Thursday, November 19, 2009

Essenza, Marunouchi

This has been on the target list for a long, long time - must have been July or August that I tried to go but had it rejected by my dining companion on grounds of cost. I grant you, Y1900 is not a normal lunch, but this is a good place.

As we were leaving I picked up a card and noticed that Essenza is 'by Aromafresca'. If you're not familiar with that, it's the highest-scoring Italian restaurant in Tokyo among Japanese people (i.e., Tabelog) whle largely ignored by Michelin and others (1 star, I think). This doesn't stop them from charging well over $100 for what looks like quite normal food, nor from having the kind of ridiculous 2-months-out booking policies that restaurants dream about, despite a frankly inconvenient location south of Azabu Juban. So this is potentially an opportunity to eat their food in an accessible lunch setting.

It comes off pretty well. The lunch includes a mixed starter, a pasta of your choice, and either coffee or tiny dessert. The mixed starter was a bit standard but nice - a single meatball on lettuce; a single fried fish with onions, vinegar and pink pepper; and a neat soup of chickpeas pureed, thinned with stock and cream, topped with olive oil. The pastas have 6 or so options, but for two of them you'll be paying up an extra Y6-800. And for yet a further one of them, you'll be eating tripe. However the normal tomato-and-oil sauce my companion got looked pleasantly oily, while my salmon in cream sauce was really excellent. The pasta was fresh and textured very well, the salmon had been crisped on the outside without drying, then flaked, and the cream sauce was flavorful and light. Exemplary salmon cream sauce, really. Bread comes from huge focaccia that they seem to make there, and a sous chef was kneading pasta when we left.

This is in keeping with Aromafresca as I understand it - simple, casual, expensive Italian - but is worth a trip, especially on a nice day when it's enjoyable to walk to Maru Biru.

Most of the reviews say how popular it is with ladies...

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