The map is directionally useless, Gentle Reader, so stroll in a sedate and gentile manner from Hobsons towards Shibuya, turn left at the first street (you're now heading towards Hiroo), walk approximately 50 paces and look for an illegible sign about the size of one of Their Majesty's Royal Mail stamps, and fix upon the concrete left-handed spiral staircase on your left going up to the 2nd floor with some imposing metallic doors. That is i Sentieri.
Mario Frittoli has enjoyed a frantic and peripatetic career in Japan and is a star of television and print. He is also a cook of some talent, so we were looking forward to great things in his Collaboration with Chef Yasuji Morizumi of Chabu-Ya and Mist. The affable Eric of Wine Prosperite had sent along some excellent wines (at a good price!), and all was in readiness for frivolity.
The menu was well considered: Sea Bream in Fish Broth, Handkerchief Noodles, Roasted Vegetables with Tuscany Oil, Quail Ragout Risotto, Coffee-scented Roast Lamb with Foie Gras, Lamb and Quail Chabuya Ramen, and dessert. Mario certainly shows great promise, and we all know that Morizumi is a ramen genius. The staff are excellent, and the atmosphere warm and welcoming. Layout and design are endowed with Mario's elegant sense of aesthetic. The map is, for those who may have missed Your Humble Correspondent's earlier vitriol, a navigational nightmare.
Unfortunately it didn't all come together exactly right; similar I imagine to Shakespeare's plays before rehearsals came into fashion. Serving that many, with seven courses, from a small kitchen, is no easy task. Perhaps a trial run with helpful friends (pick me, my Captain!) would assist.
That said, I'm actually prepared to recommend i Sentieri as a relaxing yet elegant venue for time with friends and lovers. There are nooks and crannies, as well as well-lit open spaces. Mario has always been an adventurous and skillful chef, and his innate Italian-ness means that you're treated almost as a family friend.
So wander along like a good chap and tell Mario I sent you. That should mean we both benefit. And if you see a tubby chubby sitting at the bar drinking Peroni, offer to pick up the account!
i Sentieri [Map]: Conforia Nishi Azabu 4-1-10 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku t: 03 6418 7072 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: Food: 6; Wine: 8; Service: 7; Ambiance: 8; Price: 7 ($$). Total 36/50
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