Sunday, June 14, 2009

Maison de la Bourgogne, Kagurazaka

Kagurazaka is a neighborhood of side streets. If you stay on the main street, you'll think it's mildly charming but a bit gaudy and a bit ruined by development. Chain restaurants, cheap bars and down-market shops abound. The particular maison in question today is down towards the Iidabashi end of Kagurazaka (for those Chinese-speaking people that I had lunch with and who prefer the kanji to the confusing romaji, those are 飯田橋 アンド 神楽坂), and is easy to find despite its side-street location. It's in the street almost across from Royal Host, a big landmark as you're walking up the hill from Iidabashi, and from the main street if you look closely you'll see the French road sign advising "Bourgogne -->", which is an indicator that you've arrived.

The weather wasn't perfect yesterday, but there was a break in the early-rainy-season drizzle, which made it pleasant if humid to walk and be outside. We stayed on the terrace, which could easily convince you that you were in a different country if not for the Japanese-style houses across the street. The terrace (and indeed the insides) manage to be European without any of the blatant and sometimes tacky trimmings that are used in Japan to scream 'BISTRO'! (Keep in mind that I also ate at Viron in Marunouchi this weekend and still love it, although the gaudy perfection of the decor is probably a bit much for some people.) As you'd guess from the name, the theme here is firmly in Burgundy, and that starts with the wine. While I didn't peruse the list, and glass selections involve a healthy 6-8 each of white and red (including a sparkling white and a non-Burgundian champagne), all from Burgundy, at a decent range of prices, and in very healthy pours (see illustration).

The food is quite pleasant, unless it was the location, decor, weather or company. This sakura ebi terrine was the only weak bit; it was just a whipped mousse with a bit of shrimp taste. At least it came with lots of onions and was good as a spread on the bread, which is of a slim whole-wheat baguette variety.

A bit of salad is always healthy, especially when mixed with bits of browned bacon and a poached egg. Not sure why the sauce is purple; maybe it was a raspberry influence.

Quiche was surprising - large, warm, crusty/flaky, eggy, tasty. In these respects it differed from nearly every other quiche I've seen in a Japanese bistro.

This pork was the winner in my mind - I think just one big, thick slice of pork belly, stewed into submission, slathered with rich sauce, and sided with gratinee potatoes. Filling, hearty, delicious. Perhaps a bit more January evening then June brunch, but I needed an excuse to drink a glass of red!

Duck with cherries was decent; at least soft and not raw in the middle, which are two frequent flaws of duck in Tokyo (when reversed). Similar side veg are no crime in a casual bistro, especially when the prices are quite reasonable. For lunch, two courses are Y2000, with starters being in the Y1200-1400 range and desserts Y600-900 (should you need to supplement your initial two courses). Wines are Y1000-1600 per glass, although the quantity is twice what you get at some places and I think there are also cheaper house/table wines available on inquiry (other people were drinking wine out of smaller non-Burgundian glasses than the one in the first picture).

Kagurazaka, then, is a place where you need to get off the well-trod track and see what's on the side streets. Once you do, you'll find nearly 15 French restaurants, but from a bit of experience I'd say the food, prices and terrace make this a clear standout!

Eet eez, 'ow you say, magnifique?

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