Food without memory is just digestion

Monday, 29 November 2010

Restaurant Davis - Hidden Treasure

The article in the Japan Times about Restaurant Davis some two years by the effable Robbie Swinnerton caused Your Humble Correspondent no end of consternation, Gentle Reader. The Once and Future Blonde pointed out said article, and asked why we had not yet visited such a fine establishment. To which one could only respond "dunno", in the best traditions of conjugal communication. That started a brief but energetic campaign targeted at Mr. Davis in a vain attempt to earn an invitation. Foolish, really ... he was really far too busy with matters economical, and had the undoubted good taste to murmur something soothing before turning his face away to concentrate on other, more socially reliable interlocutors.
Mrs. Davis, on the other hand, has been welcoming vagabonds for some 12 years in the Takanawa edition of Restaurant and Wine Bar Davis, along with a brief interlude in a second venue in the vicinity of Daimon. In my humblest of opinions, this is a restaurant that you should mark down in your little red book as a "keeper". Well-oiled and efficient are words that come to mind at first blush, but that would take something away from the wonderful food and wine; and the atmosphere redolent with ... umm ... restaurantness. Mrs. Davis has a very good chef with her here, and the home-made (jikasei) anything is well worth trying. Meats - particularly those that might cause another less-capable to tremble - roll out of this kitchen. One hears that Christmas sees roast goose and traditional Xmas pudding available to the lucky few with the foresight to book early.

The seafood is sourced from reliable providors all over Japan, and Chef shows a deft hand here as well. Firmness and flakiness are the mark of any good fish, and the dish that YHC shared with The Texan Ranger (Note to self: I wonder if he found it difficult to find R&WBD?) was testament to a deep vein of experience and flair. The pastas should neither be overlooked, with excellent seasonality and full flavors.

Above all, one mustn't ignore the wine list. Others have offered fulsome praise, which can only be echoed in these dreary pages. But the refreshing thing about Mrs Davis' list is that it is both eclectic and representative of the world's major vignobles, showing discernment and a firm hand on the rudder.

There are those who complain that Restaurant Davis is hard to find: Pshaw! It is actually quite simple really, and only took Your Humble Correspondent about 30 minutes from 150 meters away. One feckless approach might be:
  1. Ask your reinsman to take you to Takanawa Police Station...
  2. Across the street is the Takanawa Fire Station with a natty fire observation tower (rodai) adorning the roof ...
  3. It may be useful to take the tour of the Fire Station which includes the observation deck so that you can eyeball your eventual destination ...
  4. Head north along the road towards Tokyo Tower until your reach the first street to your right ...
  5. Delight your companion by buying a flower, and then ...
  6. Turn right (east) until you hit the first road on your left...
  7. Turn left (north) until you see the sign for Restaurant Davis on the left...
  8. Complain that it is difficult to find. You'll be in good company.
A word on the l'addition - Restaurant Davis is remarkably ... well, cheap ... for the value received and one should not doubt Mrs Davis' arithmetical skills. The bill is correct and represents real value for money.

 Restaurant and Wine Bar Davis should only be enjoyed with friends and lovers, and it may benefit the rest of us if you only take them once. There is no chance they will remember where it is with only one visit, and then reservations will still be readily available for Fat Boys and vagabonds!

Pip! Pip!
Restaurant Davis: 2-5-6 Takanawa, Minato-ku; t: 03-3440-6007
Rating: Food: 7/10; Mrs Davis-ness: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 9/10. Total: 37/50 (3 Forks)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ristorante FRICK

So what does one do, Gentle Reader, when confronted with a restaurant with a name like "Frick" [Map]? Wouldn't you, like Your Humble Correspondent, be tempted to give one just out of common courtesy? At the very least, we could then answer the eternal question of just who gave one anyway.

Now that the cheap puns are out of the way, you will no doubt be relieved to learn that "Frick" is in fact "FRICK" (well, one hopes you fr^*king care) and serves the laudable purpose of commemorating the founding team of this treasure of a restaurant. Each of them were generous enough to donate the initial letter of their given names to the venue's title. One wonders how that worked out for them ... Isao would be somewhat bland as "Sao". [Most Australians will recognize the previous sentence as another 'crumby' pun.]

Ristorante Frick is, though, a thoroughly happy surprise. Perched somewhat skittishly between Omotesando and Nishi-Azabu opposite the Nezu Art Museum, it seamlessly combines the youth and energy of the former and the fine dining and tradition of the latter. Owner-Chef Fukuda Kei (or is that now "Ei"?) is out to cut a dashing figure on the Tokyo dining scene, and his opening of FRICK in May 2008 has served to create and sustain an enviable reputation. He is often seen at major events, like the recent "Interior" exhibition, and is developing a presence as a personality.

One earnestly hopes that this does not "go to his head", because celebrity and chef-ing go together like costume jewellery and decolletage. The former is trashy and flashy, and takes away one's attention from the latter. Based on this admittedly arbitary yardstick, Gordon Ramsay is thus a celebrity and Joel Robuchon a chef.

Meanwhile, back in Minami-Aoyama ... FRICK sources its produce daily from the best suppliers all over Japan - literally from the farm gate or mooring. The goal is to present the very best of seasonal ingredients in prime condition, in an atmosphere that is both welcoming and subtly familiar. And it all succeeds surprisingly well. Whether Fukuda-san can become the Japanese Rick Stein remains to be seen, but anything that celebrates the food heroes of Japanese gastronomy gets Your Humble Correspondent's approbation immediately!

On a recent visit (perhaps we were early, but we seemed to be the only people there not on a wage), there were a number of excellent examples of what regional produce is all about, with Chef showing considerable knowledge and selectivity. It must be a courier's nightmare, getting all of these "MUST DELIVER TODAY" and "DELIVERY BEFORE 3PM" packages to Ristorante FRICK. A jolly nuisance, one imagines, but the resulting vegetable dishes and delicate pastas and wonderful risottos are testimony to both the skill of the FRICK kitchen team and the Japanese logistics network.

FRICK also has a reasonable wine list with more-than-reasonable prices, and excellent advice from an observant sommelier. More importantly, it also serves Moretti birra ... which was the only thing between Your Humble Correspondent and The Once and Future Blonde withering in the Tuscan heat a few summers ago. A delicious beer that cleans the palette in true PCB style, and never over-powers the flavors of the meal!

Get along to FRICK with friends and lovers - this is not a place one would want to waste on a Boss. It is far too refined and elegant for that. Should you see a fat boy counting delivery vans somewhere in the vicinity, be a good chap or chappess and ask me in for an aperitif. After all: someone, some time soon, is going to have to enlighten these brave lads on the alternative meaning of Frick.

Pip! Pip!

Ristorante FRICK: Home SQ 2F, 4-24-8 Minami-Aoyama, Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku. t: 03-6905-7311
Rating: Food: 7/10; Moretti-ness: 7/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 37/50 (3 Forks)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

China Blue - A Slice of Chinese Heaven

It's been some time, gentle Reader, since we last shared thoughts epicurean on these pages. What with my beloved Mater passing on, two of the Cost Centers being wed within eight days of each other, Your Humble Correspondent's forced exile in Yokohama, and The Once and Future Blonde being variously abroad, absent or otherwise occupied - it has been slightly frantic to say the least. Not conducive to bacchanalia at all, really.

It would be silly to suggest one hasn't dined sumptuously in the interim, but we have relied on various favorites like Trattoria Tornavento, Restaurant J, Tanger, Le Recamier, and Le garcon among others. Not content to rest on any ill-deserved laurels, we've tried some new (to YHC) venues like Restaurants Davis and Frick (Reviews coming soon). And our eyes are on some new places like Aux Chats Qui Peche in Hiroo, which opened its doors in October.

But while digression is always the better part of valor, the purpose at hand is to sing the praises of China Blue in the Conrad Tokyo [Map] at Shiodome. Awarded a Michelin star for the last three years in a row, this is a very good restaurant where Chef Albert Tse (originally of Jiang-Na Chun in Singapore) crafts elegant yet wonderfully contemporary Chinese food with a flair and élan that leaves Your Humble Correspondent begging for more. Combine this with the superb views over Hama Rikkyu park, and one might just imagine that one is part-way to Heaven … or Elysium at least!

The recent “Jasmine” lunch set that The Banker and YHC enjoyed was at once full of whimsy and weft, with peeks into many corners of the Chinese cooking genre. We started with Singapore Rice Cake, and after the mutual rapture (see Heaven, above), we immediately agreed that we were in for something special. The delicious slow-roasted pork with bread is a highly original take on both Char Siew and the soft Chinese dumpling. The Seafood Noodles combines lovingly-crafted and toothsome noodles with a veritable aquarium of seafood in a broth that brings to mind the best Tom Yum Goong. The dessert plate included sweetened sesame-ed fried noodles and an elysian elixir of passionfruit soup – a sure way to YHC’s heart!

Speaking of Michelin stars, our fair borough recently reinforced its standing as the most-starred city with 3 new restaurants at the highest level to move to 14 three-starred establishments, 54 with 2 stars, and a huge 198 one-star hostelries. To be fair, the Guide included Yokohama (2 two-stars and 14 one-stars) and Kamakura (10 one-stars) this year for a massive total of 266 venues. Nothing for it but to start at the start, and end once the doctor discovers … maybe 100 restaurants in!

In any event, do yourself an enormous favor and find an excuse to visit China Blue in the near future. It’s certainly more deserving of a star than Gordon’s co-located and eponymous place next door, and you will impress any and all punters with your choice of venue.

And if you’re one person short of a full table, a quick e-mail should be enough to have YHC present himself in all his full fat-boy glory!

Pip, pip!

China Blue [Map]: Conrad Tokyo, 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo. t: 03-6388-8000
Rating: Food: 8/10; Jasmine Tea: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Heavenliness: 8/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 40/50

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

With abject apologies ...

It has been some time, Gentle Reader, since your Humble Correspondent forced his way in on your attentions. Truth is, I have been away - literally, emotionally, and gastronomically. For this I beg forebearance and forgiveness.

While it wouldn't do to bore you with the details, it has been a frenetic year. What passes for a mind has been taken up with hatches (one), matches (two), and dispatches (one) in The Year of Our Lord 2010 ...

Still, it is surely about time to come up for air. Having moved to a new Hellhole in the decidedly un-chic part of Hiroo, there are a whole postle of establishments that are about to have terror brought upon them by a slightly rotund yet well-intended individual. Who just happens to be a little picky about food. And wine. And service. And who is unstinting in his own 'umble efforts to serve you, the dining aristocracy.

Stay tuned for posts on (in no particular order) China Blue, Ristorante FRICK, Restaurant Davis, and some other random thoughts. We will share some unabridged commentary on the new Michelin ratings.

Look for some reviews of more of my Hong Kong favorites. Perhaps even some hints on where to source the best ingredients for that special dinner party ... provided you promise to send an invitation! Shameless self-promotion, by Gad!

Until then, then:

Pip! Pip!