Monday, September 21, 2009

Le Point Ouest, Kamakura

On the way back from Enoshima, we did the touristy thing and took the Enoden, the small, old, electric train that meanders carefully through a series of cute neighborhoods between Fujisaki and Kamakura. (Incidentally, I don't recommend taking it to get to Enoshima. We got off the main train line at Fujisaki, as close as possible to Enoshima and only 3 stops by the Enoden. There were several hundred people waiting in line outside the station, and I have no idea how far the line stretched once inside - because we took a cab. Less scenic, but at least an hour faster and less than $10 more expensive. Consider it.)  On the way back the train was fairly packed with our fellow returning tourists, most of whom got on at Enoshima.
But nowhere near as many as wanted to get on several stops later. These sad-looking people had clearly been waiting a while and had all the best intentions of fighting their way onto the train. They tried valiantly, but in the end the compression characteristics of the incumbent passengers were such that no more then 1/3 of them accomplished transferrence. Since we were in the middle of the car, we could stand in relative comfort and watch the melee.

Back in Kamakura, we took a fortuitous wrong turn in trying to find the 'ginza' street, which parallels the main road. There's a similar street on the other side of the station, where you get off the enoden, but in fact it's more charming as opposed to purely touristy. There's a series of pleasant homewares and clothing shops, a nice bakery, and a few good-looking restaurants. We passed Le Point Ouest early on, then realized 90 minutes later at dinner time that we hadn't seen anything more appealing, and called them to take the last table.

Of course, there are only three tables, so it felt a bit lucky on a holiday weekend like this. This nice counter has 6 seats if pushed. The decor is like this - some Frenchy and bistroific touches, but in a hurried way that feels applied rather than some other adjective. Still, much more interested in the food...Kuroki spent two years cooking in Paris and came back with some good techniques and a small goatee.

The facial hair lets him make bold dishes like this terrine-two-ways - it's nice that you don't have to choose between country terrine and liver mousse. Both were good - the terrine in particular had a lot of liver in it and was nicely-formed. I dislike it when they're dry. His pickles (back left) were a bit to sweet for me, but not offensive.

We made a brief detour in the search for excellent sweetbreads, but this year's quest does not end on this plate. In a mushroom and onion sautee, these were good but still a bit gummy and not as precisely fried as the ones in my dreams. Still, as long as my cholesterol continues to be OK, the quest will continue.

This snapper, though, was excellent. Any fish-related quests would hit a wall after trying it. Decent flavor but perfect preparation, with a crisp skin and very juicy interior. Carrot puree may have been a bit strong texturally for the fish, and the vegetables were perhaps not 'integrated', but one has to fill out the plate in a healthy way. Looking at different web sites, this seems typical of the house style.

As does this. When's the last time I ordered chicken in a restaurant, let alone liked it? I think the last time I had a big piece of roast chicken like this may in fact have been at Quintessence, and I'm here to tell you that I preferred this one. The inside was hot and juicy and dripping with fat, and the skin was prefectly crisped. The real reason I ordered this was because of the grapes - see that sauteed Kyoho in the front? Chicken sauteed with grapes is not a favorite of mine - it's just a rarity, and I wanted to see what the chef was thinking. Clearly, he was thinking "Let's make some excellent roast chicken!"

He was also thinking about poaching some peaches and figs in syrup, which turned out well. Soft, spicy, fruity-flavorful, and worth eating again and again. Sometimes the simple things are best. Not very often, but sometimes. There was also a pistachio creme brulee that had a nice nuggetiness to the custard, but not enough sugar on top for a proper crusting.

I think you can guess what the overall review is here - I really liked it. I would go back any time if it wasn't in Kamakura. I think he could charge 50% more quite happily in Tokyo, but I'm glad he's staying in Kamakura for now. Only downside could be the 8:30 last order, so watch out for that. Still, we're not European or anything, are we? I don't think it's a problem.

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