Food without memory is just digestion

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Les Halles - Worth the hunt!

It was with considerable anticipation, Gentle Reader, that I scooted off to Gotanda with the Once and Future Blonde to an assignation at Les Halles [no website, this introduction courtesy of Pieroth] with our dear friends the Lord Schatzie and Her Excellency The Duchess of Piffle.

This restaurant has delighted Tokyo foodies for a number of years, yet was still on your Humble Correspondent's list of "must-visit" of restaurants. There is no sensible reason why I had not ventured out here, save that the venue is 200 metres outside the self-imposed Yamamoto Line boundary. One has to wonder why other acquaintances have never invited me to this wonderfully comfortable venue ... one settles into it easily like a well-used lounge chair, and the staff make one feel at once welcome and well-known.

Piffle and Schatzie are long-term regulars at Les Halles, and we four were undercover scouting potential venues for Tokyo Darkside. There are no finer partners for dinner, and the table was loud and warm with companionship and humour. It should be a natural for TDS.

A word to the wise - ask your driver to place you somewhere in the vicinity of Les Halles, rather than try to navigate you to the door. Be especially wary of any sound he makes that resemble "Huh!?!". Our good man burst upon the area, and "Huh!?!"-ed the Car-Navi with rather a sharp-pitched squeal. Only a tight pull on the reins saved us from the ignomy of roaming around Nishi-Gotanda forever.

Owner/chef Chihito Uchida has created a warm and pleasant environment at Les Halles, and glad we were to get inside on a cold wintery night. But a glass of champagne and a glance at the carte were enough to return a sparkle to the eye. Uchida-san offers a number of "courses" that can satisfy even the most discerning customer and the menu shows more than a hint of classical training and considerable experience standing behind the dishes on offer.

We all chose Course A @ Y4,800, with the Countess and The Blonde choosing the venison and Shatzie and your Humble Correspondent settling on the Roast Pork. Sweetly poached oysters served as a stunning appetizer, followed by a delightful soup course, and the pork was stunning.

Uchida-san is that type of chef, Gentle Reader, that you could trust with your social life and your wallet. Cooking is as much part of his life as breathing, and with his young assistant he makes light of even the most demanding request while delivering a quality dining experience that feels like it could be in one's own home. The food at Les Halles is classique francais, and classic Tokyo in terms of quality and price-performance.

The wine list seems well matched to most pockets - with reasonable quality at the low end, some bargains in the mid-range, and a welcome lack of greed at the higher end. We settled on a pleasant Chablis at Y5,900 and followed this with a very satisying Pinot Noir at a little more. Our bill, for four, came to a little over Y30,000 including drinks and wine.

Les Halles is a place to visit with friends and family, rather than colleagues or business visitors. Find a place in the diary, Gentle Reader, to visit Les Halles - it deserves your support and you deserve its warm welcome and gentle insistence on relaxation.

And if you happen to see a table for four that seems a little noiser than most, send over a jug of claret please. I can promise we'll appreciate it!

Les Halles: 8-1-13 Nishi-Gotanda, Shinagawa Ward. t: 03-5437-1271
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price: 7/10; Yamanote-ness: 7/10. Total: 35/50

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