Friday, September 18, 2009

XEX, Tokyo (Daimaru 13th)

It's tough to say no to lunch invitations from people you haven't seen for a while. Especially when you have a lot of similar interests to that person. And even more so when they invite you to a place where you can join the "city's growing population of urban take full advantage of the mature setting and undeniably chilled atmosphere." I love undeniably chilled atmospheres, don't you?

XEX has a bunch of outlets, all following a sort of New York, upscale, loungey, modern, adult feel. As you might remember from a few weeks ago, they sometimes spice it up with teppanyaki or a Balinese resort theme, but at this location atop the Daimaru department store in Tokyo station, the theme is straightforward - spare, elegant, dark decorations, big windows facing east across the city and the imperial palace, and Italian food by Salvatore Cuomo.

You may be thinking Salvatore is a bit overexposed - he's got quite the empire here in Tokyo when you factor in all the XEX collabos and branded restaurants and pizza places. But I think he's done a good job of keeping the quality where it should be across all of the places I've been. For your ready reference, this was most reminiscent of the 5th-floor 'Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo' outlet in Roppongi Hillz, minus a lot of the 'kitchen' charm of having ovens and roasting meats in the background.

Fortunately it also dispenses with the luxury-lunch trappings and just offers you the buffet for Y1800 - it was always a frustration at the other one that they tried very hard to steer you toward the Y3000 'buffet plus main' option. The buffet here is slightly less good, somehow, but features plenty of stuff to make you happy. The salad selection is medium but with everything looking quite fresh and also showing a little more care - for instance broccoli is cooked a bit, mixed with oil and garlic and cooled, letting it multipurpose for either salad or a side to one of the chunkier pastas, hot dishes or pizzas on the buffet. Yesterday there were some cold seafood dishes like bay scallops, baby cuttlefish and shrimp in a pink sauce, and there were nice baked dishes like an eggplant casserole.

There's also soup. There's also bread. There's also a tiny dessert (inferior, I'm sorry to say, to the choice of three solid desserts that the Hillz venue always had) and a tiny coffee (though you don't have to order espresso if you don't want). There's also a great view. On the whole, it's a soothing place to go for lunch aside from the fact that it's fairly packed with mature patrons taking advantage of the undeniably chilled atmosphere.

After all, what's in a XEX?

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