Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vinoteca Wagon, Ginza

Ginza is hard. If you're at all price-sensitive, you're likely to be disappointed by the quality level of places. Italian is the same way for me. But The Wagon is largely a winner, and it has an associated restaurant in Azabu Juban that's open just as late as the Ginza branch (well after midnight). My views may be slightly colored by the bitter cold on the street in Ginza this evening; we were just overjoyed to be inside.

It's this kinda place - a little candlelight, some booths, some tables, professional service, and lots and lots of wagons. Everything is done by wagon. Soon after we were seated, they brought us these nice bread plates with olives and oil (it's an Italian restaurant, so yes, we were charged for them), and trundled over the first wagon - the antipasto wagon. On it were 5 different small plates, all of which looked fairly appetizing and all of which we refused, the better to focus on the menu.

Bagna Cauda was good. Not too much or too little, no fussy candle-powered warmers, just a tiny saucepan of oil and smelly bits. As a vegetable dip it was a little thin - the anchovy paste didn't really stick, so it was mainly the oil - but as a bread dip it was ace.

Mixed fry was OK, with good ingredients but inadequate frying temperatures.

Beef ragu on fresh pappardelle was excellent on all counts (as was splitting all the courses in two with no charges). Perhaps I say that mostly because the taste and texture of the pasta was like one I would have made?

What the heck, we went for a risotto also, all of which are cheese-infused. Y'know, I think infused has fallen out of favor as a menu term. Maybe it's made it all the way down to Applebee's now. But you see where this is going, right? They have a whole wheel of parmesan in the dining room, topped with a clear plastic disc, and when you get risotto they bring out the pot of rice, pour it into the cheese bowl, and scrape it around for a while. Hopefully they then scrape the cheese clean before covering it to wait for the next customer.

This was pretty good. Fresh risotto is tough to make in restaurants, so I think it come down to how well you fake it. Theirs was watery, which diluted the impact of the cheese. I'm making risotto at home next weekend with the big block of parmesan I got on Sunday at Nissin.

This lamb cutlet may have been the highlight of the dinner, actually. The meat was very good, the breading was cooked just right, the cheese was melty, the sauce was saucy...and the fractal broccoli was as weird as ever.

Strawberry tart, good berries that might have been soaked since they were so sweet and not at all bitter, excellent crust. Quenelle was just whipped cream; I got momentarily excited that it was mascarpone.

Nice place, good location in south Ginza (near Barney's, OK?). Safe and pleasant; you won't be disappointed.

Faint praise?

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