First issue: the staff on the phone told me they couldn't do the entry-level bento on the weekends, so I had to order the mid-level 'theme cooking' course. Interestingly, the other 4 people at the counter were not subject to this restriction.
The atmosphere is very good though, it has to be said. The natural stone flooring spills over slightly into the Maru Biru corridor, inviting you in. Once inside it's almost like a tiny alley in Gion; flagstones drizzled with water, bamboo walls, private rooms, low counter giving onto a raised, tatami-matted serving area with a huge bonsai (haha, really!) and a Boy's Day armor display. The counter looks through this serving area and out...to the next building. Off to the left you also get a slice of northeast Tokyo, e.g., a tiny glimpse of Tokyo Dome.
The food goes like this:
Seasonal starter. All nice vegetables, just barely cooked, and a bit of cooked snapper roe. All nice enough, but a little uninspiring.Salt is not the enemy.
Rice. Wait, rice? I'm a heathen and all, but it feels weird to have rice this early in the course. It's different because it was mochigome (chewy rice that you'd pound to make mochi) and mixed with shiso buds, but...just doesn't feel right. I guess my Japanese dining sensibilities haven't advanced sufficiently to allow for deviations in the course.
Fresh tofu. Yes, this was fresh tofu. It came and went. As did the sumiso and peppers and kogomi.
Steamed fish and vegetables. Fancy stuff here, we're told. The fish is trout from Fuji, and the shrimp are also from somewhere notable, "so fresh you can eat the shells". The vegetables are vegetal. The cooking procedure is notable, and contributes a lot - the staff bring this big earthen donabe pot, heat it to steaming, then carefully arrange the foods on a rack that goes back inside "for 3 minutes". Then it comes out, gets carefully plated, I forget to take a picture, you eat, and are uninspired.
Looking back, I would have to say that this grilled shiitake over rice was the best thing out of the course. The mushroom was fantastic quality, and the sauce in which it had been grilled was dripping through the rice...yummers.
Dear Diary: Please remind me not to go to Maru Biru's upper floors any more, OK? It's acceptable stuff, but never extraordinary and always too expensive.