Taillevent Robuchon - French ***
Address - Tokyo-to, Meguro-ku, Mita 1-13-1 Ebisu Garden Place
Opening hours - 11:30 14:00 and 17:30 to 21:00
Telephone - 03-5424-1338
Menu - In Japanese and French
Credit Cards - OK
Some time ago an old customer of mine was so kind to invite me to a company dinner. The venue turned out to be at a French restaurant called Taillevent Robuchon. TR is the first, and so far last, "neckties required" restaurant I have been to. You see, although Italian, I usually look like a tramp, and that suits me just fine, so to go I had to buy a used jacket in Harajuku for 2000 yen and borrow a tie. I nonetheless looked really, really spiffy.
To go back to our subject, saying that jacket and ties are required doesn't even begin to adequately describe the atmosphere. Excess is the theme, here. To begin with, our restaurant occupies an entire building, and what a building! It's built to look like an 18th century patrician countryside residence: the only thing missing is the ivy.
Since we are after all in Ebisu, on seeing it at first you tend to blame a sunstroke.
The belief that waste is a surefire sign of wealth is apparently not a monopoly of the Chinese, and the insanely lavish use of space continues inside the building, where we were led through an empty corridor to an elevator. On the third floor, the 20 odd of us occupied a huge room with just three tables.
Alas, with this the memorable part of the evening is over: the dinner was designed more to please vanities than palates, and I do not remember much, other that we got lots of jellies of one kind or another. Pomp and circumstance do not prevent mistakes from appearing in the French on the menu, which contains items like "LE FOIE GRAS DE CANARD GRILLE AU POIVRON ROUGE CONFIT ET ACIDULE AVEC UN JUS SAFRANE", whatever that means.
After the mandatory champagne, tiny plates of the said various jellied substances prettily decorated with squirts of this and that followed each other at generous intervals, brought to the tables by the numerous attending staff, maitres and sommelliers.
I must admit that as a way of eating it has its advantages. You don't gorge on food, you have the time to really taste it and have the opportunity to chat with your friends.
But it really is sad when you must say that the only thing that didn't impress you of a restaurant is the food, especially when it's as fantastically expensive as TR's: nothing below 5700 yen is on offer, and sets start at 17 thousand yen.
TR is predictably easy to find: from Ebisu station, follow the arrows to Ebisu Garden Place, and there you will HAVE to see it.
web : www.chateau.co.jp
Sabado Sabadete - Spanish
Address - 2F Genteel Shirogane-dai 5-3-2, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours - Open every day from 6:00pm to 1:00am
Telephone - 03-3445-9353, 03-3445-9363
Menu - In Japanese and English
Credit Cards - OK
In a lonely location in the middle of nowhere, Sabado Sabadete comes complete with Spanish cook, waiter in traditional Catalan costume, portrait of Salvador Dalì and a huge paella (the iron pan). The waiter is Señor Benito, the owner, and the cute Japanese girl is his daughter.
We were the only customers, that evening, but the place with its red bricks was friendly enough to dispel any negative vibes. After the mandatory olives, we had many different dishes, from the traditional paella to more exotic things like Catalan sausage and the like. Everything was good, but not brilliant, and a bit expensive. The location is sort of inconvenient. No, let's be frank, it's VERY inconvenient.
Being near Ebisu, Sabado Sabadete invites a comparison with Tio Danjo, which, in spite of its Japanese-only staff, wins on almost every count. Sabado Sabadete is not bad, but I cannot see why I should return there when I can go to Tio Danjo and not take a bus, spend slightly less, have food with a little more zest, and enjoy the very same Pacharan.
Tio Danjo - Spanish *****
Address - Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 1-12-5 Ogihara Bldg 3-2 F
Opening hours - 5:30 pm to 1:00 am
Telephone - 03-5420-0747
Menu - In Japanese and Spanish
Credit Cards - OK
Although nominally Italian, I have never been to Spain and know very little about its food. I am therefore not qualified to judge Tio Danjo's food authenticity, but I can certainly guarantee that it's good. I got fairly drunk fairly early during the meal, so I don't remember many details, but we had mostly Tapas, small dishes more meant I think as appetizers than as a meal, but they were so pleasant that I recommend them to all of you: calamari in tomato sauce, jamon (Spanish raw ham), excellent olives (the best I've found so far, cured with more than 15 ingredients and of themselves worth a trip to Ebisu), sausages, stews and other stuff like that.
The owner, Danjo-san, used to cook French food, but then, because of the inflation of French restaurants currently afflicting our beloved capital, decided to change direction. And what a happy choice it was. The bill will make the cheapskates among us balk, though: 5000 yen per head, minimum. The place is very small, so it's wise to book ahead.
Bistro Mikami - French
Reviewed by Alan Hulse
Address - 153-0051 Meguro-ku, Kami Meguro 1-17-4
Opening hours - Lunch, 12:00-14:00. Dinner, 18:00-24:00
Telephone - 03-5722-3492
Menu - In fractured French and Japanese
One Saturday in December, 2002, my companion MN and I visited the tiny French restaurant Bistro Mikami north of Naka Meguro Eki on the Toyoko Sen, two local stops out of Shibuya Eki. It is a tiny place with nine seats at the bar and two tables with two seats each. Perhaps, the place had once been a tiny Japanese-style bar. The dark-wood bar, cabinets, and floors along with the sit-next-to-your fellow diners reminded me of a real French place, although the menu is completely in Japanese on a chalk board.
I ordered a decent, half carafe of 1997 St. Emillion for Y2800 served in crystal glasses. We were impressed with the giant collection of appetizer offerings but, being used to regular French restaurants, we did not at first realize this was a kaiseki-style joint with French fare; we ordered a set menu at Y4000 a person. Offered a selection of 5 appetizers, I ordered duck terrine to go alongside whatever the staff suggested. I got the terrine (wrapped in bacon and not fat as I had eaten a few days before at Harajuku's Aux Bacchanales), potato quiche, crabe frites on a ratouille which cleansed a slightly greasy palate, a terrine with egg with a slight eggy aftertaste, and foie gras with a red-wine sauce on grilled daikon. Another item was a large, fresh clam served with an escargot sauce; all were fine.
Interesting to note was that each dish is served on a separate plate from different manufacturers of porcelain; most of it was rather ordinary, cheap Japanese stuff, but I was surprised to see some of it served on Cunard's QE2 porcelain made by Onga.
After this tantalizing array of appetizers, we received our entrees; mine was a pork chop served with plum sauce stewed in tomato with roast potato, carrot, broccoli and sliced kabu, and MN's was two grilled lamb chops served with rock mustard (the vegetables were the same). Both meats were somewhat overcooked, which was a letdown after such great appetizers.
This phenomenon led us to be more observant of the hip, mostly young, clientele; we were the only ones who ordered a set course; MN noted the others seemed very precise in what they were ordering and were creating suave, custom-ordered sets; the others ordered a long stream of appetizers with some sort of pasta at the end; MN also noted that a kaiseki-style courses always ends with rice after a litany of tiny servings of this and that; we determined that the place was kaiseki-style in its presentation and French in its cuisine, but not its style. One older gentleman, though, openly spoke to the staff about his recent visit to Aladin (supposedly a famous French restaurant); the food was good, it seems, but the service slow.
Desserts, mine crème brulee & MN's sesame bramanche (?), were both very light. You are served a cup of espresso as part of the course. Although I declined mine, but ordered a glass of mark in its stead, MN said the quality of coffee was quite good.
The head waitress, presumably the owner of Bistro Mikami along with her husband cooking behind the open kitchen with an assistant, was a sunny-minded woman who was clearly going to get at the bottom of any question in a direct, but pleasant manner. We did not ask a lot of questions, but the second waitress - a newcomer to the place: she did the dishes - was replaced by a fellow who came in at 21:00 and seemed to be an old hand.
We spent about Y12000 and will surely return, but will be more knowledgeable about how to approach this eclectic, kaiseki-style, French menu.
Piola - Italian
Reviewed by Michiko Braemer
Address - 1-5-1, Shirogane, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0072
Opening hours - Mon-Sat. 11:30-14:00 & 18:00-22:30 (LO); Sun 11:30-14:00 & 18:00-21:30 (LO)
Telephone - 03-3442-5244
Menu - In English and Italian
Credit Cards - OK
I have been to Piola three or four times, mostly because some friends of mine like it. Personally speaking I feel there's a lot of restaurants much closer to home, just as good and usually cheaper. Two thousand yen for a plate of pasta seem to me a little hard to justify, even though the taste is admittedly good. Including wine, one ends up spending 15 thousand yen or more.
Piola does have its strong points: it has plenty of space on four floors (the first is an Italian-style bar, the others house the restaurant), a pleasant atmosphere, many wines, sophisticated food, it's open until late ... but in the end one just feels that it's a bit too pricey and too inconveniently located to deserve a trip.
: Piola is an Italian restaurant that was once recommended to me by the owner of Al Doge. I haven't been there yet, mainly because Shirogane is well hidden and away from all train and subway lines. It's equally far from Meguro, Hiroo, Shinagawa ... I just ended up listing it under Meguro. Why travel so far when there's so much, and so much closer? That's in a nutshell what Michiko, a great expert of Italian food, says too ...