Nico's Reviews ( French )

Sort by > Rate / Date
  • Peter, Peninsula Hotel: Yurakucho (Bars / Ginza)
  • 2014/08/24
  • The setting at Peter is designed to feel the love. Lots of tables for twos, where you sit side-by-side while contemplating the Tokyo skyline and the imperial palace. The room is sleek, the service is on point, everything you'd want to make it a night.

    The food is good too. Just un-original. At their prices, you'd expect the kitchen to be striving for a little more. The set menu started with a trio of tuna -- the most interesting of the three bites was a pan-fried but still raw in the center piece of tuna with a walnut on top. I'm not sure yet that tuna and walnut go together, but it was a step in the right direction.

    We were later served a piece of pan-fried bass, and then the real purpose of the meal came: a side-by-side degustation of three cuts of beef. Australian tenderloin, American ribeye and Japanese wagyu battling it out on the plate. I've never understood the fascination with tenderloin, so although this was a fine one, it lost on flavor. My favorite was the ribeye while my dining companion chose the wagyu. Unlimited olive rolls tasted great and were used to mop up steak juices. The steak is high quality and grilled perfectly.

    The dessert was where creativity shone more. It was a combination of banana foster with a cookie on top. Was like a childhood memory.

    All in all, i enjoyed my evening at Peter. It was like visiting an old friend where there are no surprises left. you get good steak, good seafood, but no curveballs or anything that you didn't anticipate.
  • Les Creations de Narisawa (French / Omotesando, Aoyama)
  • 2012/09/29
  • I like a restaurant with a sense of humor, and the amuse bouche at Narisawa was basically a fuck you to fine dining -- an onion ring. Mind you, not just an onion ring: the batter was made with charred spring onions, and it came on a beautifully preserved leaf. It was a nice first bite, and it set a lighter tone for the rest of the meal. Likewise, my other favorite thing was the bread and butter service. The cube of butter looks like it's covered in moss thanks to black olive and parsley powder.

    I went for lunch, when you can choose between a lunch menu (7,500 yen), or the full dinner menu (21,000 yen). The table next to us got the full dinner menu, and it's hard to see why it costs three times as much. True, they got a few extra dishes, but they also got a lot of the same dishes we got, and overall it didn't seem to make the experience three times better.

    My other favorite dish was the dessert: a hollowed pineapple filled with coconut, passion fruit, pudding, tapioca, lime and other treats. The chefs have a thing for table-side theater, and the waiter finishes the dish by shaking a coconut sauce in a cocktail maker and pouring it on top. I've rarely had so much fun carving the sides of the pineapple and mixing it with the innards of the dessert.

    The fish course was unfortunately a downer. It consisted basically of Provence flavors: tomatoes, capers, olives, basil that were baked inside a plastic bag with a piece of mackerel and potatoes. The fish was overcooked, and the presentation tableside of a plastic bag that the waiter then snips open for you didn't cause much wonder.

    On the other hand, the seafood and asparagus appetizer was delicious, especially how the butter and anchovy dressing complemented the bitter wild greens that topped the dish.

    The meal is crowned in the end with an assortment of little pastries and macaroons. Here, things were hit and miss, and I wished the kitchen would do fewer of them but make the quality more consistent.

    I was ticked off that the restaurant offered my female dining companion a menu with no prices. Is this sexist thing still necessary? Also, for a restaurant that talks sustainability, I was annoyed that if you ask for water, they automatically open a bottle of mineral water instead of offering perfectly acceptable tap.

    I can see why this restaurant has earned two michelin stars, and regularly makes the list of the best 50 restaurants in the world. Food is creative, and there are moments of brilliance here and there (I just wish they were more consistent). Service in English is available.
  • Les Enfants Gates (French / Daikanyama)
  • 2009/08/26
  • The staff at Les Enfants Gates know that the quality is high, and are not afraid to brag about it.

    While I was waiting for my first course to arrive, I asked to borrow one of the terrine recipe books that were lined up against the wall. The waiter brought it over, after telling me that regular customers bring these books back as souvenirs. Later when he brought my amuse bouche, he couldn’t help himself, and proudly pronounced the book’s recipes “rustic,” and that their terrines were far superior to what I was reading.

    The highlight of my meal was the dessert sangria terrine. The wine jelly combined the flavors of mulled wine and sangria, only in solid state, while the grapes had been carefully peeled, and poached to perfection. The fromage blanc ice cream was a nice contrast to the tart terrine, while a few drops of vanilla honey counterbalanced the acidity.

    While it would be tempting to file away Les Enfants Gates as simply a terrine restaurant, every dish that I tried looked simple at first, but revealed its complexity in layers. The terrine de campagne was a scrumptious mix of foie gras, chicken liver, pork, pistachios and rabbit. The flavors had fused to perfection, and after inquiring I found out that they rest their terrine for over two weeks to achieve those results.

    Likewise, when I was told that the soup was a 12-vegetable mix, I immediately thought that somebody was trying to clear the fridge in the kitchen. But when it arrived, the balance between the ingredients was superb, and the vegetables never fought with another other. It also helped that for an extra 300 yen, they shaved summer truffles on top, making an excellent dish even better.

    The amuse bouche terrine (smoked salmon and summer vegetables) paled in complexity to the other dishes, but was memorable for a dollop of whipped creme fraiche sitting on the side. My fish dish tricked me into believing that the sauce would be a sweet mix of summer veggies, but turned out to be quite sour from the addition of vinegar. The fish dish was not something I immediately liked, but it forced my palate to go in new directions and open up to new flavor combinations.

    A complete lunch, together with one glass of white wine costed 8,400 yen. Not a bargain, but worth the experience. The food is of high caliber, and the cooks have some serious skill. The food also feels that it was cooked with confidence -- they know it’s good, so eat up. I am happy I did.
  • Boulangerie Patisserie Viron: Shibuya (Bakery / Shibuya)
  • 2009/08/13
  • There’s no question that the level of baking is high at Viron, but it’s overpriced. Bread goes from being a staple to an object of fashion and admiration, and is priced accordingly.

    Over the course of a few visits, I have tried their croissants, tarts, breads and also sat at the cafe upstairs. Every time I have been satisfied with the level of baking. A puff pastry tart with an almond filling was rich and buttery; the smell of yeast and butter in the croissant was intoxicating; the poolish bread was a solid piece of white bread, while the raspberry-chocolate croissant was simply decadent. But every time I was blown away by the quality, a nagging thought in the back of my head reminded me that I had overpaid for my pleasure.

    There are other bakeries in Tokyo, such as Maison Kayser, that deliver comparable quality for slightly cheaper prices. If you don’t care whether the flour came from France, then one of those places might be better for you. But if you’re after a bakery that turns baked goods into objects of desire, then Viron is where you want to be.
  • Tateru Yoshino: Shiodome (Bars / Shimbashi)
  • 2009/08/06
  • First a disclaimer: This review is based solely on the cocktails.

    Now that I got that out of the way, they were delicious. I ended up at the Park Hotel because I got kicked out of the nearby Conrad hotel when I dared to show up wearing short pants to their exclusive night bar. The sight of my bare legs was too much for them, so we rode the elevator down and headed for the Park Hotel, where we thought they wouldn’t care as much. And they didn’t. Points for friendliness.

    The menu featured most of the classic cocktails, but I was immediately attracted to a strong list of 10-20 original cocktails. I ordered a concoction made with calvados, tonic water, soda water and mint, which was refreshing and balanced. My companion opted for a sweeter cocktail made with cream, benedictine and some other ingredients we couldn’t decipher, and it was also tasty.

    We enjoyed our evening admiring the skyline, but unfortunately a few nearby buildings block quite a bit of it, so you might be better off elsewhere for the view.

    Where Tateru Yoshino really came alive was during the second round of drinks. I was at a loss with what to order, so asked the bartender for his recommendation. Instead of suggesting something from the menu, he asked me what kind of cocktails I enjoy, to which I replied that sour and with soda water. He repeated the question to my companion, and then disappeared without saying more. When he returned with two new drinks, we tried asking what they were, but he simply smiled and said, “they are my recommendation.” Both were stunning and spot on on what we asked for. We also never found out what they were.

    Drinks are not cheap. For two drinks each, the bill came to 8,800 yen. Budget about 1,500-2,000 yen per cocktail plus a 1,000 yen table charge.

    The drinks are top level, and the service was quite friendly. I am sure the food next door at the restaurant is amazing, but don’t overlook the bar.
  • Aux Bacchanales: Akasaka (French / Yotsuya)
  • 2008/09/04
  • Aux Bacchanales is popular with the foreign crowd, and it’s easy to see why. As soon as you walk in, you feel like somewhere in continental Europe, with crusty bread, waiters with an attitude and tables overlooking the street.

    The food however was pretty mediocre, and so were the pastries. I ordered the lunch of the day, which turned out to be fish with cous cous and tomato salad. Something went afoul when making this dish because it tasted metallic. Also, most restaurants would throw something else in for a 1,200 yen lunch, but here I got the plate of food, a slice of bread with no butter and that was it.

    I picked up an almond croissant on my way out (350 yen), and it turned out to be 90% pastry cream, 10% almonds...not exactly what I expected when ordering almond croissants.

    There are better French bistros out there...no reason to patronize this one.
  • Pas a Pas (French / Yotsuya)
  • 2008/09/04
  • Pas a pas is a cute bistro with alright food.

    The place is run down, the tablecloths have seen better times, the walls could use a fresh coat of paint, a new door is in order and the toilet is definitely not the highlight. In some bizarre way, however, all these imperfections lend the place an aura of authenticity -- as if saying “I’ve been here for long and will never disappear.”

    The food had a few hit and misses, but tasted better than the big daddy of French bistros, Aux Bachannales. I started with a salad with pickled fish, to be continued by a generous portion of fish on cabbage and fresh tomatoes. The fish was good, flaky and moist (The lunch special was 1,500 yen).

    Dessert was a tart that was supposed to be peach. It tasted like dough for the most part with a hint of peach when I found the fruit like Christopher Columbus found America.

    Pas a pas is a bit out of the way, and keep in mind that the entrance is on the back side of the street -- not the main road. If in the area, not a bad place for lunch.
  • Pour Toi (French / Akasaka)
  • 2008/07/01
  • There’s nothing refined about Asterix, but the food is an amazing deal.

    For only 2,000 yen (lunch), I got a hearty portion of rack of lamb, really nice smoked salmon, and an assortment of homemade pies. It couldn’t get any better.

    The food is French, but there’s nothing upscale like sauces applied with a dropper...the food is hearty, plentiful, and rustic. I really enjoyed the flavors, and walked away happy.

    Asterix works with an open kitchen, and it’s in dire need of an upgrade...if you’re going to run an open kitchen, it has to look better than that. The food is good, but I still don’t want to see walls covered in a layer of grease. The service was also rushed, with only one person trying to keep up with a full room.

    My take is to definitely visit, in full knowledge that the reason why you get such an amazing deal is that you have to watch the chef smoke and curse in French in the kitchen and have a hard time flagging the waitress.
  • Au Gout du Jour Nouvelle Ere (French / Tokyo Station)
  • 2008/06/10
  • The food is French-inspired at Nouvelle Ere, but the thinking is global, and many interesting combinations, some of which were a first for me, appeared on the plate. And lots of foams.

    The most memorable part of the meal were the desserts. Nouvelle Ere is known for them, and my trio of chocolate temptations was superb. A gooey chocolate tart, chocolate ice cream and ganache with coffee foam were absolutely stunning. The mango ice cream in the other dessert was equally intense, while the mango tarte tatin was a nice twist on a classic. At the end, together with our coffee, we were also served a small piece of chocolate “cake” with passion fruit and lemon mousse, which was equally stunning.

    The other dish that left a strong impression was the corn soup, if you can call it that. The bottom of the glass was filled with a dense corn “mousse,” topped with a lighter corn soup mixed with shiso, and garnished with caramelized and burnt corn kernels. Absolutely gorgeous.

    The seafood dish was quite light -- a piece of salmon poached in olive oil (I think) with a sesame crust, served with wasabi foam, cucumber noodles and an incredibly sweet tomato slice. The second seafood course was less successful -- spicy cous cous with clam foam and grilled scallops, squid and clams. I wasn’t crazy about the combinations and the foam seemed out of place here.

    The meat dish was a first for me. We were served a sweet and sour piece of “beef throat” or basically the part that hangs underneath the jaw. Personally, I didn’t care for this cut of meat, but I had never even heard of it before, and enjoyed giving it a try. The reds available by the glass (1,000-1,300 yen worked well here).

    The room is small, and surprisingly quiet. The service was attentive, though sometimes I wished the waiters had a bit more of a sense of humor -- they seemed overtly serious, but that happens a lot at high-end dinning places. Definitely make reservations, and if you can, request one of the tables for two by the window, which enjoy a superb view of Tokyo station.
  • L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (French / Roppongi)
  • 2008/05/23
  • L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is one of those restaurants that I’ve been wanting to go for a long time, and it exceeded my already heightened expectations -- no wonder it got two Michelin stars.

    My interest in L’Atelier started with an interview I saw with Joel Robuchon in which he lamented the stiff and overtly formal atmosphere at high-end French restaurants (even though he runs a few of those, including one in Tokyo that got three Michelin stars). The concept behind L’Atelier is to do away with the excessive formalities, but still serve top-notch food, and they did.

    The seating is almost all at the counter overlooking an open kitchen, but there’s a couple of tables for bigger groups. From those counter seats we saw the kitchen whip up one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. The absolute highest point was the appetizer of the Menu Dejeneur B (5,400 yen); broadbean puree on a tomato salad, served with a parmesan cheese galette. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious this dish was. It was light, the flavors intense, and everything worked in harmony.

    My dining companion (who ordered a cheaper lunch set at 2,950 yen) and I quickly figured out that the forte of the kitchen are the vegetables. The eggplants underneath our roasted fish in butter/balsamic sauce were absolutely stunning, and so was the salad-soup cappuccino with seafood. Everything we ate was good, but the smoked salmon tartare paled in comparison to some of the other dishes.

    For main dish I opted for a piece of foie gras on parmesan cheese risotto (1,680 yen additional). The foie was a perfect medium rare with a nice caramelized crust outside, but the strong liver smell turned us off.

    Dessert again was a masterpiece. On one side, yogurt ice cream with passion fruit sauce and crumbles, and on the other fromage blanc with mango, passion fruit puree and mango jelly. I am a sucker for sour desserts, and this was my equivalent of a dessert wet dream. On your way out definitely drop by the bakery next door where the tarts and canneles are excellent.

    L’Atelier gets it right in doing away with the stiffness. I wore jeans and a tshirt, and didn’t feel out of place in the least. They also leave an amazing bread basket by the table, with which you can mop up the sauces (and I used my fingers after a while too). The service was polite, quick, and without the attitude.

    L’Atelier adds up to one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. Because we went at lunch time, our bill didn’t shoot out of proportions and the whole thing came to 12,000 yen with a drink and the service charge. I can only recommend this place.
  • Le Bretagne: Omotesando (French / Omotesando, Aoyama)
  • 2008/05/23
  • La Bretagne is absolute French comfort food.

    The galettes are made with buckwheat flour and finished to a nice crisp outside. I got the savory and sweet set lunch (1800 yen), and received a salad and two crepes. The first was tomato, ham, mushrooms and cheese, while the sweet one was ice cream with strawberry jam.

    The store has a nice atmosphere, and the outdoor seats are excellent for people watching.

    The low point definitely comes in service. On both my visits I had trouble getting the servers to pay attention to our table. One time we asked for condiments, only to receive them 15 minutes later once we were done eating, while on a second occasion I had to remind them that I had ordered a sweet crepe because they had simply forgotten. The restaurant seems pretty busy, but the service is definitely on the casual end of the spectrum.

    The food is good, and comforting. There’s no attempt to reinvent the wheel in the flavor combinations, but everything that they put out works.
  • Chemins (French / Tameikesanno)
  • 2008/05/09
  • Chemins delivered interesting food with unexpected twists and flawless service. No wonder it got a Michelin star.

    I ordered the lunch set with one hors d’oeuvre (2,800 yen + 10 % service + water charge (700 yen for St. Pellegrino)). There’s a list of about eight you can choose from, and I went for a boudin noir spring roll. The server looked a bit shocked at my choice, and later confided that, unsurprisingly, few customers go for boudin noir, but they love to serve it. I can see why people wouldn’t be attracted to blood pudding and apple sauce, but it tastes wonderful. The crispy spring roll made for great contrast with the soft innards, and the balsamic vinegar reduction and the salad cut through the richness.

    The main course is a choice between meat or fish, and it changes daily. I asked for braised beef cheeks with a creamy pasta/bean sprout combo on the side. I didn’t really care for the pasta -- it was too rich and I needed something lighter to contrast the beef cheeks. The meat however was so tender I could cut it with a fork, and tasted rich and scrumptious.

    Dessert is where Chemins came to live once again with a superb trio of sweet bites. One of them was an odd cabbage ice cream that tasted exactly like cabbage, except that I enjoyed eating it in sweet form. The orange jelly was less memorable, but the chocolate cake was one of the best I’ve ever had -- light in consistency but rich in flavour.

    The room is bright thanks to massive windows on the side, and the service hit the right balance of being friendly without getting in the way of my meal. I can only recommend Chemins.
  • Vieille Vigne MAXIM'S de Paris (French / Akasaka)
  • 2008/04/07
  • My impression of Vieille Vigne is that of a restaurant that plays it by the books. The service is impeccable, the food doesn’t stray far from classical French, and overall it offers a good experience without being memorable.

    Things started with Fiji water, which is the bottled water of choice of water snobs (aka connoisseurs) these days. I asked to be served water, and this is what the waitress automatically brought over (and later charged me 350 yen for it; a charge i wasn’t told about). There’s also unlimited bread from the amazing Dominique Saibron bakery.

    The set lunch menus (2,800 yen) come inside a cocotte, which is an iron cast pot. I ordered the chicken volette course, which was chicken in a cream sauce with vegetables and potatoes. The set also included an appetizer of mashed potatoes with crispy bread, and a duck liver pate. The best part of the food was the pepper crushed on the side of the pate. On the food it would have been overpowering, but on the side I could smell it and enjoy it as part of the dish.

    The dessert comes separate, and I ordered the house specialty at the suggestion of the waitress: strawberry meulle fille with a cup of coffee (1050 yen). The slice was massive, and well accomplished.

    When a store takes itself as seriously as Vielle Vigne, I expect more for my yen, and there were some low notes. The chicken was overcooked, and no matter how much cream sauce they drowned it in, it still tasted dry. There was also a lack of risk in the food; it all tasted good but nothing that is worth remembering...in a few months i will have definitely forgotten all about Vieille Vigne. For a lunch that costed almost 5,000 yen when you add the service charge, the meal should have left a stronger impression.
  • Breizh Cafe Creperie (French / Akasaka)
  • 2008/03/27
  • Breizh's outdoor seating offers one of the best spots for people-watching at Akasaka Sacas. From here you can spot all the fashionistas, office workers, families and anybody else who comes around the complex.

    The food is simple and straightforward: French-style galettes (buckwheat crepes) with all kinds of savory and sweet fillings. We ordered galettes for lunch, with caramelized onions, cheese and eggs; cheese, eggs and spinach; and eggs, tomatoes and cheese.

    The galettes were crispy outside, and the innards were quite tasty. I did find however the sides of my galette lacking in toppings -- it would have been nice to have a bit more cheese in there.

    Most galettes range in the 1200-1600 range, which is a bit pricey, but considering the location and the people-watching facilities, it's not all that crazy.

    On the whole, Le Bretagne in Harajuku serves similar galettes, and I did like the atmosphere and the food there a bit better.
  • CLOSED -- Le garcon de la vigne (French / Hiroo)
  • 2008/01/02
  • I had read enough about Le garcon de la vigne (A boy from the vineyards in French) that I knew I wanted to love this place. Luckily, it exceeded my expectations and has become one of those places that I want to bring people over to enjoy superb cooking, healthy ingredients and excellent wine pairings.

    The owner is a Japanese sommelier who worked in France for several years as an organic winemaker, and he is also in charge of the front of the house. The restaurant is obviously influenced by his love of wine, and beyond the collection of glasses and decanters, there's lots of wine objects scattered around such as old wine openers or a box of Romani Conti (one of the most expensive wines in the world). The wine list is not posted, but it's all organic and with an emphasis on French wines which is what he knows best. The wines are almost all available by the glass, and I would ask him to suggest the pairing as he is clearly a master in this regard. The pairing that he suggested for my salmon dish (1200 yen per glass) was perfect.

    The organic philosophy also translates into the work of the kitchen. Le garcon de la vigne has a working relationship with a number of organic farms in Chiba, and the menu changes according to the seasons and what they receive from the farms; that is, the farms pick whatever is at their prime and the restaurant changes its menu to feature those items. The fish, whenever possible, is local and wild, and the beef comes from local herds that while not certified organic, are raised according to what they call “stress-free beef.”

    My first taste of the kitchen was a cold potato cream soup (800 yen), while on a different occasion it turned into a cold carrot soup. Both were superb and light; just perfect to open up my appetite for what was to come next. The fish of the day (2000 yen) was roasted wild salmon in a caper sauce garnished with caramelized carrots and sauteed greens. The fish was absolutely exquisite...caramelized on the outside and still moist and slightly raw in the middle. Finally, dessert was a cr?me brulee (500 yen), to which they secretly added orange peel, and which came together with caramelized almonds and an excellent homemade chocolate truffle.

    The room is small and inviting; this is a restaurant that makes you want to linger around and take in the surroundings. Having said that, the coziness translates into few tables available. Le garcon de la vigne can only seat 18 customers at a time, and by my calculation, the biggest group they can accommodate would be six people, so reservations are definitely a good idea. This is a restaurant that fuses ethical food with great cooking technique, awesome wines, superb service and extra little something that only some restaurants can pull off. This is one you don't want to miss.
  • L'AMITIE (French / Takadanobaba)
  • 2007/12/27
  • L'Amitie delivers a delicious French bistro experience at reasonable prices. This cute little restaurant is unassumingly tucked away near Takadanobaba station, and once past the doors, the smells of rustic French cooking take over.

    The best way to go here is to order a course menu that offers a choice of appetizer and main dish. The menu changes a bit according to the seasons, but some of the appetizers available include crudities, avocado and shrimp tartare, escargots and chicken liver mousse. We opted for a salad with shaved raw ham on top, which was well dressed but a generous slice of homemade pate wrapped in a fat netting and served with mustard and baguette slices stole the appetizer show.

    The main menu features some classics of bistro cooking such as steak et frites (steak and french fries) or charcuterie (cold cuts usually served with sauerkraut). The menu features a daily fish creation, which in our case turned out to be scallops browned in butter served with beans and a tomato sauce. The scallops were correctly cooked to a brown caramelized point on the outside and still raw in the center. The other dish was a leg of duck confit served on a bed of white beans and sausage. The duck’s skin was crisp and salty, while the meat was so tender it fell off the bone.

    L’Amitie serves wines by the glass and also carries some inexpensive bottles to go with your meal. This is a great find, and the kind of restaurant you wish not many people knew about so you can impress friends, dates and family when bringing them here. Beware that L’Amitie is small, so reservations are a good idea, especially if coming with a big group.
  • Le Coupe Shou (French / Shinjuku)
  • 2007/10/10
  • I think I was feeling overtly critical about food when I visited “Le coupe chou” in shinjuku, because I kept finding little details in the food that bothered me. I felt that their dishes are aiming for world-class cuisine and therefore I expected them to be flawless, but considering the price range, this restaurant offers good value for their menu.

    I had the full lunch set (1575 yen), which included an appetizer, soup, main and dessert. The appetizer was a seafood salad marinated in olive oil and herbs topped with green leaves. The seafood portion was huge and had plenty to chew on (mostly octopus), but I felt it was a tad too oily. Things then proceeded to a flawless carrot potage (creamy carrot soup), which then gave way to the main dish. There was a choice between roast pork and sauteed scallops. Given the scolding Tokyo summer heat, I thought against the roast and went for the lighter scallops. Again, here I thought the scallops could have been better cooked so they caramelized on the outside but stayed rare in the middle. The sauce ?a white wine cream sauce -- was a bit too sweet but that could easily be fixed using a sourer white wine. Dessert was a coconut panacotta.

    The dinner menu at Le coupe chou looks like quite a treat, and the prices are within range of most wallets. The wine list is also well constructed with plenty of excellent choices in the 2000-3500 range. I would particularly recommend the Chilean wine “Marques de Casa Concha,” which would be a good choice for meat dishes, and is an excellent wine in its own right, and priced competitively.

    On the whole, I feel that Le coupe chou has bigger aspirations, but wants to keep its menu within an affordable range, and therefore the occasional minor flaws appear. Nonetheless, it still is a good choice for affordable French dining in Shinjuku.
  • Aux Bacchanales: Roppongi (French / Tameikesanno)
  • 2007/07/16
  • Aux Bacchanales bills itself as an authentic French-style brasserie together with being a cafe and a bakery. This is probably one of the few places where the waiters sport long hair and look as if they only shave occasionally if the mood strikes them that morning. To compound the illusion that you are no longer in Tokyo, the staff shout their orders in French to each other (un cafe si vous plait) and the patio features rows of tables overlooking the street adding to the impression that you are in Paris.

    The food is rather good. I've visited for lunch a few times and have always been satisfied. On this particular occasion I ordered the fish dish of the day, which turned out to be a fish mousse wrapped in cabbage and served with a clam-based cream sauce. Another time I had the pork roast, which was super tender and melted in my mouth. Be warned however that the portions are small. To finish satiating my hunger, I took advantage of the unlimited baguettes you can order from your waiter (there is a charge for the butter though).

    Aux Bacchanales also runs a cafe and bakery service. At the end of your meal, ask the waiter for the cakes of the day and s/he will bring to your table a tray with the day's offerings. If not, head by yourself to the baked goodies section and tell the cashier to put your dessert on a plate. The baked goods are not superb, but not bad either. They are among few places in Tokyo that make Palmiers, though I found theirs too sweet.

    This is a popular destination for foreigners. The restaurant knows that and either some of the staff speaks English or they are very used to serving foreigners. If you happen to visit the branch near the Akasaka Mitsuke station, try to secure a patio table, which overlooks a gorgeous Japanese garden on the other side of the road. Bring business associates, friends, dates, family or even for solo dinning Aux Bacchanales is a good choice.
  • Toranto Towa (French / Ikebukuro)
  • 2007/07/13
  • I was immediately curious about why this restaurant is called “33.” Some North American restaurants have picked up the habit of calling themselves after their street number, so you end up with places called 941 or 587. In Japan this would make no sense since you'd end up with something like 3-12-15, which is not as glamorous. At any rate, the chef/owner of 33 opened it when he was 33 years old and hence the name.

    Stepping into 33 is stepping into an oasis of quiet in Ikebukuro. The music is soft, the fresh flowers are gorgeous and the room invites to you relax and enjoy some exquisite French food. I ordered the lunch course which includes appetizer, main dish and dessert. I had heard that 33 is best known for their fish dishes so I ordered both fish to test them out (not to say that with 35 degrees outside I didn't feel like having a roast with creamy mustard sauce). The appetizer was a light salad with a confit of some small fish I couldn't identify. The fish came whole, and was supposed to be eaten heads, tails and all. I can't say I really liked this as the fish tasted a tad bitter. All through the meal, the waitress continued to bring me warm rolls with which I cleared a slab of butter that showed up before the meal started. The main course was a perfectly fried piece of aji served with assorted vegetables (cabbage primarily) on a lemony butter sauce. The waitress was quite knowledgeable about wine and picked an excellent light white wine to go with my fish. In fact, 33 has a good selection of wines by the glass, and a reasonably priced wine list that features only French bottles.

    Dessert came in the form of a raspberry mousse with raspberry sherbet and half a fig. The sherbet was the best part ? sour and refreshing. A coffee to end the meal and I was ready to face the Tokyo summer heat again.

    33 would be a great place for special occasions. The dinner menu features a longer course meal, and there's also the possibility of ordering a la carte. The space is quite small (I only counted eight tables) so reservations are definitely a good idea.