Friday, October 16, 2009

Murase, Ginza (村瀬)

Ginza is an entertaining area. Really, it's kind of known for being entertaining. I like to think that it's more adult in style though, or even middle-aged. The two main things are brand shops and hostess clubs, so there are plenty of things for affluent 50-year old Japanese couples to do. Just not together.

I've always found the restaurant scene challenging - while there are certainly plenty of very high-end places, even the middle of the market seems pricey and a bit difficult in value terms. Thus I was doubly and pleasantly surprised to find two places on this evening that both delivered very nice food, drinks and service (although I'm not completely sure about the values). And that made the count of appealing bistro places for the day three.

Murase was first. Seeing as it's near Fal, I've walked by a bunch of times on the way home. I'm not totally sure why I hadn't been in, as it looks appealing - the basic premise is that they serve New Zealand wine, and I can't find a flaw in that logic. If anything, I would guess that it looks a bit too 'Ginza', meaning 'remodeled hostess club', even though I don't think it is.

Inside, they looked full but had a small table available for an hour, and we took it with the expectation of rolling on to another place. I'm not sure how to convey the 'remodeled hostess' atmosphere. I think to me it's mainly the use of furnishings that seemed stylish in the late 80's/early 90's. Here, it was the semi-gloss black table tops and the black metal pipe chairs. They would go OK with a Duran Duran poster, as long as it was tasteful. There's nothing wrong with it though, and I like the way they pack things in so that as many people as possible can get in.

The wine list is the thing, obviously. I really admire a place with enough courage in their convictions to focus on soemthing, and Murase is very focused - while I said New Zealand before, it's actually more like a 'Fruity New World' theme - New Zealand forms the majority in both read and white, but Oregon is second, Washington third, and a smidgen of Australia brings up the rear. In a country where restaurants feel their wine list must slavishly match their food (e.g., ONLY Italian wine), this is very cool. I also admire a place that has a serious bottle program, and they have a serious 20+. While this of course dwells on Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot, there ae oddities - a 7-year old Barossa semillon, for instance, which found its way into my glass. I grinned a big grin when I ordered it, and Murase san smiled back as if to say "Ahhh, you noticed that."

There wasn't time or inclination to get into too much food. It tends toward the snack variety (roast beef, smoked salmon, small cold dishes) but there are also more substantial hot items (stews, pastas). And there is also cheese. A lot of very nice cheese. Two boards full of mature-looking cheese. We had a touch of calvados brie, semi-hard goat in red wine lees (I should know what this is called considering how much I like it) and some Shropshire blue. Must have been good if I can remember all three varieties 3 days later!

Murase san saw us out with apologies about the table and best wishes for next time. This is definitely worth a return visit for a fuller dinner, however you would do well to book if you're thinking of going. Being Ginza, it fills up, and doesn't empty out as the night goes on.

Oh, they call themselves a cheese and wine salon. That explains ever'ting.

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