Sunday, March 15, 2009

Enoteca Pinchiorri, Ginza

We all have our maxims for life (whether we realize it or not, I think). Let's not talk just now about what mine are, but my good friend Greg told me last year that one of his is 'you get what you pay for'. This will make sense presently.

Enoteca Pinchiorri is one of the most famous restaurants in the world. It's a Michelin 3-star stalwart (though there's some pretty amusing controversy about this) and has a massive and well-known wine cellar (as befits its name). It's located in a palace in Florence. The menu includes items like Agnolotti filled with polenta, tossed with scampi and candied tomatoes - Y13,000.

At the Ginza branch (Core 7th floor), they manage to preserve some of this grandeur. The entry salon and hallway, with brief views into the wine cellar as well as casually arranged empty bottles of Romanee Conti and La Tache, were genuinely exciting. With the odd lack of people and hushed, reverential tone, you can feel a bit like a Florentine duke (duchess, duchess. Dukette?). This got me hot and bothered for a moment until I saw the dining room, with its pastel pinks and greens. The room is big, the fixtures are grand, the waiters are well-dressed and abundant, and the overall effect is to look like a magnificent dining room circa 1985, which was what I feared when I decided to go there.

But you're bound by the maxim, and the basic lunch course is Y4,000 (including an angolotti course!). The starter plate had some interesting things - a small slice of toast curved to hold a big of boiled clam (asari) and topped with a slice of lardo (sure it's pure fat, but when it's a little warmed up it's very tasty!). The angolotti were filled with white bean puree and topped with bits of squid (yes Andy, the squid was tender) and shallot. Both of these dishes were...well, they were tired. I thought they had been waiting under lights for a while. This fish was the first thing I felt like taking a picture of - tai, with fritters of basil and anchovy, and a slice of soft-boiled potato. The fish was very good, in a heavy way.

Desserts were really fun, actually. The first one had that little tart tatin, which was excellent, as well as rosemary ice cream. The sauce reminded me of nothing so much of the cheese course at Quintessence. The lemon sorbet cones were very nice; thin and crispy cones that were mainly a prop to help pick up the sorbet. The mignardises were OK, but if you've seen previous posts you know I've been exploring Debailleul, Richart, Maison du Chocolat and others recently, and normal stuff can't compete.

So you get what you pay for. This was OK, but not as exciting as you might want it to be given the atmosphere and the 'special occasion'-type expense (dinner is a LOT more expensive). They did endear themselves to me by giving us a second plate of mignardises, and also through the water service - mineral water charged at a flat rate per person despite the fact that we drank a lot. These are little things that I usually complain about, so I should acknowledge when they're done right.

I don't care what anyone says, 'Summer of 69' is a great song. I was always irritated that Adams was 9 years old in 1969 until I saw where he said the song's not about that.

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