Monday, December 15, 2008

Ohara et CIE, Roppongi (Nishi Azabu)

I can die happy, my friends. Along with l'Auberge au l'Ill, this was the remaining high-end French lunch I wanted to eat in Roppongi. With it out of the way, I think we can regard the Roppongi lunching experience as mainly closed (although there's still a whole week of lunches to go, and one hopes to deliver a few more reviews).

O'Hara is of course a French restaurant in Japan with an Irish name, so things are bound to get a bit confused. It's tucked away on a back street in Nishi Azabu, on the north side of Roppongi Dori and almost down to Gaien-Nishi, and is further complexificated by being both basementalized and poorly signpostified. Various random reconaissances had detected signs of its presence, but I was put off by the price (Y2800 for the pricks-ficks, Y3500 if you want to choose, Y5000 if you want to go all out, 5% service charge at lunch, 10% at dinner) until the situation became desperate and the days in Roppongi had dwindled down to a precious few. I picked, my colleague didn't.

I think the interior is supposed to enhance the focus on food - very white. Marble floor, white walls, frosted glass windows, and somehow strong lighting all create a feeling of...whiteness. It might be different at night, but during the day I found it somehow a little cheap. The service did enhance the focus on the food. I agree with Ohara's promotional site, which says the service is attentive without being obtrusive. They also provided brief but complete descriptions of each dish, which I prefer.

Dishes I can remember:
  • My starter of deer and potato terrine, sort of like what's on the gurunavi site, but with a topping of bread crumbs that had been briefly grilled in place. Mediocre, but with a very tasty mini-salad.
  • The soup: I think just potage, or perhaps Shimonita negi (I may be getting confused with Saturday night's dinner at home where I roasted some of these!), but importantly with a bit of foam on top and a slice of bacon on the bottom. The bacon had been roasted and slightly caramelized before insertion to the soup, and this made the whole dish delicious.
  • Her main: a grilled white fish (mutsu, I think. I thought mutsu were always colored, like akamutsu or kuromutsu.) on vegetables. Good, and nicely grilled skin, but a bit strong flavor-wise, which made me feel like they were missing the last 5% of freshness or cooking technique. Still good though.
  • My main: grilled quail topped with salad. This was the single tastiest quail I can remember eating anywhere (although I have vague memories of a quail that had been deboned while preserving its shape and then stuffed fith foie gras and breadcrumbs). It was extraordinarily juicy, and yet the skin was extraordinarily crisp and brown. I'd had to say it was extraordinary, and it came with that delightful cup of lemon-scented soup that good restaurants always serve with quail.
  • Desserts: her yogurt ice cream with lemon jelly and fresh fruit - much less a waste of time than I'd think if I read that description. My tiramisu a ma facon, which turned out to be a multi-layered affair including coffee granite, crushed cornflakes, ice cream and whipped cream.

Unusually, it was the quail and the dessert that did it for me - until then I was happy but not overwhelmingly so. With those two, O'Hara pushed things over the edge and into a realm of recommendation.

Not perfect (except the quail), but good!

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