Thursday, April 23, 2009

Arossa, Ginza (Velvia 8)

Central Otago. What a great place. Some of my favorite people have been Central Otagans. And when I think of it, I'm inescapably reminded of crashing Jake and Kristen's honeymoon in Queenstown, cruising around on quad bikes in the hills outside town, and stopping off at the Cardrona Hotel for beers on the way home. [Coincidentally, the same trip saw us visiting Ponkan's namesake...Wanaka.] But it was a bit of a shock to sit down at Arossa, look up at the wall, and see a painting of the Cardrona. It made me want to drink a nice bottle of Felton Road.

Well, all this silly vacation posturing is leading up to the plain statement that Arossa focuses on New Zealand (the original restaurant in Shibooya does Australia). It's heavy on wine, mussels, venison, and roast kiwis (they're small, so you have to eat a few to get much meat off 'em). It's also pretty good!

Kidney and I started off with garlicky green mussels, grilled with some bread crumbs on top. They were damn good; I'd had a love-hate relationship with mussels ever since getting a bad one early in my dining career, and these were on the love side. The other starter was a 'creative' salad - mixed greens, a few pieces of fruit, and copious quantities of fried sweetbreads. After the disappointing sweetbreads at Argo, I'm on a mission to recapture the taste of the sweetbreads I've eaten in the past. My memory features them as almost uniformly light, soft, smooth and absurdly delicious, which made Argo's letdown all the more cruel. Arossa's version was back on the road to recovery, but still a little gummy and oddly textured (I know, I know, it's a thymus gland, whatever that is, and you should expect something weird from it).

All of this went nicely with the Mt Difficulty chardonnay; I didn't quite have the guts to go for a bottle of Felton Road, but I think I'm going to have to order some today. Hmmm, maybe right now... The wine list, especially at the Oz outpost, is funny - they appear to source liberally from Village Cellars. This gives it a comforting feel for me, considering that I read those catalogs all the time! The markups don't seem too bad - all I can remember is the Felton Road reisling, which was a little less than 2X the Village Cellars price.

For mains, we went all-out on Kiwi meat products. Caramelized lamb was delightful if a little concerning - they really seemed to have accentuated the, errr, sweetness of the lamb by putting a touch of sugar on it! But it was good lamb and well-cooked. On my side...ahh, I couldn't go past roasted venison with berries. Could you? Venison can be mealy to me at times, but this wasn't over-roasted, and the sauce was suitably thick 'n' sweet, with the cutest teeny-weeny wittle bwueberries...[Did everyone else know that, among more sensible choices, you can configure Google to talk to you in 'Elmer Fudd' language? Or 'Pirate'? For example, 'Advanced Search' --> 'Use Me Better Spyglass', and the second search button is 'I Be Feelin' Lucky'. Those wacky billionaires!].

Prices are actually not bad at all - starters are Y1500-ish, mains are Y2000-2500, unless you go full-bore and get a steak, but even then it's not too bad. The price-quality ratio was quite good too. Service was fine as well, especially considering how rude I was when they tried to serve us, in sequence: champagne, mineral water, bottled water. Kind of a hard-sell on the beverages there, but eventually we got to some glasses of Ginza's finest.

I feel like a recommendation whore this week, so I won't give this a Recommended tag, but I quite liked it.

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