Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bistro Ishikawa Tei, Kanda (ビストロ石川亭)

A-MAZ-ing. I was so struck dumb with disbelief that I couldn't even write a post this afternoon, my friends. If this isn't my new favorite restaurant, I don't know what is. Pictures at 11, or once 花水 gets them out of her camera and over to me!

Koala told me that she saw Ishikawa Tei at the top of a list of 'best cheap restaurants'. I've tried to go, twice. Both times were fairly late in the day (they're only open 11-2 for lunch), and there was still a line outside. Today the weather was OK, I got caught in a meeting until 1:30, and the lovely 鈴時 said she didn't mind we arrived at 1:50 and took our place in line behind 9 other people. I guess the 1 PM crowd is finishing up at that time, because we got in by about 2:05. Don't expect that kinda treatment all the time.

The attraction here is pretty simple - value. Cost performance. Like no other place you've ever been to. After our starters, I was momentarily confused because the volume and quality were like the full lunch at various other places I could name (but have forgotten). After our mains, I thought it was a joke and the bill would be 2-3X what we saw outside. But it wasn't.

The menu is standard low-end bistro (not meant judgementally; just that there are equal amounts of Japanese and French influence). For starters. you get a choice from 7 or 8 items - country-style pate, steak tartare, sauteed scallops, various veggie and cheesy items...we went one each of the first two (which is why I remember them so clearly) and found them rough, ready and substantial. The pate was more like a very light meatloaf to me; a bit of liver, a bit of veal flavor (odd, since I doubt there was any veal) and some sweet spices, plus a side salad. The tartare was on toast, and consisted of heavily-dressed chunks of meat. No ground meat here, and it was tasty, but I wish they had chopped it a second longer.

For mains, you also get a choice of 7 or 8 items. The really nice-looking grilled chicken with nanohana at the next table was sold out, and it didn't occur to either of us to order the hamburger until we saw it looking great at the next table (too late!), so we ended up with 花水's grilled buri and my confit pork belly. The buri was enormous - two solid slices, grilled with soy sauce - and was a touch strong, but it's not a weak fish. The pork was not as big, which is a good thing because it consisted mainly of meltingly-soft pork fat, topped with mustard and breadcrumbs and briefly grilled. Both came with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

After, a small slice of matcha pound cake and coffee or tea. A solid performance in a nice environment; we wished we had more time to linger, but it took almost 80 minutes as it was, by the time we walked from the office and waited in line and ordered and ate.

Y1100. When I said I couldn't believe how huge and tasty it was, the chef actually seemed a little tired of the adulation. I bet she gets it all the time.

Dinner may be the same menu for Y3300, which would still be very solid value.

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