One trembles, Gentle Reader, when invited to supper in suburban locations. Particularly by Texans. And that trepidation grows greater when one starts to wander along railway tracks and back streets trying to find the venue. Not that good restaurants can not be located in residential areas, but that happy circumstance is rare enough to make most faint hearts quiver. Your Humble Correspondent found himself trudging the Ebisu lane ways at the invitation of the gregarious Jim, on Shrove Tuesday.
But what a surprise awaited at Lanterna Magica [Map]! This is a very good suburban trattoria, which has somehow been strangely transplanted from Italy to Japan and is now snuggled in the back streets of Kami-Osaki near the drearily sarariman haunt that is Meguro. In fact, with Kitchen Cero, Argent, and Hiromichi [posting soon] beginning to light up this area we may be on the verge of drastically revising our opinions. At least it is inside the Maru.
There is an energy and bella vita atmosphere at Lanterna Magica that is at once refreshing and comforting. And the fact that tables turn quickly during the evening is manifest evidence just how popular this potential jewel is with the chattering crowds - reservations are highly recommended.
We each chose an antipasto, pasta, and secondi which were "split" onto two plates by the very friendly and highly knowledgeable floor staff. Said "splitting" is an excellent way for your Humble Correspondent to pretend that he is not sharing, as he is particularly poor at that odious practice. The first delights were the Antipasto Mista della Casa (Jim) and Asparagi Bianchi alla Bismarck (YHC). The Bismarck tag means it is served with an egg (famously, Pizza alla Bismarck) and apparently is a novelty that comes from the northern provinces of Italy. Both were excellent, and went wonderfully with the 2008 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Vino Sorelli (Y3,600!).
We then moved onto Passatelli in Brodo (Jim) and Tagliatelle con Fave e Pecorino (YHC). The passatelli at Lanterna Magica is almost certainly best-in-class for Tokyo, with the bravely cheesy dumplings standing well-separated in a rich and complex broth. That said, the bean and cheese sauce on the home-made tagliatelle was also a special discovery and the "winter" feeling of both these dishes suited the light freckles of snow falling outside.
It was time to turn our attention to a delightful Assisi Rosso (Y5,000!!) which combines the best of the power and the subtlety of the Umbrian wine terroir and is extraordinary value for the price. Our secondi were Scallopine alla Sorrentino (Jim) and Salciccie Casarecce (YHC). Perhaps it was the effect of the two wines we had enjoyed, but these dishes were perhaps the pick of the evening, and underline the dab hand that Chef applies to all the food here.
In your Humble Correspondent's even humbler opinion, the kitchen at Lanterna Magica is wonderfully focused on "hand-made" flavor combinations that seek to highlight and showcase quality ingredients alla rustica. And even less doubt that it is deliciously successful at said pursuit.
Enjoy Lanterna Magica with friends and family, and keep a watchful eye for a suspicious fat boy prowling the floor. Your forgiveness, too, if plates then disappear off the table ... we wouldn't want you to over-indulge, would we?
Lanterna Magica [Map]: 2-9-26 Kami-Osaki, Shinagawa Ward. t: 03-6408-1488
Rating: Food: 8/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Magic: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 36/50.