Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Le Caprice, Roppongi

Let's just skip over the convoluted path that led me to be drinking wine by myself in Roppongi on a Wednesday night pissing with rain. It's not that interesting. What you should know is that Le Caprice is a pleasant little wine bar with decent food that's trying hard, and I think they deserve your business.

As is so often the case in Japan, 'they' is a relative, and relatively misleading, term. Kishida san owns and runs the 10-seat counter by himself, every day of the week from 6 PM to 2 AM, and has done that for more than 5 years. He rides his bike from Yotsuya every day, rain, shine or snow, which he says takes only 20 minutes. I was pretty surprised by this because, as he readily agreed, it's a sort of impossible journey by train (neither Roppongi nor Yotsuya are particularly accessible). If you look at the map it makes sense - a quick jaunt down through Aoyama, then Nogizaka, and you're there.

Just another guy who fell in love with French food and wine at some point, trying to make a go of his own business. Once we established that he lived in a place that could be described more accurately as Yotsuya Sanchome, I pointed out that he should have lunch at C'est la Vie Nagano, and he readily agreed that it was great ("The basement place, right?"). After that we passed some time discussing the greatness of Arakicho, which is a place I'd still like to explore a lot more. He likened it to parts of Kyoto (which we also discussed; somehow we managed to talk for almost 2 hours).

Being a wine bar, he has 10-12 wines open at a time, 1 sparkling and 5 or 6 each reds and whites, with everything ranging from Y800 to Y1600. I got through a very pleasant sauvignon blanc from Lorraine (sorry Dad, that's just the name of the region) and a big 'ol red from Cahors (one of the southwestern regions that you may remember being the specialty at La Chasse. Oops, you wouldn't remember that, because I haven't posted it yet.). They were really well-chosen, i.e. approachable yet interesting. While there weren't any other customers the whole time I was there (rained out, I imagine), clearly someone drinks there - the walls are almost completely covered with corks. If you've seen my cork basket at home you'll think you've seen a lot of corks, but I really do mean the walls are almost covered here. There are whole panels made of nothing but champagne corks.

On the food front, I'm not sure why, but we got around to discussing Au Gout du Jour, and it turns out that he used to work with Matsumoto san from my beloved Merveille (again, I'm reminded of some pretty but unposted pictures I took when I went there to drink my special bottle of Henriot Cuvee des Enchanteleurs). Being one guy with a tiny kitchen, he can't do much, but I had a chicken-mushroom pate (minced chicken, a little rough, with some herbs and lots of white pepper) on snipped mizuna with the white, and then his special red wine-stewed pork belly with sauteed mushrooms with the red. Both were nice, satisfying things that you'd be proud to make at home and not at all upset to receive in a restaurant, especially at these reasonable prices. He commented that he doesn't cook that well - "Basically everything in red wine!" - but I think that's unfairly modest. I was also interested in trying his "Curry rice that goes well with red wine", but it had to wait for another visit. It was already 10 PM, and I had to walk down to Juban to get the train home.

Happy hour 5-7 every day with Y500 drinks, including the sparkling, red and white wines of the day.

I must say, advertising yourself only on Gyao is probably not the fast track to success...


  1. "open 6PM to 2AM" "Happy hour 5 to 7"
    How does that work? I am not great on math but Happy hour doesnt all fit into his open time.

  2. I would certainly like to give this place my business when I'm there again. Food seems rather adventurous for such a small place. Not sure about curry and red wine though.

  3. 'Never proofread', that's my motto.

    I share the skepticism on the curry, and that's probably why he called it 赤ワインに合うカレーライス!