Thursday, July 2, 2009

Panino Giusto, Otemachi (Oazo)

Mucho Gusto! Wait, what does that mean? Panino Giusto is a little confusing too - an indoor/outdoor Italian restaurant specializing in hams? As with many of these things, the reality is a bit less interesting than the first paragraph.

The big Oazo building has always felt a little under-baked to me. It's big, but strangely empty in a way that the Maru buildings totally overcame. The 'courtyard' on the ground floor is really emblematic of this - despite the great potential to create public-use space, only a few shops face it, and only one restaurant. And this is it!

PG has a faux-frontage in dark green, and an open window with a few Paris cafe-style tables in it. If you sit there to eat your panino, watching people mill around or (more likely) pass through on the way from Tokyo Station to elsewhere, it's quite pleasant.

The menu probably deserves more consideration than I gave it. There are sandwiches of all different types of ham but only 2 make it to the Daily Set board (one prosciutto, one regular ham). Including a tiny salad and a caffeine bevvie of choice, there's nothing special about them (Y950 ham, Y1200 prosciutto).

My benchmark for a grilled sandwich has always been the cubanos that I was introduced to while working at Baptist Hospital in Miami - specifically Carlito's Cafe in the 9000's 0f SW 107th (Google Maps is awesome, ne? I had NO idea what this was called, but managed to Street View to the front door and see the sign). Go ahead and hate, I know that the Kendall area is called Ken-DULL for a reason, but that sandwich was 'a perfected dish', as they used to say in the voiceovers on Iron Chef. I'm never lucky enough to find this kind of place any more - a walk-up sandwich 'n' coffee stand where someone had the very touch of Jesus himself on the plancha. The important thing about it was the unity, or dare I say the trinity? of cuban water bread, ordinary fillings (roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard in my case, but I understand that others have different conceptions) and the holy spirit of the grill. Mash them together at high heat and they fuse into one mass of deliciousness. With a crispy crust.

If you're at all a regular reader hnere, you'll know that the preceding is merely a precursor to this antecedent: Panino Gusto did not deliver that heavenly (if a bit Catholic) experience. The ham and cheese were both very nice, the special sauce was good, but it was just a bit toasted, not crushed and mangled into a time-twisting black hole of pork-driven goodness that causes the very boundaries of space and taste to fold in on themselves. Oh well.

All in, quite a bit unsatisfying, which did nothing to help me keep away from the Debailleul cafe-style outlet that's semi-freestanding in that big space. I've said before that this is the best chocolate chain, and I repeat it. The passionfruit and lime-butter ganaches were excellent, but the roasted hazelnut in dark chocolate (Pas de Deux) joins the spice praline (Surprise) on my list of 'chocolates that are almost worth the expense'.

15 stores in Italy; can't be all bad.

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