Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bon Monsieur, Roppongi

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Bon Monsieur is a tiny, highly recommended J-Bistro (ooh, did I just invent a term? J-ing is like e-ing, the process of making everything 'webby' by putting an 'e' in front of it.) tucked away in a deep corner of Roppongi. I admit I was lucky to get there through improvization - turn left off Roppongi Dori at the Mizuho branch, pass Honmura An, jog left and pass Aux Six Arbres, persevere when it looks like the street is becoming an alley and running out, turn left at the single-width sidewalk that looks like someone's entryway, then pop out and find you're right next to the restaurant! We had called ahead to make sure there was space, which is good form at a place that seats 6 at the counter (reputedly; I don't see how more than 4 could manage) and a few more at two tables.

The wine is good fun - Chef had to show us the trick since it was our first time, but I'm sure you can do it at your leisure once you're a regular (i.e. from the second visit). There's a big wine cooler in the corner, and every bottle has the price marked on it. White on top, red on the bottom. Have a look around! I picked a Rhone with a nice hand-written-style label, which I'm a sucker for, and we started warming up from the filthy weather outside.

The menu's all on the blackboard (when you're a one-man operation, it takes too much time to pass out menus!). I like to think based on our experience that this is French food with a heavy Japanese slant - one first course was pork 'n' veg comprised of a a long slice of pork belly (I think; the cut with wide strips of fat and a tough rind) and fancy vegetables with pesto. [Seems that all the vegetables are fancy, by which I mean: sourced from various places that are famous for individual vegetables. Purple carrots, long white turnips, that sort of thing.] The other was a whole lotus root, baked (I think) and covered with blue cheese sauce. How's that for East-meets-West and all that rubbish? It was really good in a sort of baked satoimo way. I hesitate to call these 'appetizers' or 'starters' as they were huge, and in fact everything came in very even numbers, almost as if each item had been planned for two people.

Not long after opening the wine, we began an animated conversation with Hubert, the Japanese-fluent French narrator, voice actor and MC who seems to spend a good deal of time perched by the coffee machine, making himself cups. We learned an extraordinary amount about the history of the restaurant, the chef's philosophies, and the relative merits of apples in Japan vs. Normandy. See you next time, Hubert!

We cancelled one of the two main dishes (the scallops) once the second starter arrived. The remaining main was two good-sized lamb chops with a selection of roasted vegetables (notably sweet potatoes), which was fairly impressive all on its own. Desserts were non-existent; there was demand from the counter, but the kitchen replied (as always, my loose translation) "No, I don't have any desserts. Truth is, I hate making desserts. It's a pain."

I think I'm in the club now, and I'm happy to be there. This is sensibly priced, tasty, interesting food in large quantities and a highly engaging, friendly environment. I was surprised that we could get seats when we called on short notice, and having visited, I'm even more surprised.

Tabelog is a little unfair here.


  1. One of my favorites ... see

  2. Or use the 6th and 7th words of the post, which link to the same page. Credit where it's due!