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The Michelin Guide has consistently awarded more stars to Tokyo dining establishments than any other city in the world. I created this blog as my personal Tokyo restaurant guide, but I hope you will also enjoy reading it. If you have been to any of the same places feel free to leave some comments about your own experiences.

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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Au Goût Du Jour, Yonbancho オー・グー・ドゥ・ジュール 四番町

Au Goût Du Jour is a modern style French restaurant in Yonbancho (not far from Ichigaya). The modern interior features framed pieces of used cardboard which, although kind of unique, didn't really communicate any artistic merit to me. For 2,800 you can order a lunch set which includes an entree, main and dessert. There are more expensive menus that feature more food - but for lunch I think three courses are usually enough.

The service is good, although I did find the way that the waiter went through the specials of the day and the different permutations of the menu to be a touch robotic (and hard to remember). Maybe it was because I watched "Blade Runner" again the previous evening that I had replicant robots on my mind...

I started lunch with a glass of Heidsieck & Co Monopole champagne which was slightly sweet and very easy to drink. This was followed by an entree of scallop with ricotta gnocci. This was quite subtle in flavour, but I found the serving a little small. My dining partner highly praised his salade de charcuterie which appeared more substantial. For the main there was a choice of fish or meat, and we both opted for the porc haché Parmentier style, which was served with a mushroom, green chilli and Okinawan okra. Although my dining partner was very happy with this dish, I thought it tasted just like Spam and potato with some pesto. The veges were quite nice though. Dessert was a rosemary chocolate mousse cake with mango ice cream, which was also quite nice.

Overall, Au Goût Du Jour is quite a polished establishment but I think the food could be razzed up a notch or two. They're sailing dangerously close to the (admittedly high) average in this town.

Tel: 03-5213-3005

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Chez Azuma, Daikanyama シェ・アズマ 代官山

Chez Azuma is a pleasant little French restaurant in Daikanyama not too far from Namikibashi. I recently enjoyed a Sunday lunch there, sharing the experience with a range of different diners - from a family taking their son out for his birthday, to an older couple enjoying lunch together, a pair of OLs and a yuppie couple. What a quaint little mix of respectable Tokyoites!

The menu is stock-standard French, featuring all the standards such as duck confit, foie gras, rillette etc. My dining partner and I ordered the 2,800 yen lunch menu which along with bread and a fairly average rillette offers a soup or and entree, main and dessert.

I ordered the onion soup for my entree, while my dining partner ordered the foie gras. The onion soup was rich and beautifully finished in the oven and I kept on burning my fingers trying to pick the cheese off the sides (I'm clearly quite a bit less respectable than the other patrons). The foie gras looked nice but it came with apple sauce, which I'm not crazy about as my mother used to always try to make me eat with with her roast pork.

For the main I ordered the duck confit, which came with baked potatoes and whole garlic which went down rather easily. My dining partner ordered fish which looked nice enough but didn't generate too many pangs of envy. Dessert was a rather small dish of ice cream, chocolate mouse and chocolate cake.

Although the food is perfectly good and the service very pleasant I think the meal lacked a certain value for the money. I was the only one drinking but after I had an aperitif of champagne and a glass of white wine (neither of which was shown to me) the bill for two of us came to 8,000 yen. This is not a rip-off but neither is it good value for money for a very standard meal.

Tel: 03-5458-0300

Sans Le Sou, Ogikubo ビストロ・サン・ル・スー 荻窪

I didn't really enjoy my recent lunch at San Le Sou. Not because of the food or the service, but because my dining partner happened to be undergoing a bout of nausea, which I trust was not brought on by my company! My policy on nausea is pretty straightforward - just have a good cleansing purge and then you'll feel a lot better (thinking which we could, perhaps, carry over to the current global financial crisis). Anyway, to cut a long story short, even though our converstation was mostly groans on one side and urging for purging on the other, I ended up eating both my meal and a good deal of that of my dining partner. It's an ill wind that blows no good, indeed!

The restaurant is to be found over a fairly non-descript store not far from Ogikubo station. Ogikubo itself is a rather respectable suburb with many pleasant houses and gardens. I have to admit that I would never go there unless I had a good reason, but it was interesting to have a look around.

For lunch you can order a menu of around 2,500 yen (or a little extra if you order a soup as well like I did). For the entree I ordered the cold cream mouse with crab and herbs. This was fresh and tasty. This was followed by a cold pumpkin soup, which tasted disconcertingly like the ones you buy at the supermarket. For my main I ordered breaded mustard chicken which came with vegetables, and was nice enough. However, when my dining partner's deep fried parcel of pork wrapped in spring roll pastry came out I could not contain my jealousy, tinged with the real hope that I may get to eat to this as well. As it turned out, I ate most of it - and it was definitely better than my chicken. Dessert was a blanc manger with coconut ice cream and fruit.

Overall I found the food to be competent and there were hints of creativity in the pork dish. If chef pushes himself to the next level I am sure he could do some really interesting stuff - but I also get the impression that San Le Sou is in quite a nice groove, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Tel: 03-3247-1408

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Tanger, Takanawa ダンジェ 白金高輪

Tanger had been recommended to me on more than one occasion and I have to say that after visiting recently for dinner I can understand why people would find it intriguing. Firstly the building itself is quite unique - fake Tudor on the exterior but fitted out on the inside with an Islamic motif and looking out onto a pleasant courtyard garden. I would expect nothing less post-modern in central Tokyo!

The menu is also fairly interesting, offering a mix of Frenchy/ North African style dishes. It's kind of hard to pin down a definite controlling idea in the menu which comprises an eclectic assortment from foie gras to morrocan salads to quiches to cabbage rolls. Actually I have to admit that, given the name of the restaurant, I thought the menu was going to be exclusively Moroccan. I had promised my dining partner not to drag her along to yet another French restaurant, and I had a hard time convincing her that I hadn't tricked her when the waiter told us the menu was basically "French".

I ordered foie gras for my entree and duck with lentils for my main, whilst my dining partner ordered a terrine for entree and cabbage rolls for her main. The food was fairly good overall but I do have some gripes. First of all, the foie gras really was stingy - just a few scrapings of foie gras, as can be seen in the picture. For 1,500 yen I think that it's a bit rich. Also whilst the duck was tender and the lentils had been nicely simmered with lardons, I think that 2,800 yen is too much for that dish. The lentils tasted pretty much like a stew that I cook for myself at home. There's nothing wrong with that except I think for a main dish costing that much you should expect a bit more gastronomy and a bit less home cooking. The prices for my courses versus what was served really are flirting with the pretentious.

One last gripe is that when it came time to pay I found they didn't accept American Express. How on earth can a serious restaurant not accept Amex? Well of course I know why they don't, but I'm afraid that it left me with the impression that the owners really have too keen an eye on the money.

タンジェ (白金高輪)





Tel: 03-3449-4166

Monday, 8 September 2008

La Casquette, Hatsudai ラ・カスケット 初台

La Casquette is a small French restaurant located in the shopping street of Hatsudai, which is just across the freeway from the Opera City complex at Nishi Shinjuku. Even though it is literally next door, Hatsudai is a world away from Shinjuku - as quiet and suburban as it gets in Tokyo.

This establishment is clearly a one man band. When I recently had Sunday lunch there the chef was doing all the cooking and all the serving for almost 20 customers! The server must have called in sick or alternatively he always works without help. Either situation would be enough to put me in a bad mood - and this guy sure is surly (think "Soup Nazi" of Seinfeld fame). However, his cooking is nothing short of superb and just may offer some of the best value for money in Tokyo.

For 1,890 yen you can choose an entree, main and dessert. For my entree I ordered a scallop salad. The scallops were juicy and cooked just right, served with mushrooms, salad leaves and green peppercorns. For the main I chose the lamb which came with a delicious baked potato, capsicum and pesto. The meat was rarer than I usually prefer, but it was very good nonetheless (and there was no way I had the guts to send it back). My dining partner ordered a terrine de campagne and duck confit which he highly praised. Dessert was an excellent blanc manger with mango ice cream followed by coffee.

I highly recommend you make the trip out to Hatsudai to try this restaurant. Don't be put off by the gruff manners of the chef - he's a master at what he does.

Tel: 03-3376-8655

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Ristorante ASO, Daikanyama リストランテ・アソ 代官山

While I've been having the odd coffee now and then at Cafe Michelangelo for longer than I care to remember, I had never set foot in the restaurant that sits behind it in the same compound in Daikanyama. For some reason I always thought it seemed a little bit too posh for the likes of me (perhaps a mental overhang from my penniless first days in Tokyo), but when a good friend of mine invited me to lunch there I admit I was filled with anticipation.

The anticipation was well worth it - the experience was intriguing. For lunch the base set is a 4,500 yen menu that features a starter, pasta, meat and dessert followed by coffee and petit fours. This sounds costly for a Tokyo lunch, but I can report that it was worth every yen. In fact it's worth it just for the performance around the starter.

Not long after having submitted our order a waiter arrived with what appeared to be a chemistry set. It's too long since high school to remember what all the glassware is actually called, but suffice to say, it looked impressive. A burner was lit under the soup which bubbles up into the flask with the chopped porcini mushrooms and then comes back before it is poured into a small cup and served with tempura mushroom and prawns in pastry. Wow - what a start! Fresh bread with delicious whipped butter was served throughout the meal.

I will let the pictures tell the story from here. The excellent starter was followed by a delicious seafood pasta which was beautifully presented, and by a main of minced chicken with liver. The dessert was also very well presented. Then as a final pleasant surprise the coffee was served with petits fours on stalks!

The service was very attentive and the champagne and Californian chardonnay that we ordered by the glass hit the spot very nicely. This is a place I would certainly recommend for business or pleasure and I hope to be able to return soon.