Monday, June 1, 2009

Vinchou, Marunouchi

Gaaarrrrh! Just when I thought it was safe to re-visit a place, circumstances conspire to extend the new-lunch-venue streak through yet another week! OK, that's not really so frustrating. It's a dorky point of pride.

The good ship Wolf is soon bound for sunnier pastures and more mixilated metaphors after nearly 3 years in Japan. I said "Where do you want to go for lunch?" and he said "Any place new!" Music to my ears. We resolved to explore Shin Maru 5, which has tons of good new destinations despite our recent efforts. Along the north side (turn left out of the elevators) you'll pass Ig Cafe, Igrek, Nouvelle Ere, then some Japanese places. And blending the French and Japanese themes, in the middle of all that, is Vinchou.

Probably should have asked about the name. It sounds like a play between binchou charcoal and the wine that they love to serve. The aesthetic is coded on the big wall mirror if you know how to read it (I think; I'm making this up, but see if you like it): on a map of France, they've painted in the names of famous wine regions. They've also painted half a dozen regions that have nothing to do with wine, like Bretagne, Challans and Bresse. Chicken regions! So the rustic Japanese decor (I'd characterize it more as 'moutain rustic' rather than 'city rustic', meaning lighter and rougher wood) conceals an extensive wine list, and the theme is 'yakitori and wine'. Sure, it's been done elsewhere, but this place is good.

Full of digressions today: on the recent Pitman trip, I was talking to a distant relative who's a chef about poultry products. I commented that millions of raw eggs get eaten every day in Japan, and raw chicken is not an infrequent sight. For lunch at Vinchou, you can actually take advantage of both! As part of my two-half-size-rice-bowls set, I had raw chicken slices arranged in a flower atop a pile of rice that was then warmed up with chicken stock (which did not cook the chicken, thanks very much). Wolf, odd fellow that he is, chose the slimy raw-egg-and-other-bits bowl, which he mixed up and ate with relish.

This place is a sister restaurant to the nudging-against-one-star-status La Chevre in Asakusa (it's been 3 or 4 years since I was there, but I went twice around the same time, and they had a big spread in Tokyo Calendar last year which made it look like they had upgraded a bit), which gives you a bit of indication as to its seriousness about food and wine - notwithstanding the fact that it's all about roast bird. I'd give this one a try for dinner, folks, and I feel pretty awful about turning this down as a destination on the last big work dinner I had. Oops.

On a more personal note, I'd like to thank everyone for reading. Thanks!

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