Monday, 1 February 2010

Kitchen Cero: "Beneeixi a les Dones"

If an online translator is to be trusted, Gentle Reader, then the title above means "Bless the Ladies!" in Catalan. Having thrice dined now at Kitchen Cero in Meguro, your Humble Correspondent happily adds his name to the choir roster. This is a rambunctious and pleasantly happy establishment, where staff and patrons mix in happy communion amidst a bouquet of aromas and a symphony of kitchen bustle.

Advice from my betters suggests that there is a strong tradition in Catalonia of eating establishments run and staffed by women, particularly in and around the markets. Said betters advise that this is the essential premise behind Kitchen Cero as well. Well and good, I say, but you mean that there were only women there? My (feigned) failure to notice comes from the extraordinary bonhomie that Kitchen Cero generates, and despite (or in spite of) the counter-style model one finds the venue strangely intimate and perfectly relaxed.

The menu at Kitchen Cero is a sort of tapas-plus affair. Pray do not imagine I mean the normal finger-foodish small portions of indigestibles that many faux-Spanish restaurants offer here in Tokyo. That line of thought pays more attention to the bottom line than the waist line, and bears no resemblance at all to what one might enjoy in Spain itself. The "tapas" reference points more to serving size - at around two thirds of a "standard" Tokyo serve - rather than being used as an excuse for kitchen chicanery.

At Kitchen Cero, there are more than fifty choices along with daily specials, and enough variation to satisfy even the most demanding customer (no sniggering please!). The food comes across as simple and even rustic, but there are subtle flavor nuances that show a very deft hand indeed in the kitchen. The joyous mix of cuisines that typifies Barcelona food is plainly evident, and there is a very satisfying balance of tradition and experimentation.

The wine list changes frequently, and features little known labels from Japan, Spain, Italy and France. Your Humble Correspondent noticed a pleasant little bottle of Chateau Neuf-de-Pape which was served for less than Y6,500 ... although my companions swear that the bottle must have had a hole in it, and no they didn't drink while I was away from the table.

Wander off to Kitchen Cero with friends rather than colleagues, and perch up at the counter rather than choosing one of the two awkwardly situated tables. And do ask the "belles dames" where the noisy fat boy is ... perhaps I'll toddle over and raise a glass with you.

Kitchen Cero: 2-13-44 Kami-Osaki, Shinagawa Ward. t: 03-5791-5715
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10 (even with holey bottles); Service: 8/10; Barcelona-ness: 8/10; Price: 7/10. Total: 37/50

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