Monday, November 3, 2008

Narukami, Ginza

I was pleasantly excited about Narukami - the lunch course looked like (and proved to be) quite good value at Y6000 (ish). The food was interesting for a number of courses, the service was attentive, and the 'counter' seating was fun. Overall I'd give this about a 6 out of 10, with potentially a small bonus for being open (with Narukami cooking, even) at Sunday lunch when a lot of places in the area are closed. The basement location is a little old-feeling - sort of like a place that's been redecorated and looks new, but still in a bubble-friendly style. After the 2.5 hours that it took us to get through 6 courses, it felt distinctly claustrophobic.

Since this was the biggest meal I've had in a while, here's a complete rundown course-by-course. I'll even save my bitter complaints until later, for a change!

Salad: mixed greens in that currently-popular 'chirashi' style, very very fresh nama botan ebi, squid two ways (nama, roasted) and nice grilled scallops. I envy people who can cook squid like this. I love the flavor and texture, but am too scared to buy it for home use. Perhaps the next hurdle...but scallops don't scare me any more since I went home and made some that were almost as good!

Risotto: served in a huge 'spoon'-shaped dish, and a bit swimmy from the soup. Good amount of crab meat and shellfish flavor (actually it was remarked that the sauce tasted very Americaine, which impressed the heck out of me because I had to look up the term a few weeks ago when I had it at Provinage.) The rice was too al dente for my tastes, but I know how hard it is to make proper risotto on a Sunday afternoon for a small group.

Fish: pan-fried amadai with...mushroom sauce, I think, in a 'cappucino style', i.e. whipped. Good stuff, but I love it when the skin is fully crisped up and the vegetables are only lightly boiled and not overwhelmed by the sauce...but that wasn't the style at Narukami.

Meat: Hokkaido pork two ways: 1) roasted, slightly well-done and with high fat content, but a good showing, and 2) ground, spiced heavily, and rolled in pasta to create a sort of Turkish canneloni (look, I just make up the similies, OK? Not the food.) With two sauces - a very thick meat-juice reduction (which was delivered with a skin already on top since it had so much gelatin in it) and menegi sauce (took me back to business school days when I used to drink wheatgrass juice sometimes for health reasons). They sort of went together, but the menegi sauce was just too grassy for human consumption. もおおお. There's a picture of this on tabelog.

Sansho sorbet. Made my mouth all tingly, as sansho does (like when you eat too much mapdofu, ne?) Also, this was served (literally) in an ashtray. It was that 'single serving' cigar-style ashtray, which could be interpreted as a single-scoop ice cream dish with a convenient spoon-rest, but it's definitely an ashtray. Nice idea!

Dessert: I'm pretty sure this was the 'Caprese' dessert, though it wasn't presented as such. Imagine a mound of basil mousse, layered with a dome of apple mouse, doused with coconut milk and topped with a fried basil leaf and a cooked cherry tomato. Get it? Caprese! It was decent, actually.

So: the food had a bunch of creative elements, although it was a bit fussy and I got the feeling that the cooking talent wasn't quite up to executing the concepts for some dishes. Wanna hear my complaints?
1. 10% service charge
2. 5% tax, 別
3. One bottle of wine in the Y7000's. 2 bottles in the Y8000's. Everything else over Y10,000. Many over Y15,000.
4. No tap water service; buy water or don't drink it.
I drank beer, and half a bottle of still water. I'm a grumpy old guy sometimes. Hopefully not as bad as John McCain. Total bill was close to Y2万, which included 2 glasses of wine.

In summary, this was OK and sort of stimulating on the day, but I cannot in good faith recommend that you go for dinner.

Enough with the damn up-charges already, 'kay?

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