Monday, November 2, 2009

Cafe Vignoble, Takadanobaba

A few days around the house and I was mildly bored. Since there are a nearly-endless series of neighborhoods to explore, and no time like the present to get started, I did a quick search on the Interwebs and then went to Takadanobaba. I don't know how the name came about, but the 'high field' aspects were striking since it was several degrees colder than home, with biting wind and rain to match.

Vignoble Cafe is fortunately dry, warm and welcoming. It seems like a local place that you could come to call your own, especially with prices this low. Plastic table covers like these are generally a turnoff, but there are other touches that make it nicer. The menu is your basic standards from the Japanese-French bistro set, but they purport to focus on Provence food and thus has a selection of pissaladiere (call it 'French pizza', I dare you). The wine list is varied and cheap, with a healthy selection under Y4000 (which is cheap for French wine in a restaurant in Japan). They seem carefully selected, which probably reflects the fact that the restaurant is owned by the sommelier, not the chef.

In a mode I always like to call "comin' atcha'", these are the house-made lamb sausages. They were extremely rich due to the addition of both pork fat and liver (I asked the waiter, who was proud to note that 'house made' was his house in this case - and he may have been the owner, for all I know), with exactly the rough-ish texture that I like in a sausage and a natural sort of snap to the casing due to the use of actual sheep intestine, not plastic tube. Cooked just to done-ness, the tiniest bit of pink left at the core, they restored my faith in the ability of Japan to produce sausage.

This foie gras pissaladiere ('Most popular item!') was a contradiction. The dough base was mediocre - unfortunately reminding me of a microwave pizza - and the olives were the pimento stuffed, canned variety. The foie, on the other hand, was of admirable quality and cooked very well. One can't win them all, but it's weird to do such a good job on part of a dish while settling for less on the rest.

Keeping things short, I got up close and personal with a slice of chocolate cake. I liked how the waiter pointed out that it would go better with the red wine I was drinking than the tea-flavored creme brulee. It was as dense and rich as advertised, with a bit of needed help from the cream. The vanilla ice cream seemed to be made in-house as well since they were scraping it out of a metal bin in the kitchen, but it was a touch icy.

As a local place, this is is pretty good - nice attention to detail, although inconsistent, and good simple flavors. Other things that I didn't eat also looked worthwhile - the 'composed bagna cauda' was indeed a composed salad of dip-worthy vegetables, while the daily special of lamb with couscous looked suitably rich and wintry.

Can't say I'll be back, but if you need a place in Baba that's not ramen...

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