Food without memory is just digestion

Friday 13 August 2021

Le Chatain - "A warm hideaway"


Hidden away in Takanawa near Isarago, Gentle Reader, is the Sento Karigosho, or the Temporary Emeritus Imperial Palace. This is where the Emeritus Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Emerita Michiko are living while their digs in Akasaka are being renovated to meet the needs of the elderly couple. It also features beautiful rose gardens immediately outside on the Nihonenoki-dori street that runs from Isarago to Shinagawa. Even more notably, it is close to Your Humble Correspondent's hovel in Mita 4-Chome. 
And opposite the Gosho is a pretty little French restaurant called Le Chatain. Which means auburn blonde or chestnut, for reasons that are utterly opaque except that it is the most common hair color in France.
Le Chatain is one of literally hundreds of suburban French restaurants scattered around Tokyo, but stands out in that category. This brasserie is not pretentious or self-opinionated like many of its peers, and offers a bistrot local in the otherwise entirely boring Isarago area. Which in turn means that Your Humble Correspondent has come to frequent it on a reasonably regular but arrhythmic fashion.
Opened in December 2019, it is located in the rather twee Takanawa residential area. Despite that, Gentle Reader, one can enjoy well prepared and reasonably priced French cuisine in a very relaxed setting. Which might just be the very definition of comfort food. 
It even boasts single counter seats for the relationship-challenged, as well as two private rooms for those not so afflicted.
The point here is the produce, carefully selected with an emphasis on quality and sustainable producers. That makes for endless variety in the daily menu, as well as a playful sense of adventure and exploration.
Your Humble Correspondent most often opts for the Steak Frites on the lunch menu. Well-priced, well prepared, and sufficient volume for even this little fat boy. For dinner, you can expect only one "Course" but it is in the standard 5-dish (Amuse, Potage, Fish, Meat, Dessert) format offering even the most demanding customer a range of flavors. A la carte is also available.
Le Chatain has a prodigious wine list - in fact, selection is often a fraught process where one is often caught in the this-or-that conundrum. Your Humble Correspondent has found the most pleasant option from a self-care perspective is to have both.
Visit Le Chatain with friends and lovers. Alternatively, a sympathetic colleague.
And should you see the Emeritus Emperor at the counter seats, remember your manners!

Pip Pip!

Le Chatain2-2-25 Takanawa, Minato-ku t: 03-6450-3448
Le portefeuille»Y8,500 (with wine)
Food: 7/10; Gosho-ness: 7/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10
Total: 35/50 (3 Forks)

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Mari e Monti - Bright as ever!

There was a time, Gentle Reader, when Your Humble Correspondent would have never darkened these doors. Then Cosimo and Luca left La Bisboccia and 
made their proprietorial debut here, and things changed forever. 

There is an effervescent joy about this place,  both contagious and encouraging. Even in these dark days of a global pandemic, Cosimo and Luca are truly focused on the warmest possible entertaining experience for their guests. It is, if you like, a philtre for troubled times and a profitable investment in well-being.

The food is good, of course. Puglia features strongly in a regional sense, which is a relief now that 
Antichi Sapori seems to have closed. Obviously, your favorite Italian dishes are on the menu as well. There are daily offerings depending on what the providors have been able to source. In fact, Gentle Reader, the problem is more the temptation to order too much - which foible Your Humble Correspondent admits to being a frequent occurrence - rather than scouring a bland page of the "standard" dishes one finds too often in Italian restaurants in Tokyo.

There is plenty of very good wine available as well, although sometimes in smaller quantities. The most exciting part of the beverage service at Mari e Monti is the generous - possibly copious - limoncello service at the end of your repast. The team whip this up in the kitchen, very likely in 20 liter containers.

The point about Mari e Monti is the sheer brightness and warmth of the people that run it. Visiting this establishment is honestly the high point of any day. During these dour times, try to get a prescription from your physician for the benefits that Cosimo and Luca provide for your mental health.

Visit Mari e Monti with friends rather than colleagues. The energy is probably not suited to detailed business discussions. Neither is the limoncello.

And please be forgiving if a little fat boy joins you for the limoncello. Frankly, I'm addicted.

Pip Pip!

Mari e MontiComforia Nishi-Azabu 2F14-1-10 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku t: 03-6418-7072
Portafoglio»Y9,000 (with wine)
RatingFood: 8/10; Puglia-ness: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 7/10
Total: 38/50 (3 Forks)

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Chez Soma - Nostalgia in Nakane

There is a certain style of restaurant in Japan, Gentle Reader, that delights the heart - and often the wallet. Where a chef focuses on technique and deep culinary knowledge, with the result often being better than most establishments in the "home" country of a particular cuisine. Where repetition is a virtue, and where the flavors are delicate and long. Chez Soma in Nakane in Meguro Ward is one of those places.

Your Humble Correspondent, as ever in your service, recently ventured into the wilds of Nakane, near Toritsu Daigaku subway station, to visit Chez Soma. While the area has a quaint suburban feel, diners are magically transported to Parisian bistro once they enter. In these COVIDesque days, things are perhaps a little diminished by the Perspex screens and masked floor staff but despite the difficulties the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

But the food, Gentle Reader, the food is delightful. It is wonderfully wrought, superbly balanced, and exquisitely presented. The menu is simple - 3 options including an o-makase - and includes an a la Carte section which is so sadly vanishing from so many other establishments. There are daily variations in the ingredients, and Chef shows enviable creativity for a venue (previously in Jiyugaoka) that has been open for some twenty years. Each of these "courses" includes a dessert sampler which is, similarly, excellent.

There is a certain nostalgia, Gentle Reader, in the dishes on offer. This is Cuisine Classique but without heavy saucing or contemporary flashiness. It is almost as if, God forfend, that the restaurant focuses on the guest experience rather than the Chef experience. No pretense, no foamy-foamies, no trace of ego.

Your Humble Correspondent is frantically looking forward to being able to graze the Wine List once these wretched lockdowns become a thing of the past. It promises a well-crafted and diverse selection, with the typical Parisian aperitifs available to the discerning drinker.

Chez Soma is best enjoyed with friends rather than colleagues, and a reservation is strongly recommended. 

Pip Pip!

Chez Soma1-7-20 Nakane, Meguro Ward t: 03-6421-3034
Bowgett»Y8,000 (with wine) * a 'bowgett' (or budget) is a leathern pouch or wallet to carry one's cash
RatingFood: 8/10; Nostalgia: 8/10; Service: 8/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10
Total: 39/50 (3 Forks)

Friday 6 March 2020

Coronavirus - A Pooh Story

Image result for image coronavirus

* Borrowed and enhanced from a Facebook post ...

"Where are we going Piglet?" asked Pooh.
"We need to get supplies," said Piglet. "For the Coronavirus".

"Ahh," said Pooh, nodding in understanding. "Things like gloves, water, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and medicated shampoos even though we don't have hair?"
Piglet did a little grunty sort of laugh, and a happy leap and bit of a cough. 

"No," said Piglet. "No, those aren't the supplies we need at all!"
"What we need are huge bags of pretzels, cashews, jellies, and chocolates; a freezer full of fry-ables and microwave pizzas, and all the Champagne that we can possibly carry".
"We need lightly salted crackers and cheeses like Brie and Comte as well as something smelly. Salami, Parma Ham, Spanish Jamon, and fresh olives."
"You of course, Pooh, will be in charge of baguette, honey, Trappist butter ... slightly salted of course ... and kilos of corned beef. Sparkling mineral water, and some limes please".

"We shall have them deliver gallons of white wine, magnums of Burgundy, vodka in 5 liter plastic bottles for sterilization, and those salty rice crackers things in the very largest containers."
"Then, when we get quarantined we won't mind it even one bitTHOSE are supplies."
All of a sudden, Pooh thought that the idea of coronavirus didn't seem quite so bad, and actually, getting quarantined with Piglet and their supplies really didn't sound such a terrible thing after all. 

"Oh Piglet," said Pooh. "I really do think you are a very wise animal."

Thursday 5 March 2020

Table Motoh - Post-modern!

There are those who accuse me, Gentle Reader, of being a food snob. God forfend! Your Humble Correspondent is particular, certainly, and demands quality over quantity. Beets are out, as are anchovies and coriander. But snobby? Never!

Which is surely a virtue at Table Motoh. Chef Motoh Kikuchi (a great loss to Tableau) aims to create an "at-home" environment, a place where guests can relax and enjoy his extraordinary cooking. The venue only seats 12, which would make it perfect for a gathering of Your Humble Correspondent's friends ... with 7 seats to spare. 

Decorated in Spartan Modern, and highly functional. Chef aims to create an "ordinary" environment where foodie guests can relax - entirely suitable for YHC! It first feels a little cramped, but discomfort vanishes as it fills with customers and cheerful banter ensues. They will try hard to speak English for you, which makes everything a little more "at-home". "At-home" enough to reach for the pajamas.

At the recommendation of Eatpia, we recently gathered as a foursome for dinner to test out just how ordinary it might be. Table Motoh has been operating for six months by two lovely men who work together seamlessly. The menu features traditional French favorites as well as mouth-some seasonal produce exquisitely crafted to showcase both the ingredients as well as the skill of Chef. One notices the flair first, the quality second, and lastly a firm sense of balance. Do try the pate en croute, as well as the carpaccio.

There is clearly some special sort of prestidigitation at work in the wine selection. It boasts more than 50 different labels, which feels impossible in such narrow quarters. We enjoyed Alsace Rieslings, a Crozes-Hermitage white, a beautiful near-desiccated Gruner Veltliner, and a pretty little Provence rose. Pours are generous and pricing fearless, with many fine wines affordable even to Your Impoverished Correspondent.

The thing that stands out here is "care". Care in the ingredients, in the magical light touch on the food, and the handsome plating. Care in selecting the right glassware for the right wine. And care in the interaction with guests that never borders on the "hello-my-name-is-Jordan" type of transactional service becoming uncomfortably common.

Go to Table Motoh with friends. Good friends. Don't go for a romantic dinner. It is not ordinary, but close to special. A friendly sort of special...

And if you see a goblin peering eerily out from behind a curtain, ignore me...

Pip Pip!

Table Motoh7-3-15 Roppongi, Minato Ward  t: 03-6384-5885
Pera»Y8,000 (with wine)
RatingFood: 7/10; At Home-ness: 8/10; Service: 7/10; Ambiance: 7/10; Price-Performance: 8/10
Total: 37/50 (3 Forks)