Only an unfortunate rapscallion like your Humble Correspondent would find himself with a teetotaller in a Kagurazaka bistro like Le Clos Montmatre that had been established by renowned French sommelier Jannic Durand. Hard to fathom really. Considerable lack of foresight, and world-class lack of planning.
At the same time, the recommendation of my vinetarius Eric the Cork was too good to pass up, Gentle Reader, especially when one was journeying to Suidobashi anyhow. Lavish praise is due to Eric, for this is indeed a splendid little spot! To my mind, the most accurate and concise description of Le Clos is provided by our erudite and amazingly informed friends at Pig Out Diary who described it as "authentic". Pig Out Diary is one of the best Tokyo food blogs we have encountered, Gentle Reader, although sadly it doesn't link to this Humble collection of mutterings.
"Authentic!", it is (note the added exclamation mark). Le Clos Montmatre prides itself on refusing to Japonicize its food and service style. Your Humble Correspondent likes this approach - the food is prepared and delivered with an eye more to quality and taste than sugoi-ness or performance.
We sampled a variety of dishes - pretty little quiches, meaty terrines, comfortable confits, a splendid little salad, and some quite remarkable seafood. The single terrible disappointment was that one was reduced to drinking apple juice (although there was a slight indulgence in a pleasant little pinot which appeared to one's left, and deserved a modicum of attention). The service was attentive yet non-intruding, and M. Durand's steady control of proceedings was evident despite the homme himself being rather retiring.
M. Durand believes that there are many wonderful wines to be discovered in the space between the grand chateau and 2-shilling plonk. He is of course correct. His goal is to - bless him - sacrifice himself on our behalfby finding these wines. One has to admire his dedication, for the wines on offer are amazingly varied and remarkably well-chosen. This chap is a bit of a globe-trotter, and after a stint at a Paris 2-star babysitting 28,000 bottles representing about 3,000 labels he was sommelier at Belle Epoche at the Hotel Okura for 8 years. He opened Le Clos in 1998.
Finding information on this restaurant is almost as difficult as finding the place itself - to achieve the latter, intrepid travellers should walk up Waseda-dori from Sotobori-dori to the Royal Host. Without entering that house of pain, turn right and then take the next right down the alleyway.
Your Humble Correspondent will be visiting Le Clos Montmatre again soon. You will be able to identify me through the conspicuous lack of apple juice on the table. Cast a weather eye over the clientele, Gentle Reader, and should you glimpse a likely and furtive rapscallion you might consider sending over a glass of said juice. For which you would earn my undying enmity ...
Le Clos Montmatre [Map]: Ryo1 Kagurazaka Bldg. 1F, 2-12 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku Ward. t: 03-5228-6478 [Closed Sunday]
Rating: Food: 7/10; Apple Juice: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 35/50