Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tsushimi: A very stubborn guy from Hiroshima!

There are a number of restaurants, Gentle Reader, which one really doesn't want to publicize for fear of them getting so popular that Your Humble Correspondent might not be able to secure a reservation. Particularly 12 seat venues.
Or, heaven forbid, demand and supply comes into operation and said establishment gets beyond your Impecunious Correspondent's meagre budget. For although the sleeves are tattered and the elbow patches worn, YHC still seems to occasionally win the monthly battle to visit at least one fine establishment. And this time, triumph via Tsushimi, hiding in lowly Komaba.

Chef Seiji Tsushimi is, by any measure, an extremely experienced and wonderfully talented individual whose talent extends from kitchen to cave to interior design and tableware. He is also remarkably single-minded, occasionally veering all the way to stubborn or bloody-minded.
Very few people "hand back" (in his words!) a Michelin star by closing a restaurant on its 10th anniversary. Even less open a completely new concept venue on the same site. Fewer still insist on almost exclusively Japanese produce, with a very strong emphasis on vegetables and foraged plants. And only very, very few - can you say "Don Quixote" boys and girls? - have mainly only Japanese wines on the list.
The all-embracing theme at Tsushimi is hospitality. Hospitality born of intense passion for and pride in Japan, and expressed through some of the finest French technique one is likely to see in Tokyo. You have no doubt heard Your Humble Correspondent rattle on about technique before - the reason food is so uniformly excellent in Tokyo is the almost manic devotion to technique. Exacting technique can bring with it, though, a tendency to underplay creativity and experiment. This is not in prospect at Tsushimi.
Seiji Tsushimi is a genius, a rare solitary star in a firmament that more often feels more like a mega-galaxy. With a flair and a sense of theatre too often absent in Michelin-lauded establishments, he is a man of strong feelings and stronger passions, a man driven to realizing perfection through absolute attention to the smallest details. His professed hobby is “serendipping”, a consummation devoutly to be wished – and shared.
It would be pointless to write about the dishes with which he regaled The Professor and YHC that fine Spring afternoon. A meal with Tsushimi-san means 10 to 13 courses, each building on the last to the crescendo at the end (he also operates the very fine dessert concept venue Miravile Impact in Ginza). Each day is different, with a sharp – almost blistering – focus on “shun” or seasonality. He delights in the art of culinary ambush, springing surprises around almost every gastronomic corner. This is ambition, playfulness, and commitment at perhaps close to its best.
Chef Tsushimi advocates a self-generated style of “Cuisine Terreuse”, artfully blending “Heaven, Water and Earth” that celebrates terroir and provenance yet brings art to cuisine in a unique yet approachable manner. There is much of the “do not try this at home” in Tsushimi-san’s cooking, and a consequent awe and wonder that is sonorous and pervading.
A meal at Tsushimi engages all five senses, with a very keen eye given to the visual as well as the aural components of a meal to ensure a level equal to the olfactory, textural, and taste scintilla in the various dishes. Tsushimi-san is himself a gifted artist, yet also includes the work of a number of similarly talented individuals in the table ware, lighting and decorative elements of the restaurant.
Perhaps one waxes a little too much about Tsushimi, but you should visit it with fellow foodies and friends visiting from overseas. It is likely not a place for lovers, colleagues, or employers. There is just too much else on which to concentrate.
And should you hear a wailing and gnashing of teeth just outside the door, it is likely that this besotted gastronomic brigand has not been able to secure a seat. Be a nice chap and ask me in, won’t you?
Pip Pip!
Tsushimi:1Fl, Katagiri Bldg, 1-16-9 Komoba, Meguro-ku t: 03-6407-8024
Rating
: Food: 9/10; Stubborn-ness: 9/10; Service: 9/10; Ambiance: 9/10; Price-Performance: 9/10.
Total: 45/50 (4 Forks)

 


 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Chemins: The Road Less Travelled

One astute person recently noted, Gentle Reader, that there seemed to be somewhat of a more-than-metaphysical relationship between these feverish scribblings and the erudite and interesting coverage of the EATPIA.com site. Not in any biblical sense, and certainly not officially. But that lovely site (kudos on the design and bilinguality) has played the role of Muse for Your Humble Correspondent of late, suggesting any number of venues. You see, one of the challenges of a foodie blog is finding inspiration and new destinations without giving in to the desperate flailing of publicists and would-be restaurateurs. Enter EATPIA! It is a boon and a benison, and YHC for one is grateful for small mercies. And so it was that in the inexorable scheme of things, YHC found his way to Chemins in Akasaka.
What a delight! What a joy! A beautiful venue, marvellously managed by Owner/Sommelier Shibata-san, food that takes one's breath away, and sensitive and elegant decor that all adds up to sensational. The ensemble of Lobster and Melon Vichyssoise is quite honestly one of the most delicious things Your Humble Correspondent has ever had to pleasure to sample, and the amuse of bacon and sea salt served as a Madeleine was as remarkably flavorful as it was creative. The menu was packed with decision-ticklers, and left this besotted diner determined to return to try things like Coupe de mousse de carotte en gelée, Bavaroise de petit poix et crevette emulsion de oginon nouveau, or Vol-au-vent de rognon de veau et de ris de veau à la creme.
A number of things separate Chemins from other establishments in Akasaka: quality, class, atmosphere, street-presence, price ... the list goes on and on. But the stand-out for Your Humble Correspondent was an all-infusing sense of passion. The air crackles with an electricity generated by people all fully invested and committed to playing their role to the maximum extent possible, yet with a subtle, playful professionalism and team-work that makes the time pass in a surreal time-warpy sort of way, and always results in a surprising jolt when one consults ones wristwatch.
On the (Japanese) website, Chef Satoru Nobusada has a jolly time talking about the provenance of a dizzying array of ingredients in the Topics page. One certainly gets the sense that this is a kitchen that is devoted to consistently producing interesting and challenging - and exquisite - food. Chef even took the trouble to see me off once the meal was complete, although this may have been an added security measure to ensure this portly panjandrum actually left the premises.
Unfortunately it was lunch, so fully testing out the wine list was contra-indicated. That said, Shibata-san is an expert and accomplished somm and the list itself diverse and reasonably priced. One can do much worse than taking his advice, always delivered in an engaged and an involved manner - with just a hint of challenge and itazura-ness that this punter finds thoroughly enjoyable.
Chemins has a history of excellent chefs and some time ago Restaurant Hiromichi in Meguro (link here] served as a very suitable venue for a birthday dinner for The Once and Future Blonde. Also well worth a visit, IMHO.
You should visit Chemins with fellow-foodies rather than stolid work colleagues. It is not a place for a balance sheet discussion. It is not a place to discuss business strategy. It is a place to talk about sauces, and herbs, and seasons, and plating, and ...
And if there seems to be some almost demonic giggling from the corner table, it's highly likely the ensemble has been served to Yours Truly again...
Pip! Pip!
Chemins: Akasaka Tameike Tower Residence Annex 1F 2-17-7 Akasaka Minato-ku Tel/Fax: 03-3568-3344
Rating
: Food: 9/10; Delightfulness: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 8/10;
Price-Performance: 8/10.
Total: 41/50 (4 Forks)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Kairada: Life's easy in Kibikicho...

A long long time ago, Gentle Reader, in a Shogunate far far away, the area around the Kabukiza was called Kibiki-cho. The place only changed into "Ginza" in the Meiji Period. In fact, the Kabukiza was built there because it was Kibiki-cho.
You see, kibiki means "sawyer" and Kibiki-cho was where the makers-of-stuff were concentrated during the early days of the Edo Shogunate. So were the Noh and Kabuki actors - in all, a ready-made audience and land was relatively easily had. As was timber apparently, with all the appropriate fixings. Kabuki is a working class theatre form, no doubt full of groundlings. Think Shakespeare's Globe ...
There were a lot of "za" back in the day. It literally means "seat" - lots of bureaucrats butt-polishing za-buton. The Gin-za had the license to mint silver coins for the Shogunate. A similar Kin-za for gold was in today's Nihonbashi, and there was a Shu-za for cinnabar and an Fundo-za for standard weights. A za was evidently an opportunity to make a lot of money, and the place was rife with bribery and corruption. Methinks nothing much has changed ...
All of which is fluff and flotsam, except that there is a wonderfully elegant French restaurant there today called Kairada. It is exactly in the middle of the former Kibiki-cho. Chef Kairada is a "graduate" of the very famous Apicius and is a remarkably skilled chef whose unending focus is the classic french sauces. And hunting.
There is no shortage of French restaurants in Ginza and surrounding areas,and Your Humble Correspondent has taken great pleasure over the years sacrificing himself at many of these, his only motivation being your culinary edification. Kairada stands out because of its chef of course, but even more so because it seems to be the place the Japanese Masters of the Uniberse go when they just want great food and wine without the tedious requirement to entertain guests. In other words, Gentle Reader, they keep it for themselves.
For good reason. There are three "courses" involving an increasing number of dishes priced from Y5,500 to Y11,000. The fun comes in choosing sauces - fun for the customer for sure, but for Kairada-san as well as he thereby can gauge the culinary "qualifications" of the diner. Time is of the essence, in the sense that each course takes as long as it takes - a good sauce simply can't be hurried!
Your Humble Correspondent was suitably impressed as well with the wine list. The selection is varied and interesting for sure, and so are the prices. Chef Kairada's simple yet persuasive explanation is that competition is fierce in the area,  and the market will only bear what the market will bear. Kairada is not an expensive night out - in fact, it is highly possible that perhaps the kibiki tooo would have found "l'additionne" within their humble means.
Kairada is at once a sophisticated yet approachable restaurant that will delight time after time after time. Consider following the example of the Masters and keeping this for friends and lovers.
And the ugly little restaurant troll in the corner? Pshaw, he's only a groundling there for the entertainment!
Pip! Pip!
Kairada: 2-14-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku Tel/Fax: 03-3248-3355
Rating: Food: 9/10; Kibiki-ness: 8/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 8/10; Price-Performance: 7/10.
Total: 39/50 (4 Forks)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Trois Quart: An Elegant Algorithm

There's a lot to be said, Gentle Reader, for dining in the suburbs. While Your Humble Correspondent is certainly a creature of both habit and convenience, there is a certain happy tension created when a meal requires a journey to become reality. Venues far from the glittering lights need to perform on a daily basis, and they need to be focused on "jo-ren" regular customers who can make or break the business. So while places listed in Michelin and other guides can rely on third-party publicity, those that are more "location-challenged" have to rely on word-of-mouth from their existing customers. In fact, while it's likely a little extreme, the Kyoto dialect of Japanese even goes to considerable lengths to distinguish between various classes of customers based on their value to the operation.
At Bistro Trois Quarts, this "jo-ren" philosophy has been woven into the very fabric of the business. You see, Gentle Reader, a reliable rule of thumb for aspiring restauranteurs is good food + good wine + good service + good customers = success! Algorithmically, a culinary 4G...
Here, the algorithm ripples even as far
as the restaurant's name, which is French(ish) for "three quarters". The assumption is that they provide the first three and you and I, Gentle Reader, are responsible for the fourth.
We (yours truly and The Once and Future Blonde) recently wound our way to Bistro Trois Quarts in Wakabayashi where one of Tokyo's two tramlines feverishly clatters its way through the Shouin-jinja-mae (a shrine named for the Edo Period educator Yoshida Shouin) Station. A station admittedly without ticket wickets, but still a station.
The restaurant is located immediately on the western end of the platform, on the second floor up a left-handed double flight of stairs. If you perhaps find yourself staring into an admittedly inviting boulangerie, you're on the wrong side of the tracks (... and we all know what that means).
Chef Kinoshita and his lovely wife run this happy little nook like a well-oiled machine, and there is a warm and generous bonhomie at play here that turns a crass commercial arrangement into a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with friends.
The menu is simple but diverse, and there are more than enough bistro favourites to satisfy even the most demanding customer. Actually, one imagine it is probably hard to be demanding in the face of such an accommodating and genuinely friendly mine-host team! The wine list is wonderfully interesting, and (this is becoming a habit!) very politely priced. We enjoyed a very more-ish Limoux white that grew more complex in the glass and was the perfect foil to deftly prepared food for which one would pay much more closer to the frenetic heart of the city. 
Bistro Trois Quarts certainly lives up to its part of the algorithmic bargain, and you should certainly plan to visit with friends and lovers. If you live in Setagaya, this should become a go-to for a pleasant meal-a-deux or mange-a-trois.
And that portly chap staring up from the platform? Well, don't mind me ... I'll likely join you for a pipe of port!
 
Pip! Pip!
Bistro Trois Quarts: 4-21-4 Wakabayashi, Setagaya-ku Tel/Fax: 03-5787-6362
Rating: Food: 7/10; Algorithm: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 38/50 (3 Forks)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Au Coin du Feu - A reason to gather

"Au Coin du Feu" is, Gentle Reader, a quaint yet pretty French expression meaning something like fireplace or a pleasantly warm place to gather. "Coin" of course is corner, so Your Humble Correspondent rather would translate this as "a warm nook". 

Finding a quiet corner in the hustle and bustle of Naka-Meguro is never an easy thing, although it should be said that the culinary excellence of Daikanyama seems to be flowing downhill pushed no doubt by the over-development in that part of town. And the footpaths ....

A number of restaurants in this part of Tokyo have been on YHC's 'regulars' list for some time: including Sourire, Higashiyama, AW Kitchen, Ange d'Azur, Rue de Shuri ...... and Baird's bar, of course. As the demographics of the area change reflecting the younger people moving closer to town, we can expect this trend towards culinary concentration to continue.


Be that as it may, Au Coin du Feu ingratiates itself on you with excellent service, deft cooking, and a very pleasant focus on the customer experience. Somehow, it keeps finding places to push and nudge much like a small dragon wanting its belly scratched. Somehow - despite the onerous company of many "Ladies who Dine" OL's at surrounding tables - one feels a certain sort of "at-home"-ness and a casual yet warm acquaintance with Chef Jun Yamaguchi and his sommelier wife Sachiko.

The menu changes reasonably often, although the strong recommendation is to go with the set menus - that way, you can leave the intellectual heavy lifting to the Yamaguchi's and concentrate on flavors, favours, and friendship. There is both art and artifice in the food at Au Coin du Feu, as well as joy and playfulness.

While there is a certain bistro atmosphere - did you know, perchance, that the word 'bistro' is actually Russian for "Quick!" and that some believe its introduction as a description of a dining establishment came with the 1915 Russian occupation of Paris - there is also a strong sense of a restaurant's finer sense of place and purpose. Restaurant, on the other hand, was originally a type of wonderful (restoring) Parisian consomme soup first served in 1765 that was immediately popular and copied by everyone.

One hastens to add that the wine list is both interesting and very politely priced. Many of the better known French appellations are well represented, and the advice is always to the point and simple to understand.

All that said, Your Humble Correspondent recommends a detour to Au Coin au Feu at your next opportunity. Take along people you don't need to impress - that way you can delight in companionship rather than joust for attention.

And should you see a querulous face peering through the window, pray forgive me! I won't bite ....

Au Coin du Feu: 2-7-2 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku Tel/Fax: 03-6412-8212
Rating: Food: 7/10; Warmth: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10. Total: 37/50 (3 Forks)

Adenia: Passionata!

Imagine for a moment, Gentle Reader, a "neighbourhood" hostelry that prided itself on being a space where the guests were the "main course" and where the food, condiments, and drinks were sort of meant to hover in the background. A splendid idea, what-ho! And that's exactly what Adenia in Hachiyamacho turns out to be. Only a brief stroll from Shibuya yet nestled into a 'gyaru'-free streetscape, the restaurant proudly occupies a single two storey building with aplomb, panache, and perhaps a little braggadocio. There's little else competing for your attention, and the whole area gently strokes the "relax" zones of what passes for a mind into quiet acceptance. The interior is calm and measured, and shows gentle sophistication and elegance.

Actually, Adenia is named after the Passionflower native to Madagascar and Africa and part of the same family as the Passionfruit. One is not quite sure of the inspiration for such a moniker, but it certainly describes well the approach of the team (three makes a team?) at this splendidly interesting restaurant.

Chef Masafumi Irie has wended an interesting path since finally succumbing to the family business of fine food, being firmly bitten by the bug while "studying" in France. After a storied career ending up as sous chef at the New York Grill (Park Hyatt, Shinjuku), he realized that most high-end venues end up cooking for the chef (or worse, for profit) instead of the customer. Thus, he wanted to create a place where good food, good wine, and good company make for a memorable experience. Thus, Adenia.

While not entirely Your Humble Correspondent's cup of tea, Adenia encourages you to share. The portions are generous and the menu dutifully diverse so as to allow a reasonable selection, and Chef is playful and confident enough to ensure that each dish brings with it an accent, un frisson, an unexpected turn. Truth be told, it's probably better to share ...

The wine list is eclectic with a mix of Old and New World treasures at reasonable prices, showing the benefit of Somm Ryo Nishikata's experience at The Oak Door. There is also a so-so list of wines by the glass, but this option has never tickled Your Humble Correspondent's fancy ... seems like such a self-defeating strategy!

But most of all, Adenia is a refuge from madding crowds and a very pleasant way indeed to spend an evening (or two) learning more about food and more about friends.

Pip! Pip!

Adenia: 1-7 Hachiyamacho, Shibuya-ku Tel/Fax: 03-5489-5151
Rating: Food: 8/10; Passion: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 39/50 (3 Forks)

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

World's Top 50 Restaurants

Another day, another high (or low) for gastronomic masturbation, Gentle Reader. http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners

Why so few Japanese restaurants, you ask, if Tokyo is the food capital of the world? The first step towards comprehension, Grasshopper, is to understand the rules the august judging committee(s) set for themselves, viz. http://www.theworlds50best.com/asia/en/our-manifesto.html. Apart from some fairly obvious things - must have eaten there, must not be an owner - there would appear to be little in the way of rules or standards except whimsy. Hats off to the marketing genius who came up with this little number!

With YHC's body mass, venturing out on to a limb usually results in a victory for gravity. But in the spirit of Baconian hypotheses, may one humbly suggest that two things remain:

- one gets the impression that the successful restaurants in this "ranking" actually go out of their way to stand out from the competition. Much in the same way that a nail sticks out of a floorboard. Which in Japan would be nailed down. Japanese temple de cuisine do everything they can to be low-profile.

- would it be a little presumptive to say that in Japan, technique is more highly valued than creativity? WB50 seems to celebrate said creativity and out-of-the-closet de-construction. Japan, especially Japanese cuisine, celebrates the 10,000 hours of experience needed for perfection. Which, as YHC recently said on LinkedIn, is why Jiro dreams of sushi...

All of that said, Your Humble Correspondent longs for that sweet happenstance where (1) he might be asked to participate; (2) he might be pecunious enough to eat in at least three famous overseas restaurants, let alone seven; and (3) he could spend long enough in Singapore to visit with Tetsuya at Waku Chin!

And yes, one has darkened the doors at Ryugin and Narisawa ...

Pip! Pip!

Monday, 28 April 2014

A useful summary ...

While most of this is still relatively supeficial and doesn't explore the "why", Your Humble Correspondent deems it worthy of your attention:

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2014/4/23/7-reasons-why-tokyo-is-the-new-paris

Friday, 25 April 2014

Nino - Nice!

While "Barack Dreams of Jiro" is the current topic of heated conversation in town, Gentle Reader, Your Humble Correspondent has been navigating around where Abe ain't in recent days. Remarkably inconvenient, and despite checking one's mailbox twice there was not even a hint of a chance of being asked to join that august group.

However, deep and dark disappointment was banished with an invitation from the Wa-est chap in town (Dominic) to waddle off to Ristorante da Nino in Nogizaka for a touch of Sicilian. Of course with all things Sicilian one has to be extremely careful not to attract attention, but despite there being a surfeit of similar establishments in Tokyo my advice is to put Nino's right at the top of your list. Quietly.

At a recent dinner at the horrid Hacienda in Daikanyama, a conversation about what makes for great food led YHC to blurt out to the unbelievers that it was actually all about technique. Chefs, cooks, and amateurs alike are generally all able to access the same ingredients and gadgets and we all cook with the same gas, but what separates the professional from the bumblers is "the Knowledge".

Technique, Gentle Reader, is what links saucing to sushi and lasagna to laksa. That's why Jiro dreams of sushi, and why an intending itamae might spend two or more years bustling before being allowed to touch a fish. It's also the reason why aspiring chefs should spend time in large noisy kitchens with five or more stations a la Brigade de cuisine before opening an epynomous eatery. And although it sometimes gets out of control, technique is what molecular gastronomy should be all about.

And technique is certainly on elegant display at Ristorante da Nino. Certainly one also sees imagination and informed ingredient sourcing, but the entire crew at Nino's from the kitchen to the floor staff carry off the ceremony of dining with panache and sprezzatura. The menu reflects a traditional and careful approach to cucina, with an artist's eye for plating and an excellent sense of balance.

Despite being located far too close to office workers, there is a pleasant deficit of OLs and oyajis, and two digits is the minimum age requirement (i.e. 10+). Ebullient Italian language skills would seem to be a plus. This is a busy and cheerful place, and attracts a consistent crowd of professional gastronomes. For good reason!

Best to dine at Nino's with friends and lovers, methinks, as the floor layout is a little cluttered and cornered. And try to avoid the banquettes. But make a reservation as soon as you can, Gentle Reader, because you will not be disappointed. And should you spy a portly slightly famished-looking scallywag through the window, pray toss a scrap cara mio!

Pip! Pip!

Ristorante da Nino: Minato-ku, Minami Aoyama 1-15-19 Grand Mezon Nogizaka 1F Tel/Fax: 03-3401-9466 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Rating: Food: 8/10; Technique: 9/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 38/50 (3 Forks)

Monday, 10 February 2014

Antichi Sapori - Puglia Transplanted!

It has been said, Gentle Reader, that the history of Puglia is written in its rocks: its prehistoric archeological sites, shattered historical sites once settled by the conquering Greeks and Romans, towering Norman castles with remarkable Islamic influences, and the remarkable architectural legacy left by Frederick II and the Swabian Kings.
Yet it suffered immensely under its (later) Arragonese rulers and for many years its inhabitants survived by living off the land, kept from starvation by their flocks, weeds, grano arso, and wild herbs.

Your Humble Correspondent would fain describe fair Puglia as a regnum comedentis, a place where simplicity and freshness and flavor reign supreme, and where food is seen as extremely important indeed. And there is an extraordinary restaurant there, literally miles from anywhere in a small village called Montegrosso di Andria with the captivating name of Antichi Sapori. In English, "ancient flavors" ...

This restaurant is a sort of Avalon for food writers - see this beautifully written piece by Emiko Davies. As she says, "Food is taken seriously. When they say “antipasto” they actually mean twenty portions of the most exquisite, yet simple, fresh ingredients ...". Or as Tom Kingston of The Observer said, it offers "a mind-blowing feast".

The good news for you, Gentle Reader, is that you no longer need brave the narrow mountain roads of the highlands of Puglia to enjoy Antichi Sapori. In some sort of wonderful combination of Merlock and a Star Trek Holodeck a version has appeared in Hiroo - replacing the artless Cicada on Gaien-Nishi. The re-vamped interior (left) is a pure pleasure, and the staff work tirelessly to create that effortless Italian bonarietà that makes a meal a celebration. 

Tempting as it is to waffle on endlessly about the cuisine and viticulture of Puglia, Your Humble Correspondent suggests your look here for a much more coherent and likely concise rendering.

My mission in these modest scribblings is to point rather than prod, to suggest rather than direct. That said Gentle Reader, this is a restaurant you should definitely spend time getting to know. There is ceremony and thousands of years of effort in each spoonful on offer here, and

My epicurean friend Dominic writes more, and better here. With photos [sigh] ...

Pip! Pip!

Antichi Sapori: 5-2-40 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo (t:03-6277-2073)
Rating: Food: 8/10; Puglia-rity: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 8/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 40/50 (4 Forks)

Friday, 7 February 2014

Quirky .. Cork-y!

You'll no doubt remember, Gentle Reader, this Humble Correspondent's ramblings about L'AS.
Pshaw! Who's kidding who? Methinks you likely never read it ... [pout]. Nevertheless, your intrepid reporter has continued in his muddled search for hostelries that might tickle your esteemed fancy, and stumbled upon L'AS's beauteous little sister
Cork.

Tokyo's premier foodie Robbie Swinnerton writes a great review here.
L'AS moved late in 2013 to new premises in Minami-Aoyama, and used the storefront of the site to carve out a new space in the Tokyo dining experience via said Cork. For the simple-minded like Your Humble Correspondent, the switch here is that at Cork one orders the wines from that evening's list and the kitchen then matches the food to your choice. Novel, and quite luxurious in a sprezzatura sort of way. L'AS occupies the rear of the site, giving way to its younger sister in a charming and sophisticated way.
Well might you say "la-di-da", Gentle Reader, but the wines on offer are truly remarkable yet eclectic at the same time. On just one of a number of recent forays, we were able to choose a white from among a Silvaner from Southern Bavaria, a Gros Manseng - Petit Manseng blend from Jurancon, and a slightly flushed-pink Chateau Parodie from Provence. Similarly, the reds on offer were a Languedoc Syrah, a Spanish 100% Mencia, and a highly genki Barbella from Piedmonte. These are bracketed by Cork's bubbles-of-preference Guillaume and a perky Tokay.
The "paired" food avoids gimmick and dominant flavoring while retaining L'AS-esque delicacy and finesse. The teiban is a wonderful fois-gras pate served atop crunchy bruschetta, with a salty caramel waft of saucing. Each dish shows exquisite taste and sensibility, a consummation likely lost on Your Humble Correspondent!
Chef Kaneko and Sommelier Tanabe are still in command of both venues, and continue to do a remarkable job at an extraordinary price. Service is masterful yet subdued, and - given the depth to which the team explains each course - one imagines the pre-dinner briefings for the staff to be long, detailed, and incessant.
Cork is a retreat to visit with friends and impressionable lovers who will doubtless appreciate the slightly snuggly nature of the all-counter seating. As Robbie notes, the whole concept is beautifully executed. And in Your Humble Correspondent's even humbler opinion: wonderful fun!
Reservations (only by telephone, and only between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.) are highly recommended, Gentle Reader, as sadly Cork is remarkably popular. And should you see a florid fat-boy trying to sneak tastes of OPW (Other People's Wine), then pray refrain from smacking his wrist, what-ho?
 
Pip! Pip!

Cork: 4-16-3 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo (t: 090-6008-4069_the_skype__of_the_skype_highlig)
Rating: Food: 8/10; Ecletic-icity: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 8/10; Price-Performance: 8/10. Total: 40/50 (4 Forks)