Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Monkeying around at Saru

Time, Gentle Reader, to update you on Saru. Your Humble Correspondent (YHC) is loathe, however, to tell you too much for fear that you will love it as passionately as he and it will then become impossible for this anti-social Fat Boy to get a reservation. As the new "go-to" option for oneself and The Once and Future Blonde, this would be tiresome. Nevertheless, ... sigh! Once more into the jaws of death ...

The art in "mine-host"-ing, Gentle Reader, is to ingratiate your venue with a certain group of customers (oft referred to as the Punters) by virtue of relentless focus on one of four or five factors: (1) extraordinary cooking; (2) extraordinary (or unusual) ingredients; (3) extraordinary service; (4) extraordinary ambiance; or - how crass - (5) price. Factors 1 to 3 will get you a Michelin star or two - ambiance is not part of Bibendum's calculation. A discussion about price for Michelin is so... well, cheap.

Zoning in just on Factor 5 is a McDonald's experience ... again, ambiance is not part of the calculation.

In Your Humble Correspondent's even humbler experience to date, an 5F performance is a very rare experience, a consummation devoutly to be wished. In a stupefying career involving more than a thousand restaurants, YHC has perhaps had two or three 5F's. Saru is not quite 5F, but it is on the journey and should be encouraged via your custom. 

Quibble not at the view from the street ... Saru comes from humble beginnings and is proud of them. Nor quail at the two communal tables inside (the pleasant summer balcony becomes a covered deck in the colder months and has two tables for four) each seating ten. After all, feasting is a benison best shared and has the pleasant benefit of permitting intrusive stickybeak-ing in the interests of friendliness. There are also four seats at the counter, but balancing has never been Your Humble Correspondent's strong point.

The menu presents as a simple "carte", but YHC counsels close study before committing to an order. The focus is on centemporary with a capital "C".  Each dish features delightful eccentricity, making the most of some amazing ingredients carefully selected from all over Japan and showcased by a very skillful chef. Serving are fulsome, and even the most valiant trencher-man will come away sated after choosing three dishes. The Bagna Cauda is excellent, and the Lotus Root and Sakura Ebi Pancake has been known to bring braver men to their knees.

Charcuterie seems to be a specialty, and everything is (of course!) hand-made en place. Fruits and vegetables are given as much attention as meats, and the cheese selection (while limited) is excellent. In an excellent sort of way ...

It should come as no surprise that the wine list is similarly peripatetic,and offers incredible value. No grand labels or chateaus here, but almost every option shows refined insights into mariage and a better palate than mine.

Saru keeps its Punters happy and lubricated, and you will never want for attention. The floor team at Saru is informed, impassioned, and infused with energy. English is de rigeur and the people are genuinely pleasant. For those as impecunious as YHC, Saru is remarkable value - remarkable enough to be a weekly habit. Think a tenner for two.

So do toddle along, but perhaps choose a day early in the week to leave space on the dance card for this humble servant of gastronomy on le weekend. And if we happen to hang our coats on the same evening sometime, just smile and forgive!

Pip! Pip!

Saru: 3-49-1 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (t:  03-6450-4836)
Rating: Food: 8/10; Regionality: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 9/10. Total: 40/50 (4 Forks)