Saturday, July 5, 2008

Au Gout du Jour Nouvelle Ere, Marunouchi

[July 5, 2011: Amusingly, my farewell lunch with my boss today turns out to be three years to the day after I went here for the first time. I can't even remember who I went with in 2008, so I'd have to guess she was un-amusing. What I said below is substantially correct based on this visit too - interior black and modern to a distracting degree, good cooking although somehow disappointing, desserts a notch better than expected though still a notch better than they oughta be, and everything a shade overpriced. Fully booked at lunch today; not sure how I got a table by calling at 10:30. And they still keep the door closed, with a 'fully booked' sign outside (now that I can read it, which I couldn't in 2008).
Go to Merveille.
That is all.]

Something of a departure for the Au Gout du Jour group considering the similarity of the other 2 restaurants I've been to (Merveille and Au Gout du Jour). Possibly in an attempt to live up to the Maru surroundings and view of Tokyo station, the interior is more black and chic. Did it have a cement floor? Maybe. I think it also had silly line drawings for art, like merveille certainly does and Au Gout du Jour may have.

The door was closed when we got got there, which was an interesting touch for a Shin-Maru restaurant - most of them are eagerly touting for custom, but here you had to take yourself in. I think it was booked out, so only those superior specimens with a good reason to go in would do so. I put off going here for a long time, because the food looked similar to Merveille but the prices were up a notch or two (cf 'Shin Maru'...). In summary, the surroundings and service were nice, the food was tasty, and I would absolutely go back... to Merveille yet again, saving myself a bit of time and money in the process.

Sticking in my mind are a couple of items...the asparagus appetizer was nice - on top was a baked paste of (I think) morilles. This was enjoyable in the way that only well-cooked asparagus can be, especially when you've only received two stalks and feel compelled to treat them very seriously and make them last. I'm afraid I can't remember the fish course. The meat course was beef cheek, the refuge of chefs who are trying to maximize profit from their courses. I don't think that's appropriate in the 2nd-level course, but it came with a sorta nice vegetable and pastry mille-feuille.

Desserts, oddly, redeemed the proceedings. I'm usually not a fan of desserts in Japanese French restaurants since I think they put no effort into them (following perfect meats with insipid roll cake, blanc manger, montblanc etc. is irritating). At Nouvelle Ere, there were enough interesting things on the menu that we actually ordered three desserts, prompting the expected flurry of confusion. I know there was a chocolate plate, I think there was a caramel plate (but I may be confusing this with Reims Yanagidate, which is a much better and only slightly more expensive place), but I mostly remember the orange-y cheesecake with citrus sauce. It was sort of 'boiled in bag', if you remember Uncle Ben, and came in a cup, still in the cheesecloth bag. People complained, as people are wont to do, that it had 'only one taste', which it did, but it was a good taste and it was our taste and we made it ours. And then we left.

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