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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, 26 October 2008

Le Bourguignon, Roppongi ル・ブルギニオン 六本木

In these sub-prime economic times one may be tempted to cut back a little. Speaking as someone who has done rather poorly out of this financial crisis I might say that is quite understandable. But nevertheless if one can't dine properly then life is not really civilised - so I will continue my dining habit until they pry my credit card from my cold, dead hands. I hope all my readers will keep dining in these times, keeping their spirits high and all these fabulous Tokyo restaurants afloat.

So in that spirit, I finally made it to Le Bourguignon which is just down from Roppongi Hills in the street where you'll find the Chinese Embassy (and the resident protesters). This restaurant is one that I have walked past for years and never tried. I don't quite know what it was that stopped me going until now. I guess it looked a little on the expensive side and I didn't really see the justification. If you do make it inside you'll find that for lunch there is quite a reasonable lunch set costing 2,625 yen which includes an amuse, entree, main, dessert and plenty of bread and water. If you don't opt for this and choose à la carte you'll find that even the cheapest entree costs more than the entire set menu. This is just silly when you think about it.

Anyway I chose the set, and also ordered a glass of the house champagne which turned out to be a Veuve Clicquot, served with exceptional grace by our waitress. The amuse was a scrumptious little puff with bacon and cheese. This was followed by a foamy mushroom soup with a deep fried cigarello of prawn. I found the soup to be initially quite potent but the taste kind of wore off as I went on. Unfortunately although the prawn cigarello looked great, it was clear when I tasted it that it had been sitting around for some time - so it was a bit limp and quite disappointing. With the entree the waitress brought out three French white wines for me to choose from but didn't really explain anything about them. I opted for an Alsatian wine which turned out to be way too sweet.

For the main I ordered a couscous which was served with a delicious spicy merguez sausage, lamb brochette and a hot pot of capsicum, eggplant, onion and lamb chunks. A little dish of harissa was served on the side which spiced up a very tasty dish just to the right level.

After the main was finished it took a very long time for the plates to be removed but our waitress kindly covered the shame of my spilt sauce on the white tablecloth with a new serviette. After what was a wait of at least 30 minutes for the dessert plate (during which the fellow dining alone at the adjacent table actually fell asleep) a very acceptable plate of pear cheesecake, raspberry and chocolate mousse and potent vanilla bean ice cream was served. This was followed by a very ordinary tasting coffee (it is suprising how few restaurants in Tokyo actually know how to make a decent coffee).

All in all, although with all the waiting I did feel a bit like a prisoner towards the end, it was a pleasant lunch and I think the chef deserves credit for his work. I had some gripes in that the packed dining room was so stuffy I was spiflicating until I finally asked them to turn on the air-conditioning, and the service was in some respects inexplicably slow. Nevertheless I would recommend you give them a go. The à la carte menu looked pretty interesting and the prices may make more sense at dinner.
Tel: 03-5772-6244

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Europea, Montréal (Québec, Canada)

If you ever find yourself in Montréal get your bony behind down to Europea. On a recent visit for dinner I was blown away by their food, service, ambiance - in short, everything. This modern international-style restaurant is located in the luxury boutique strip not too far from McGill University (so a bit of a hike from the old city if you are staying there).

My dining partner and I ordered their tasting menu which they paired with some delicious wines. The first amuse was a plate of marinated mushroom, fish and potato croquette as well as prunes wrapped in bacon (which on my return to Tokyo was one of the first dishes I cooked!). This was followed by a second amuse of a divine lobster bisque with truffle. This was followed by a plate of cooked and cold foie gras served with pineapple jam and a very drinkable Ontario sticky wine. The next course was a shot glass containing a foam of Caesar salad and bacon - our sole brush with molecular gastronomy for the evening...The main course was a stupendous plate of roasted scallop with prosciutto, duck confit ravioli, shittake mushrooms, artichoke and coconut sauce. Rich doesn't even begin to describe that creation!

This was followed by a dessert of savarin (like a baba au rhum), which was fantastic, and a large plate of petit fours. And as if that wasn't enough a plate of freshly baked madelaines was put in front of us as we drank our coffee, which itself came with chocolates. I finished every last bite that Europea served up and I am not ashamed. The crowd was an interesting mix of families, couples and hard-hitting business associates showing that the place has broad appeal. The staff are not in the least bit pretentious - just clearly a great bunch who love food and love to see you enjoy yourself. If I ever make it back to Montréal I will be back for sure.
Tel: 513 398 9229

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Cyrano de Bergerac, Hatsudai シラノ ド ベルジュラック 初台

Cyrano de Bergerac is a cute little French restaurant in a backstreet parallel to Yamate Dori in Hatsudai, not far from Opera City. The dining room is quite cramped and the tables are not very large but it's all part of the atmosphere. It appears to be a husband and wife affair with hubby cooking in the open kitchen and wifey waiting the tables. Of course, as I did not enquire as to their marital status this remains mere speculation.

The food is what I would describe as homely Tokyo French. On a recent visit for lunch I sampled their set menu. I started with a glass of their house sparkling which was French but not from Champagne (but very drinkable nonetheless). This was followed by a salad with egg and prawns. The highlight for me was their carrot mousse which you can see pictured. This was creamy and delightful but perhaps a little heavy for those thinking of their weight. The fish was fleshy and delicious and the cheesecake with caramel ice cream was as good as it looks.

In summary, a good place for a more substantial lunch or a dinner - just be aware the space is cramped if you're especially large or you have confidential business to discuss.

Tel: 03-3374-0078

Friday, 17 October 2008

Icebergs, Bondi (Sydney, Australia)

Icebergs' swish dining room has been around a few years now and is one of several trendy "name" restaurants that have popped up in the last five years. My first visit was a few years ago for lunch where I can honestly say I ate the most delicious seafood risotto that I have ever tasted.

Unfortunately what tends to happen in these places is that they get very popular and because of an assured crowd each evening, standards start to drop. When I recently visited for dinner, I went away fairly disappointed - not with the view over Bondi Beach, which was super even at night but with the food and overall depth of the experience. Our waiter was pleasant but looked a bit nervous, and as you often see in Australia, the staff was kind of friendly at times but mixed in a bit of attitude and, frankly, ignorance about the correct way to serve.

For my entree I ordered crab with polenta. This was pretty bland, to the extent that I had to put salt and pepper on it just to make it seem interesting. This was followed by suckling lamb with mache which in my opinion was over-done, chewy (and there was loads of it). For dessert, after being told there was no chocolate gelato, we eventually found out there was so I ordered this. This was really no better than something from the supermarket freezer. Frankly, the roast my mother cooked me with apple strudel the previous evening was a nicer meal.

In terms of wine, we ordered a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir which was delicious - but at $125 it kind of smacks of pretension for a NZ wine with a screw top, lovely though they often are.

Hmmm. I wouldn't be going back to Icebergs in a hurry except if I had some overseas visitors for lunch and I wanted a place with a view. Do the words "tourist trap" come to mind?