Wednesday, 20 September 2006

A Epice of Pleasure

20 Sep 2006

My friend Arthur (may his name be praised for generations!) once did me the honor of inviting me to the delightful Epices Kaneko, tucked away in the back streets of Azabu. I was sufficiently impressed to schedule a return visit with a friend to check on my first impressions of this sweet little refuge of slow food with fast service.

You’ll find it a little difficult to get to the front door (MAP), but stick to the task and you’ll be well rewarded. Featuring produce from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Epices Kaneko is the sort of place for a quiet conversation or even a long, lingering one! It’s a little like visiting a friend’s house, knowing that there’s a series of treats available but harboring a feeling of guilt that you should be thinking about the friend not the food.

There are 3 menu options - a light version (don’t ask me what it’s like...couldn’t bear the thought!), a Starter+Main+Dessert choice @ Y4500, and the full course @ Y6000. My friend and I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and chose the middle ground.

The Foie Gras starter (that’s entree for all civilized people!) was delightful, touched with a light fruit sauce and presented well on the plate. The organic vegetables especially chosen from the cornucopia of Yamaguchi’s harvest matched the centrepiece well. Considering the price, this is a generous serve of decadence that matched the Chablis Premier Cru we chose to lubricate the conversation.

My Pumpkin Soup was a little better than what you’d expect, and I’m still wrestling with the chef for the recipe. It somehow floats across the palate, intriguing and stimulating as it melts even the most demanding gourmand.

We chose the Roast Duck for our main course - do yourself a favor and try this delicacy. The food is obviously prepared by a chef with a passion for food (may his name be praised for generations!), and the salt-rubbed duck delights from first taste to final...lingering...mouthful. A glass of a light Langue d’Oc pinot added liquid fire to the dish, as well as the conversation.

We decided not to have the dessert but opted for cheese (we chose Camembert and Mimoret).

Epices Kaneko (I can’t find a website) has a fistful of regular customers who keep this place a bit of a secret. You should become one of them! I’d also highly recommend Epices Kaneko for a small function or memorable dinner gathering for up to 30 people. The Dark Side Club will be visiting in October 2006.

Rating: Food: 8/10; Wine: 7/10; Service: 8/10; Ambience: 7/10; Price: 8/10. Total: 38/50 (4 Forks)
Epices de Kaneko レストラン エピスカネコ3-23-14 Nichi Azabu 東京都港区西麻布3-23-14 03-3478-7276Closed on Mondays

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Basque-ing in the Atmosphere

17 Sep 2006

In the mood for some Basque and/or French provincial food? With so many establishments focusing on “French” food - meaning Parisian - in Tokyo, there are times when you’d think this is a Mission Impossible. But fear not! Try La pitchouli de Lou lou.

I ventured out to this charming little spot with a friend (The Ad Guy) known for enjoying the finer things in life. The restaurant doesn’t open until 7:00 p.m., but I’d book if I were you as it enjoyed a brisk turnover of tables and eye candy. It was sometimes difficult to keep my companion’s attention on the food and the conversation. Being our first visit, we left the menu up to the “chef”.

We tried the Home-Made Country-Style Pate (自家製田舎風パテ), followed by a Green Salad featuring organic vegetables from Yamanashi Prefecture (山梨県有機野菜のグリーン・サラダ). At this point, a note on the wine: while the selection is small and the prices very reasonable, don’t go looking for famous chateau. The point of La pitchouli de Lou lou is to enjoy the food and the company! You can go for glasses or bottles (huh! Not me...)

The next dish was Loligo Frit (小ヤリイカのフリッツ), a provincial squid fritte dish delicious with salt and the Chablis. This was followed by the piece-de-resistance, Homemade Sausage (自家製ソーセージのロースト). There wasn’t enough of this for two known trenchermen, and I ended up threatening the Ad Guy with a fork to get the last piece.

But wait...the home-made Stewed Salted Pork Back Ribs served Crumby Baked (sic!) (自家製塩漬け豚バラ肉煮込みのパン粉焼き). This is heavenly if you like Iberico Pork like I do, served country style celebrating flavor rather than presentation! Again, a battle for the last piece and I was beginning to regret offering to share all the dishes. The red wine, served in appropriate quantities (2 bottles), seemed to compliment the pork delightfully.

In summary, a good place for a reasonable two or three hours of fine food, good wine, and better company. Take a friend rather than a lover, and ask for the sausage!

Rating: Food: 7/10; Wine: 6/10; Ambience: 7/10; Service: 8/10; Price: 8/10. Total: 36/50 (3 Forks)
La Pitchouli de Lou lou (Don’t blame me for the spelling!)
Ebisu 2-23-3. Open 7pm-3am. Closed Mondays. Tel: 3440-5858 Map Japanese Website