Saturday, 30 January 2010

Cujorl - Hybrid Trattoria

Some say Life is a journey, Gentle Reader. Others point to the notion of destination as the raison d'etre. For your Humble Correspondent, schooled at culinary forepangs in service to an ever-shrinking readership, it seems that Life is a random sequence of too few excellent dining experiences punctuated by an over-abundance of listless and mundane meals that tend not to lend themselves to an interesting tale.

Cujorl seems to neatly combine all three of these concepts - getting there requires a surprisingly challenging journey from Shibuya [Hint: Do not try to take a taxi from the station. The restaurant is tantalizingly close, but presents navigationally challenged draymen with rather a conundrum because of all the one-way streets.]. Arriving at one's destination is a welcome relief. And the dining experience can sometimes be sublime.

Having now dined there five times, almost always with my Stern friend, I can think of no higher accolade than to say the Cujorl is comfortable ... the food always meets the highest expectations, the sommelier dispenses both advice and wine with consumate ease, the environment is condusive to intelligent converation, and the bill is always reasonable. Cujorl is one of those rare establishments where your Humble Correspondent has never had a mediocre meal.

My personal advice is give into temptation and order the daily specials - typically there are two each of antipasti, primo, and secondi which arrangement seems to lend itself neatly to ordering one of each and splitting them with a companion. [Regular readers: Note the careful use of the verb "split" rather than "share". The intention here is to stipulate that the course arrives at the table already presented on two dishes. Your Humble Correspondent is not good at sharing.]

Part of a wider group of restaurants under the To-Vi umbrella (Review of Kitchen Cero coming soon), Cujorl has seen some slight changes in culinary direction since the feverish reviews of early 2009 but remains on your Humble Correspondent's Top Twenty list because of its combination of energy, flair and passion.

Unfortunately, Cujorl has apparently found its way onto something with the screechingly unambiguous title of Hot List Tables 2009 from Conde-Nast. One imagines this publication is American. Sweet Cujorl deserves our deepest commiserations for this feat - I harbor fears that it will be over-run with rampaging hordes of impecunious tourists staying at the nearby Cerulean Hotel.

But do wend your way along the back streets of Sakura-ga-Oka-Cho just past the 24 hour Cleaners to Cujorl. You'll find it entirely worth the journey. And should you spy a rather geographically confused individual wandering in aimless circles, take my elbow and guide me gently forward. There's a good fellow ...

Cujorl: 22-8 Sakura-ga-Oka-Cho, Shibuya Ward. t: 03-5784-5818
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Back-Streetiness: 8/10. Total: 37/50

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