Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vin Picoeur, Marunouchi

This is an odd position to be in - needing to recommend a restaurant from the Aux Amis chain. After a series of mediocre experiences at the Maru Biru glamour outlet and the Brasserie outlet, I don't know what I was doing steering this work dinner toward yet another one (in the same building as the Brasserie, no less). But it worked out well - some things were amazingly tasty. I haven't seen the bill yet; I'm a little worried about the wine.

Recent posts have neglected decor a bit, so let's cover that by saying that it's stereotypical French bistro, right down to the dark-red wood and the lace half-curtains. And they have a whole pig in a cooler behind the bar. I'm glad I sat with my back to him. It was busy and noisy, but the service mostly kept up.

As a party of 5, we had to get one of the two courses. These consist of different numbers of things-grilled-on-sticks and we got the shorter one, roughly 6 sticks for Y3000. That sounds a bit steep now that I write it, but I thought it was pretty good value. We started with some normal French stuff: the otoshi, small slices of quiche, was warm and very good, while the firefly squid and nanohana with orange segments (French? what?) was finely fresh. Once the meat started, I was much happier. It was a weird experience, with some things being flat-out awesome, and some inedible (more me than the product, I guess).

So that course...I'd get individual things if you go, not the courses. We started with normal squares of pork roast, but the flavor was incredible (enough that I made the table order another round after the course was over). That was followed by liver; it was edible, and maybe even a little good, but I'll never be a liver lover. Then came 'market fish', which was sea eel, and it was extraordinary. Then came the pig intestine, and for the second time in ten years I chewed something for a while, then excused myself to spit it out in the bathroom. The taste was great - their grill is seriously good - but when you chew and chew something and it just turns into jelly without becoming's not my thing. The last time this happened to me was in roughly 2000 or 2001, a piece of squid sushi somewhere in Darling Harbor, and I can eat squid any which way now. Maybe there's hope for me and pig intestine? Not eager to find out.

Last on the course was foie gras in balsamic sauce; should be terrific, but in fact was a bit disappointing. Crusty on the outside, oddly dry throughout. Too bad. After that we ordered more of the fantastic pork roast sticks, some chicken wings that were heavily herbed and quite good, and a spare rib. If this is on the menu when you go, get it. Get two. It was the best thing of the night, easily. Damn.

As I said, I haven't seen the bill yet (unfortunately I DO have to pay, and a disproportionate share since it was someone's farewell dinner). I think the food was reasonable in price and, if ordered carefully, excellent in taste, and while we may have gone overboard on drinks, the glass wine list looked quite solid (10 varieties). This is an Aux Amis that I can comfortably say you should visit.


UPDATE: Holy shit, this was punishingly expensive including the wine.

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