Food without memory is just digestion

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

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)