Friday, July 3, 2009

Bistro Bonnes Mares, Kanda

How do people decide they've had enough - learned enough, pushed enough, grown enough - and it's time to settle in?
Moreover, is it wrong to do this? Especially if you're doing your thing better than most people could?
And is it indicative of a deeper pathology that I read restaurant reviews while eating lunch? (This has an answer, and it's 'Yeah, pretty much'.)

Hiratsuka san of Bonne Mares, I'm afraid, did some stagiere time in France in the 80's and has never outgrown that experience. (I'm extrapolating wildly here, but what else is news?) That means he makes old-style Japanese French, with a healthy dose of yoshoku thrown in. Less so for dinner, but for lunch the regular options include both omrice and hayashi rice (and some pastas, etc). But I don't actually think there's anything wrong with this; have I been converted to liking yoshoku?

I had the hayashi rice. It's an individualistic interpretation - white rice covered, like a Japanese curry plate, with a thick, deep demiglace sauce that smothers abundant mushroom slices and well-stewed beef cheek. I would be disappointed if this were canned demiglace; as soon as I tasted it I thought 'This is what it's supposed to taste like' and the beef was equally good. I like cheek, but sometimes it's too gelatinous and/or soft for me. This was fully rendered, yet somehow still a bit firm - it was sliceable, which is not generally a feature of cheek when it's been cooked for a long time. The side salad was afterthoughty, but the soup was oddly not - despite being almost only broth, it included complex vegetable flavors and a plethora of spices that made it drinkable and, dare I say it, interesting.

Hiratsuka san gave me a genial 'Are ya full?' When I got up to leave, and we had a look at the evening menu together. It's your basic French-classics-for-around-Y2k experience, and he added that he always has lots of specials or is happy to cook what you want to eat. He also has wine, which i had deduced from the early 80's bottles of La Tache on the counter (lending more credence to my stagiere theory) and the 1933 Romanee Conti (I'd give that pride of place too), and he says the cellar holds bottles of a more manageable price persuasion.

So I dunno, if you're going to get stuck somewhere in your life or career, it might as well be somewhere that you like to be and where you've figured out how to do your thing real well. I'd like to try this at night; any takers?

Worth the paper it's printed on.

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