Monday, July 7, 2008

Pivoine, Monzennakacho (Botan)

Periodically I walk randomly around my neighborhood, especially the streets I don’t often go to, hoping that some new little place will have popped up. One night in February I was doing just that and, several blocks south of the minor shopping street that marks the southern boundary of town, saw a new place that looked oddly stylish. In fact, it looked just like a snappy French restaurant from some far, far nicer suburb than Monnaka. In fact, it WAS a snappy French restaurant, and it made a lot more sense once I went in (except that I never really figured out what they were doing in Monnaka).

I opened the door to a big dose of déjà vu when the waitress greeted me with a cheery ‘Oh, it’s you!’ sort of look, and we realized that we knew each other from plenty of dinners at Merveille (referenced mercilessly in my other reviews). Turns out that one of the sous-chefs left to start his own place, and she went with him. Or something like that. Definitely they used to work together at Merveille, but I was halfway through a bottle of wine and trying to speak all Japanese.

Since I was by myself I was happy to work through that bottle and talk to her, but the food was actually pretty good. The chef did a number of things that were right in fashion for Matsumoto san at Merveille (the spring-roll trick, the flash-fried herbs trick…all good tricks) and did a nice job with the fish and meat. Everything had that fresh and clean quality that I love in French food (even when it’s heavy stuff)…dare I say, さっぱり? I felt like it was missing the last bit of flash though – almost like the understudy was trying to copy the master’s cooking. I’ve been meaning to stop in and try it again, but there aren’t many nights these days when I can eat 5 courses and drink a bottle of wine by myself! Getting too fat…

If you go, let me know how it is (or invite me). 03-5639-1817

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