Friday, March 20, 2009

Carta Bianca, Nishi Shinjuku

Shinjuku is a difficult area for me. It's huge, it's complex, I get confused, and it's tough to find restaurants worth going to. Clue me in if you have good ideas; I struggle a lot. Recently I needed a destination for a holiday lunch with Nanban (南蛮) and others, and happened across this charming-looking place between Minami Guchi and the Park Hyatt. It was, in fact, quite charming, in opposition to its neighborhood, which was extraordinarily seedy even at 1 PM on a holiday (pretty empty, but abundantly clear what it's like when it's more populated at night).

This being a holiday, the kitchen gave themselves the luxury of having only two fixed menus - the cheaper one with chicken as a main and no soup, or the more expensive one with the soup course and their special pork. These (mostly raw) vegetables started things off. The brussels sprout was really good (I can't believe I like brussels sprouts. I have such a stigma about them, but I've grown to love them.) as was the purple potato. The raw radishes (two kinds) not so much - so organic-looking that the skin was still a little dirty! The nanohana, I can't remember.

The soup doesn't look like much except for the mold floating on top. No seriously, whatever they had done with the pesto made it look quite moldy. But the soup was deeply-flavored, and the store-made, hand-cut pasta was a nice touch.

A little close-up food porn here - (factory-made) spaghetti with store-made pancetta, snap peas and potatoes. The elements were nice, but the pasta itself let the dish down. At least there was a lot of it!

The special pork was indeed special. They made it in large pieces and cut it, which has certain benefits but also left it a little cold. Still, excellent pork, cooked well. I could see this being terrific at dinner when they're not as focussed on the fact that it's a holiday.

They also served these 'young and hip' Laguiole knives; first ones I've ever seen without flies on them. I was disappointed by that, and the waiter agreed that these were 'women's knives'. The women were too busy cooing over the pretty colors to notice what we were talking about!

I took some pictures of dessert, but I'll leave them out to protect the innocent. If you need a place in southern Shinjuku, I think you wouldn't go amiss here. If you can stand the trip, it's probably more worthwhile to toodle down to Shibuya or Ebisu or something.

Nice style and atmosphere, but the staff were very young, rough and ready. Check the web:

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