Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gare de Lyon, Hatchobori

You know that little area on Kajibashi Dori where you cross the bridge, go under the highway, and emerge from Takaracho into Hatchobori? Right, me either, in spite of going through there any time I took a taxi home from work (not that often). So I'll forgive you for not seeing this place from the street, especially since it's also on a minor street and currently hidden behind a large construction project. Why someone picked this area for a budget-level French bistro is beyond me - there aren't even any shops on the main street in that area. This should be the point where I say something about how it's well worth seeking out, worth the long walk from Hatchobori station, etc. It's pretty good, and certainly friendly, and refreshingly inexpensive, but I can't in good conscience tell you to make a trip there (you might consider the Higashi Ginza honten, which is probably closer to somewhere else you're going).

From the outside, you're immediately greeted by beige walls, red woodwork, curtained windows and chalkboard. Hard to describe how incongruous this is when surrounded by small office buildings and large apartment houses! For some reason they also have a noren inside the glass door, but once you get inside the decor is a sort of weathered bistro immitation - bare floors, bare tables, a little dusty feeling (or that could have been my allergies acting up). The small room's left wall is completely taken up with the wine list - a big rack of bottles with the prices written on them. This is where things get fun and good - most (all?) of the wine is bio, and the majority of bottles are around Y4000-5000, which is an equally pleasant way to be treated in a restaurant these days. We asked for a recommendation, got 4, picked one, and got to work.

For some reason the Menu Perusal Team declared that Saturday night was Meat Night. This meant that we ordered up things heavy on the dead animal, and the kitchen obliged by returning to us mainly dead animal without any fluff. For starters, a huge piece of faux-campagne terrine was somewhat reminiscent of chopped meat, with a bit of jelly in the texture and some pink peppercorns on top. The other starter was ratatouille, a big plate of stewed vegetable and heavy on the celery.

Mains got super meaty. The 'pork belly sausage lentils' was a massive block of stewed pork that had been rendered almost fatless (this is good if you've been previously scarred by cha-shu with too much tough fat banding left in it), a foot-long sausage that was soft and deeply scented with pickling spices, and a smattering of cooked lentils. The beef cheek, as it said on the menu but I didn't notice when ordering, was stewed in chocolate sauce, which was not like mole but also not bad, and came with a hillock of thin and crisp fries. For reference, these were Y1600 each.

In point of fact, we just couldn't eat all of it. Got through about half the meat and called a surrender, though we took pains to comment to the waiter on the good elements. He said we ordered too much...

Another fun touch was the projection of scenes from the Gare de Lyon that took up half the wall opposite the wine. Looked like someone just parked their video camera for an hour while eating lunch on a terrace so they could get footage of TGVs coming and going, people milling around.

Vive la France!

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