Friday, July 17, 2009

Pagliaccio, Marunouchi

This, I like to think, is the Olive Garden done for Tokyo. I know we already have Saizeriya and Popola Mama, but how else should you describe it when a chain specializing in Chinese restaurants (which I love, btw - tantanmen and gyoza) branches out into Italian? The difference, as you'll be expecting, is that this is quite good.

On a Friday night, the Maru Buildings must get quite full. Behind them is Naka Dori, which quiets right down once the stores close - they're mainly luxury brands so they're not open late, and they're not interspersed with many cafes. Of the 3-4 places actually facing the street, Pagliaccio is probably the newest (and I see that they've just opened a store in Shiba Koen as well, so they may be on an expansion tear, economy be damned!) and has the most outside seating. Bizarrely, the cluttered 'Italian bistro' inside section was reserved and packed to oblivion with larger office-driven tables, but new customers were actively declining tables outside and moving on to greener pastures despite the pleasant 75-degree weather. Moral - book early and often, or enjoy the outside seating!

The food and wine are pleasant and affordable. The menu is sensibly divided into basics like 'Vegetables', 'Antipasti', 'Pastas', 'Meat' and 'Fish'. The specials cover good ground, including 2 or so in each category and some exotica like grilled deer. No single dish is over Y2500, and most are under or well under Y2000.

Crudo were decent - some bonito that was a little fishy and some scallops that were very good (instant service clued me in that they were pre-cut), where each had its own special sauce on top, like an orange-pepper dice with oil for the scallops. Mixed vegetable fry was good, not the quality you'd get at a top tempura place but not the price either, and great for snacking with some crisp white wine (standout: a huge mangan tougarashi, the special green pepper from Kyoto). A special grilled pork order turned out to be a big piece of shoulder roast, with thick but tasty fat, roasted brown and served with a large and varied selection of vegetables (grilled eggplant slices, baked and grilled potato slices, onward).

For a pleasant time and a manageable bill, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this. Tokyo needs more places like this, and especially more outdoor seating! Actually the Scorpione brand is also under Kiwa, so maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.

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