Food without memory is just digestion

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Les Rendezvous - Meeting Expectations!

A recent dose of that ghastly modern phenomenon, the "feedback session", suggested that Your Humble Correspondent needed to somehow adjust the equally ghastly "work-life balance". Actually, it was already apparent that there was a surfeit of "work" - the YHC Over-Work Alarm kicks in at a little over one hour per day, and the klaxons were screaming.

So a brief moment's thought poolside at the wretchedly work-a-day Hilton Spa and Resort in Guam convinced me to immediately reach out to similarly minded individuals, and lift the "life" component significantly toute de suite. Ergo, an urgent missive to my Stern friend saw us headed to Les Rendezvous in Nishi-Azabu at the recommendation of the wretched Dominic; wretched only because he always seems to find these places before Your Humble Correspondent!

Les Rendezvous provides a wonderfully imaginative approach to the dining experience: it features good to very good French cuisine with good to very good Australian wine. Now, a warning to the wise: do not try this at home ... it requires an expert hand, and rafts of courage. Ikai-san (sommelier; waiter, CEO, dreamer) used a Working Holiday Visa experience in Australia to create more than one life's worth of ideas and inspiration. Chef Tsuruoka shares a remarkable vision with Ikai-san, and matches an eclectic and good value wine list with some remarkable efforts out of such a small kitchen.

The dream, of course, is to move to their own space (isn't it always?). The chairs don't match yet, and the decor is spartan (referencing the ancient Greek city-state's military camps perhaps?). But the effect is openly friendly, and the service always delivered with a smile and a sense of sharing rather than performance.

We chose the Degustation @ Y7,200 ... excellent value, and a chance to test Chef's mettle. The Jambon cuit sauce gribiche starter was home-made and therefore sweet and moist; its companion Amuse enough to hold interest while not distracting one's attention. The fish course - Sébaste pôelée sauce tomates fraîches (Pan fried rockfish fresh tomato sauce) - showed a deft, even dab, hand in the kitchen and was served with out the horrid dessication that a warming tray inevitably bestws. Our meat course was a wonderful domestic pork dish, with hints of wa-fu citrus and a delicate touch of herbs. We opted for cheese instead of dessert.

Les Rendezvous' wine list is best viewed via the iPad on offer, although Ikai-san should make sure it stays up to date and is kitted out with some tasting notes and advice rather than just being a pdf of a type-witten summary. Pricing is fair and reasonable - so that YHC was able to purchase sufficient to ensure he neither remembers the vineyard(s) nor the vintage(s)! Beer should move on from Malts, although Suntory was kind enough to donate the icebox and we should acknowledge their generosity if not flavor.

In summary, Les Rendezvous is what it sets out to be - a neighborhood bistro that welcomes your custom on a regular basis, and doesn't seek to replace your special venues as places for celebration. It is ... unashamedly ... the restaurant Your Humble Correspondent would like to set up once the work-life balance meter hits 100% (life). Go along with friends and lovers, but book ahead. I fear this is the sort of place that is going to get popular.

Pip! Pip!

Les Rendezvous: 3-13-20 Hide bldg. B1, Nishiazabu, Minato-ward. t: 03-5410-8110
Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 36/50 (3 Forks)

Potager Vegetable Sushi

It has been some time, Gentle Reader, since Your Humble Corespondent last forced his unwelcome presence on your attention. For reasons completely beyond a reasonable person's ken, he has been lashed to the wheel of the fair ship Neways to steer a path to calmer waters. A little reminiscent of lunatics taking over the asylum, but still ...

Nonetheless, one has to dine. If possible, dine well. Hopefully, dine extravagantly.

In this spirit of exuberance, we recently ventured to Potager in Roppongi at the invitation of the Texas Ranger. Heaven only knows what one might expect from the Chuck Norris of all things telephonic, but on this occasion he outdid himself.

Potager is a true temple to gastronomy, a beacon of hope in the dreary luncheon landscape of Tokyo. One hopes you are seated, Gentle Reader, as you read this - but Potager is a vegetable sushi establishment that excels at its trade and its craft.

After choosing an organic French white wine as our soporific of preference, we opted the luncheon course which features a variety of dishes that, after some flirtation with brilliant imo amuses and a simple plate of perfect asparagus, build to a crescendo with six delightful morsels of vegetable nigiri-zushi and then powers all the way onto a vegetable chirashi-zushi that stuns both the eye and mouth. A wonderfully rich soup rounds out a fairly substantial set that comes at quite a refreshingly reasonable price. The dessert course was delightful, following through on the vegetable theme with panache and flavor.

Having just last week enjoyed Sushi Mizutani with a magnanimous and discerning visitor (more to follow), Your Humble Correspondent was fully prepared to be disappointed by the notion of sushi rice topped with plant matter. Oh fickle fussy one! How, I hear you asking, could EOIT doubt the art of Potager?

Be not afraid. This is not your mother's vegetables, boiled into submission or mashed into pap in order to somehow fool the taste buds of the unsuspecting young. Each example is lovingly fussed over, its smallest details given attention to, each curve and bud plumped to its fantastic best.

Truth be told, Potager is an example of chefs being creative and playful with food. It's this sort of experience that drives one to new venues rather than some vain hope of finding the perfect blancmange. Cooking is less about personality than it is about playfulness - bravo Potager for having the courage to stay curious.

Visit Potager with your curious and sadly juvenile friends, and make sure you don't ruin the atmosphere by talking about business! And don't mind the lurking stranger... I've got to make friends somehow.

Potager : Roppongi Keyakizaki Dori, Roppongi Hills, 6-9-1-1F, Roppongi, Minato-ku. t: 03-3497-8822
Rating: Food: 8/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 8/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 37/50 (3 Forks)