Sunday, February 15, 2009

Taverna Messina, Jiyugaoka

My friends, I've figured out what I think of Jiyugaoka. This is not to say that I don't like it, but the plethora of cute cafes, homewares stores and clothing boutiques says nothing to me so much as 'rich housewives'. Perhaps in the same way that Sugamo is Obaa chan's Harajuku, Jiyugaoka is a housewifve's Harajuku?

But still an exceedingly pleasant place. What self-respecting modern middle-class man doesn't like a nice cafe and a bit of a browse for dishes and placemats? I for one am not going to admit to that. And after a pleasant wander, I'm certainly not going to say no to a pleasant Italian lunch in a bustling, Tuscan-themed basement space.

Taverna Messina is clearly a favorite in some camps, and delivers a decent experience with some good food. The Y1900 lunch sets (cheaper ones on weekdays) feature three courses with a decent variety to choose from (entree or pasta + pasta or main + dessert and coffee). The EOITwJ team got through two solid courses: the mixed appetizers (+Y500), a selection of 5 things including some potato soup, aranciata, and another type of doughy, herby fritter whose name I should know; the polenta and bacalao mille feuille (my current Japanese menu peeve - anything in layers is a mille feuille. In this there were deux, not mille, which leaves us almost a thousand short, but the polenta was nicely-fried, and the bacalao was mild and good. With fresh tomatoes); a pork cutlet, fried a la Terry, that was strangely thin but exceedingly sweet, especially at the edge where the strip of fat was to be found; and a Marinara pizza (better known as "Hey, you forgot the cheese!") that was frankly too thin, so that it cracked rather than being biteable and chewable, and got cold instantly. Desserts sounded nice, but for the set menu were limited to only the pear... mille feuille, which was pastry, pear and ice cream on a huge plate with liberal lashings of powdered sugar (usually a cover for bad food, don't you think? In this case not so much, as it was pretty good.)

With a crowded, warm ambience, fresh rosemary focaccia, and tolerable house wine, this is a fine way to spend your Jiyugaoka dining time.

The stars seem to shine like you've had too much wine

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