If Aux Gourmands [Map] (Japanese only, Bento.com review here) was in any other city in the world, Gentle Reader, it would be championed and feted with considerable passion. And it would be impossible to get a reservation for one of the 12 table seats or 5 counter stools. Despite the fact that it is deliberately location-disadvantaged down a laneway in Azabudai ... But with blessed happen-stance, it competes for attention in Tokyo - so that mere mortals like your Humble Correspondent get to savour its superb eccentricities and sharply-focused commitment to quality.
It had been some time, Gentle Reader, since my last chance to dine with Sir James. At his suggestion, we repaired to Aux Gourmands on a cold winter's evening for the serendipitous reason that neither of us had ever been there before. My delightfully Oxbridge companion was not at his best, having joined an Indian business partner singing Beatles songs at karaoke until slightly before 6:00 a.m. Despite that, he had bravely chosen to honor our engagement and was determined to battle on.
It would be false of me, Gentle Reader, not to admit to having getting no little thrill out of the mere name of this establishment. "How entirely apt for an erudite couple like Sir James and moi", I thought. Perhaps he had deliberately chosen this restaurant as some sort of subtle compliment. Perhaps, oh happy thought, he had finally recognized your Humble Correspondent's finer side. No, it was just coincidence he advised, neatly pricking the bubble of ego.
Chef Yokosaki has wended a different road to most chefs. You should know, Gentle Reader, that he boasts a ten year career as a professional boxer prior to starting in the world of gastronomy. This information is offered in your best interests, so that you might avoid overt criticism of the meal. After time studying in France, he was chef at Bistro Mars for four years before opening Aux Gourmands some six years ago.
Our meal was just before your Humble Correspondent's Lenten observance, so we agreed that we would 'omakase' and leave the food up to Chef. Wherein, we were presented with some wonderful small plates of oysters, boudin, and a splendid mousse. You will recall, Gentle Reader, that one doesn't share at table, so this approach by the floor staff seemed appropriate and, well, apt. In terms of libations, Sir James had chosen the Morey St Denis Domaine Paulot 2001 ... thereby demonstrating considerable skill and a certain understanding of my predelictions on the wine front.
Then came some startling courses - firstly a brave Game Terrine followed by a stellar Fois Gras and Truffle risotto and then a simply delightful Porc Couchon. Since my earliest times breasting the table (these days, more like 'belly-ing' the table!), your Humble Correspondent has delighted in carefully prepared crackling as the only proper accompaniment to pork - and Aux Gourmands produces a version that would have the staunchest of friends fighting to the death for the last piece. We finished with a selection of cheeses.
This is a restaurant that deserves your custom, Gentle Reader, as both its name and its food are entirely apt. Suited to people like you, ... and me. You should dine there with friends and colleagues rather than visitors, given the tight seating arrangements. But should you happen to notice a rather noxious individual hunting for crackling in a sort of "Precious" ring-seeker fashion, be kind and look the other way!
Aux Gourmands [Map]: 3-4-14 Azabudai, Minato Ward. t: 03-5114-0195
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Aptness: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 35/50
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