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!
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)