Saturday, August 30, 2008

L’Osteria, Roppongi

UPDATE 11/14/08:
Had the Pranzo A for the first time. Y2600 seems like good value for the following. I'm not quite as rhapsodic as the same deal at Provinage, however...
- Appetizer: small leaf salad with fresh crab (delicious), small portion of roasted vegetables in olive oil with orange accent (a little weird but tasty)
- Pasta: Small pasta with salmon and spinach in cream sauce (salmon a little strong, but sauce very fresh-cream rich). Rigatoni with pork ragu (very fatty and tasty)
- Meat: Chicken roasted with onions, in lemon sauce. Crispy-skin flounder (better).
- Dessert: Profiteroles (chilled, chocolate sauce already applied...ah well, it's lunch)
- Coffee: Excellent as always, and the sugar comes in one of those too-too cute little copper sauce pans!

Original post follows___________________________________________________
When my boss lived in Japan, it was often a bit difficult to pick a place for lunch. He got to Tokyo several years before me, and lived right near the office in Roppongi. Thus he had been to a fair few of the local restaurants. And he was picky. When we tried to go someplace, he would often say ‘Been there for dinner. Didn’t like it.” which was a firm rejection. In much the same way, l’Osteria ranked as “actually not bad”, which was strong praise.

And it remains among my favorites. This is right up there in the civilized, make-you-forget-all-about-work sweepstakes, whether it’s the suited waiters, the quiet, dim room, the white tablecloths, or the plantbox-filled terrace outside (now covered!). The only downside is that tends to take a while – budget 90 minutes from your desk in Roppongi Hills to lunch and back, and you won’t go wrong – but if you’re pressed for time then you need to relax even more!

The menu has three options for lunch: affordable (Y1500), non-affordable (roughly Y2625) and silly (Y5250) (remember that I eat lunch every day, and it’s not a business expense, and I’m always on the edge of getting fat anyway.). I’ve only ever had ‘affordable’, otherwise known as Pasta Pranzo. It delivers value with a nice salad (real tomato! steamed broccoli! baby corn!), a pasta (I definitely remember the pork ragu with fresh pappardelle I had today, and there’s always one fresh pasta. Also in the past some kind of orecchiette, a spicy squid ink cappellini, various tomato prima vera things), a dessert (a decent dessert! Chocolate-hazelnut cake? Apple tart? Today ricotta cheesecake with pine nuts.) and a proper coffee of your choice (no charge up for cappuccino like those suckers at Burdigala). It’s good, really. One final point: the bread is crap, and I noticed today they’re not providing butter any more.

I am, I have to say, a sucker for staff that recognize me. I don’t go to l’Osteria that often, but quite some time ago they started greeting me in a very cheerful and recognition-filled and itsumo/maido way, especially the hostess (owner? who always seems to be wearing an Italian suit and big sunglasses pushed up on her head) and the head waiter. The rest of the staff can be a little hit or miss, but suck it up, this place is great.

Final note: the unadvertised, shockingly-good-value-for-Japan special is that oomori is a free addition to the pasta. Where else can you get free supersizing? On the other hand, most people can’t tell the difference when they see the two sizes side by side.

Today's pasta...

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