Aux Bacchanales - French *****
Address - 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0094
Telephone - 03-5276-3422
Menu - In Japanese and French
Credit Cards - OK
Even though I didn't eat there all that often (too far for me for that), Aux Bacchanales in Harajuku was one of my favorite French restaurants. Their bread alone, with its infinite variations and tidal amounts, was worth five stars in my book and my heart.
It closed down some time back, and I am not a fan of Akasaka, where the closest surviving branch is.
That's no big deal, now, because there's a new branch in much more pleasant settings than that (see the photo). Kioicho might be close to Akasaka, but it's very different in atmosphere.
I went there for lunch for the first time some days ago and found that, even though they decided to shorten their bread list, the place is a worthy replacement of its predecessor.
First of all, I decided against eating in the restaurant proper and ate at the bar because its menu fit the moment better (take a look at their site). Having spent most of my adult life in Asia, I often prefer eating many small things at the same time, even when having western food. And for this, AB is perfect: brought some stuff from their own bakery to our table (you are actually allowed to do that), we ordered a salade nicoise, some sandwiches, two beers, fries and other minor stuff. We then gobbled the whole lot down while watching life flow outside, in the sun.
If you go there in the evening, of course, it can make sense to have a rather more formal meal (at a rather higher cost) at the restaurant proper (but that is the kind of food I personally can get also closer to home). In that case, expect excellent food at about 5000 yen apiece for the whole meal.
My old review of Aux Bacchanales, Harajuku branch, so you know what I thought of it
Aux Bacchanales, a huge place occupying the whole first floor of a building, is actually three different things at the same time; from left to right, as seen from Meiji Dori, it's a bakery selling very good bread, a cafè who manages to look quintessentially European meters away from Takeshita Dori and a welcoming picturesque restaurant where the menu changes every day and you can choose one of many dishes from a blackboard.
Their bread deserves special mention. Often, for example at La Tâche, I have spent a lot of money on food only to be served stale bread, even though it is essential to a good Italian or French meal and no self-respecting Latino would accept anything but fresh bread. As I have already said, I cannot take seriously an Italian, French or Spanish restaurant that doesn't serve good quality bread. At Aux Bacchanales it is FANTASTIC and served to you in tidal amounts and great variety. It alone would earn Aux Bacchanales my approval. The last time I was there, I had baguette, rye bread, bread with walnuts, bread with raisins, and other wonderful stuff I cannot even name. Recommended.
It might not be Haute Cuisine, but it surely is very enjoyable and affordable. For the paltry sum of a 1000 yen apiece including taxes, I had fish and lentils in mustard sauce and my friend broiled quail with vegetables, and they were both excellent. Accompanied by a little wine, good bread, and a relaxing, unpretentious atmosphere, they made a very pleasant meal.
At dinner things are a little different. There are more dishes to choose from, and everything costs more, so that it's hard to get away with less than a 5000 yen bill. But for that figure you get a table on Meiji Dori, a smiling waiter, six or seven kinds of bread, great food and a great dessert, a fig tart in my case. Go there with your lover: it's very romantic.
Finding Aux Bacchanales is very simple. It is at the intersection between Meiji Dori and Takeshita Dori.
web - www.auxbacchanales.com
Sans Souci - French
Received from Mitch Murata
Location - Akasaka, in alley across the street from ASENA (next to a coin laundry, of all places)
Telephone - 03-3505-6061
sanji's note : I could not find information on this restaurant. Still open???
Might be hard to find but absolutely worth it.
The owners --husband and wife -- were a Ginza-based French chef and sommellier respectively before deciding to set up their own shop. The food is excellent and the prix-fixe menu is an absolute delight -- at 3000 to 4000 yens, I would have gladly paid twice and still thought it a bargain. Fantastic deals like these are too rare in Tokyo.
For my first visit, I selected the 3000 yens prix-fixe which included smoked salmon salad, smoked duck entree (or a fish selection), an incredible petit-four of home-made sorbet, ice cream & cakes, & coffee (or home-made herbal teas -- about five choices). Breads are baked on the petit premises daily. We also opted for a Fr. cheese sampler before dessert.
Wine list reflects a diverse well-thought out selection - French, Italian, Californian, Australian - with a few interesting South African and Chilean offerings as well. For a small bistrot like this, diversity in such a wine list is either unheard of or outrageously expensive. Well, for whatever reason I don't know -- they have gotten away with it beautifully.
With only 3-4 tables plus a counter, it is best to call ahead for reservations.
: After reading Mitch's glowing review, I decided to visit Sans Souci myself. I confirm everything he says, perhaps toning down a little his entusiasm. The Japanese cook makes everything himself, including the excellent bread and the ice-cream. They don't seem to be in it for the money, which is great praise. A caveat: you must understand that, with only one cook and a waitress, Sans Souci's menu has to be very short. For the same reason, reservations are a must. It took me at least three tries before I could get in.
La Granata – Italian ****
Akasaka & Ginza
: Minato-ku, Akasaka 5-1-3, TBS Garden; La Granata has three branches: two (called La Granata and La Granata Moderna) are in the same basement of the TBS building in Akasaka, the third is in Ginza.
Opening hours - All opened every day from 11:00 am to 9:30 pm
: 03-3582-3241 (La Granata) & 03-3582-5891 (La Granata Moderna)
Menu - In Italian and Japanese
Credit Cards - OK
Granata is an Italian restaurant with a long and illustrious history: in the '80 it was the favorite of all Italian expats, but times have changed, and it no longer has the immense advantage it used to.
I hadn't been there in some years, so when a friend mentioned it as a possible venue for our dinner, I decided to go. And it was a good choice, because La Granata has changed greatly.
The old TBS building is being demolished to make room for something newer, so LG has found refuge in the building next door, the TBS Garden Building. The building itself is sort of hidden, so you have to be kind of struggle to find it. Alas,the new La Granata is way smaller (just seven tables) and rather anonymous. Service is punctiliously solicitous, as always, but the old atmosphere has gone.
The menu is also disappointingly short, which in a relatively expensive restaurant like this is a no venial sin.
All our food was good, and I even got grated pecorino (sheep cheese) instead of parmesan for my amatriciana, exactly as I would have in Rome. On the other hand, the bacon was American bacon, completely different from the one we use. Desserts were excellent and there was a splendid assortment of good grappas on offer.
And yet, as I mentioned, it somehow doesn't suffice, and I can't help thinking that at Il Bacaro I can get more for less without even trying. If I had little reason to go to La Granata before, I have even less now.
The branch in Ginza is much smaller and crowded, stylish but just too busy, service less perfect than in Akasaka and the food, while tasty, does not seem to be all that great.