Friday, December 5, 2008

All Choked Up! at Artichaut, Ebisu

Having Invited a Friend to Supper (the Curmudgeonly Old Bastard, in fact) and failed to make a reservation, I arrived fashionably late, if you, gentle reader, consider rudeness to be in fashion. After paying my respects to the pheasant hanging around (by his feet) outside the door, I found the COB comfortably ensconced in his usual position behind the table. He had already confirmed the presence of various gamey delicacies in addition to the one by the door and the one at the table, discussed the chef's curriculum vitae (7 years in France, including Pierre Gagnaire), and was eying the menus with a trencherman's regard.

The done thing at Artichaut appears to be the omakase, which we opted for after the COB rescued me from a brief and embarrassing attempt to confirm that we could have gibier and more gibier rather than the customary poisson and viande. The COB ordered a sprightly young bottle of Sancerre, and we were off to the races.

Chef chose to begin the festivities with a single oyster of brobdignagian proportions, lounging saucily in its shell and bathing in a bit of sea water and lemon juice. The COB daintily tucked into his with a knife and fork as befits his dignified Queensland heritage, while your Humble Correspondent hoisted 'n' slurped as befits a dedicated glutton. Chef sent out the first round of bread, which was positively revelatory in its doughy, crusty goodness (soft and chewy, with a hint of brioce, rather than baguette) and provoked exclamations of glee from at least one member of the audience.

Gentle and Astute Readers will have noted the picture of Chef's vegetable terrine on the web site, as these things are in fashion in our day. Artichaut's version is lovely, with more color than the versions at some establishments I could name, and is fairly wreathed with fresh herbs. In truth though, Your Humble Correspondent must report that its consumption provoked a short and awkward silence in which the COB and I looked at each other before he bravely sallied forth with "'s awfully bland, isn't it, old man?". The warm appetizer was more appetizing - a presse of eel, foie gras and artichoke with a rich demiglace sauce. Impressively, the bread changed at this point, to a slightly nutty and raisinified concoction which better accompanied the rich rich fatty and rich texture of the presse.

Suddenly conscious that we were in grave danger of being confronted with meat dishes in the absence of red wine, we fairly lunged in urgent simultaneity toward the wine list. Your Humble Correspondent, in a misguided effort to appear worldly and gracious, insisted that the COB indulge in the well-aged Bordeaux that had earlier caught his eye. Chateau Malescot St. Exupery will of course be well known to you, Gentle Reader, as the Margaux estate formerly owned by the family of Antoine de St. Exupery, author of Le Petit Prince, as well as a property some of whose vineyards abut the glorious Chateaux Margaux itself. The 1983 was full mature, showing some loss of colour, with visible separation on the meniscus. Raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and sultana infused the nose, while the lean texture showed raisined fruit, leading to a short finish. In company as excellent as that of the COB, this was an enjoyable and thought-provoking wine, but clearly one from which no further improvement should be expected in the future. If it rests in your cellar, Gentle Reader, please abandon moderation and drink up with all due haste.

The gibier-festa portion of degustation began with a porcini risotto, mildly abusive to Your Humble Correspondent's sensitive teeth in its al-denteさ, topped with a slice of richly sauced deer thigh, topped with a slice of fried-but-sadly-un-caramelized foie gras. While this was fully consumed on both sides of the table, and moistened with lashings of Chateau Le Petit Prince, it also prompted a note that the food was heading toward 'forking tradesmanlike'. For the second gibier, chef allowed us to chose between a pigeon and another bird name しげ, at which point we indulged in a lively and uninformed debate on the names of various Japanese game birds. The debate may have been more interesting than the birds, which were well-aged, a bit salty, and presented in an interesting deconstructed style that feature legs, wings, bits, and head in sequence. A tiny gold spoon accompanied our featherless friends, the better to extract the, err, miso from their tiny cranial cavities.

The wine had fairly blossomed by this point, and the COB opined for the consideration of patrons at all table that he "had a remarkable post coming on!" While we discoursed on matters germane to every civilized society, such as window tax and the introduction of the auto-mobile, a cheese plate came and went before each of us. Chef introduced us to several desserts including a lemon-curd strawberry mille feuille (in that peculiar style common to old Nippon while includes only 2 or 3 feuille) and a roll cake drolly decorated with seasonal chestnuts. The COB was flagging by this time, exhibiting some fatigue as well as high epidermal abrasion to the palm of his hand, so after a marginal coffee we stumbled out the door and on our separate ways.

Though the victuals were in truth workmanlike in execution if not ambition, Your Humble Correspondent cannot remember a more mirthfull board, and was in no respect sad the next morning. Clothes maketh the man and, Gentle Reader, friends make the occasion. Visit Artichaut with some caution, in good company, prepared to abandon caution to the Winds of the Whitsundays, and you shall enjoy.

There's a coupon here. You can forget to use it like I did.

1 comment:

  1. Heavens to Murgatroyd! An excellent post, Sir, with a flourish and elan reminiscent of a Thackeray or Eliot. On to the next jump!