Food without memory is just digestion

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Two Rooms, Aoyama

There are some restaurants, Gentle Reader, that one wants to like as soon as one walks in. Your Humble Correspondent really wants to like Two Rooms ... I really do. Opening in the froth and bubble of Spring 2009 in trendy Aoyama (one might better say Nishi Omotesando), Two Rooms is an eloquent idea that is most of the way towards realization. "Two Rooms" refers to the separate restaurant and bar areas, nicely separated by a stylish glass walkway.

Another reason I wanted to like it was that it was introduced to me by the Child Bride, who accompanied me on this visit with The Don and The Duchess. The ladies of Chicken & Chablis had terrorized Two Rooms just a week before, and they had come away announcing the dawn of a new star on the Tokyo dining scene. The Child Bride believes I have a set against any restaurant she likes - a shameful accusation with little substance but the cause of some friction.

And like it I did! Your Humble correspondent was deeply impressed with both the service and the decor - we visited only some three weeks after opening, and the ex-Hyatt team that own Two Rooms showed a wonderful sense of both presence and place, while running a pleasantly tight ship on the floor and in the kitchen.

One might churlishly wonder if a little can be done with fabric or plants to soften the angles and reduce the echo. The booth seats along the floor-to-ceiling windows might be a little too warm or cool depending on the season, and the balcony area cries out for a little greenery or a curiosity of some nature to match the design sense of the infinity pool and the wonderful views. One might also suggest there is a need to lower the noise level in the Bar with some soft furnishings or fabric room dressings if the proprietors intend to have some punters dine out there. But these are personal preferences, and perhaps your Humble Correspondent is a little old-fashioned when it comes to preferring to hear a dinner conversation.

The menu promises excellent seasonality, and I for one admire the tight concentration on regional produce. Somehow food tastes better if one can place it in a certain geographical framework, and Two Rooms excels at balancing local sourcing with imported ingredients. A little work needs to be done on the wine beef to bring it up to the standard of the other dishes - this might comfortably be achieved by perhaps slicing it a little thicker and letting the delicate grape seed flavors resonate through the cut.

Two Rooms has a serviceable and affordable wine list, although they failed us on the Stellenbosch - either another look needs to be had at cellar quantities, or this wine has proved so remarkably popular as to sell out in three weeks. Again, service is discreet and informed - a welcome relief to the worrying trend towards star sommeliers at some other venues.

We happened to bump into The Canuck during our visit - not so hard to achieve, as he was sitting at the next table. Allow me to leave the last word to him: Two Rooms gives all the impressions of a rising star. The fear is that in the turmoil of fine dining in Tokyo and the flaccid economic environment, it might become a shooting star. Here's hoping he's just a pessimist.

Visit Two Rooms (make sure you do!) with both colleagues and friends. And if you see a strange little boy holding forth on the delights of Meredith Goats Cheese, do send over a bottle of some bubbles like a good chap!

Two Rooms [Map on the website]: 5F AO Building, 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. t: (03) 3498-0002; e:
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price: 7/10. Total: 36/50