Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asterix, Akasaka

Asterix has been around for positively yonks. Even after going, I'm not sure if I've been before or not - it's very possible that I went once, back in that halcyon month known as September 2004 when I had just moved to Japan and everything was fresh and exciting (except for work, which was a big pain in the ass from the get-go). And I lived in Roppongi. Everybody that lives between Azabu and Akasaka knows Asterix, and I respect the master for keeping it going. Considering how long he's been doing it, and the price point he's at, it's really quite good.

I was just walking around before dinner, and wandered down a side street (from Asterix, go toward Aoyama/away from Akasaka). There was an odd little building there with 4 Japanese places that all looked pretty good, including one counter sake specialist that frankly looked terrific (Dajare, 'a place to compare pure rice sakes'. It's like they're reading my mind!).  But a reservation were made in the previously, and after snapping a quick picture of the mascot of yet another place in that building (called Akabeko, which you may remember is the 'red cow' bobbing-head toy traditional in and around Aizu, Fukushima. Reminds me of Miharukoma, another restaurant that turned out to be named for a toy. Horse in that case; kinda sinister considering their raw horsemeat menu specialty.) I, uh, digress (and not to explain who Asterix is; rookie gambit, that). But I wanted to mention Dajare, because it looks really good - selection, price, maybe even food.

Asterix is downstairs, very French and cavelike, and in a nice way. Three tables plus a counter, adn they gave us the corner one, sort of shielded by a screen and farthest from the counter. The assignation table, maybe? You're meant to order a course, and the waitress was deeply grumpy when one of us didn't want to do so (something about 'big lunch plus big afternoon snack at 4'?). This probably won't be an issue for you, but she was deeply grumpy about pretty much everything, so just ignore her. Her service is still good. I also liked the master - a big, full, white beard and industrious aspect behind the counter. I'm positive he's cultivating a Gallic bent, because I gave him a hearty 'Goch!' on the way to the bathroom and he just grunted.

As you expect with bistros d'un age certain, the walls are covered with souvenirs from trips to France - next to my table at the end, post cards showing handy vintage charts for various wine regions.

It's funny you should ask, but yes, this is a terrine with foie gras. A lot of nasty bits mixed into this (meaning liver, basically. Nothing more sinister.) It was a touch lackluster, and a bit less dense than I might have liked. I ate slowly, and when it got warm it was a bit too fatty and falling-apart.
I'm still unsure if the general lack of bread products throughout dinner was a result of the earlier ordering difficulty or just a general policy. This didn't come with bread or toast or anything, and my request produced only one slice of baguette.

Shrimp and scallop salad, with a nice cumin-based dressing and a big pile of avocado underneath. A good plate, actually. Not my plate though, just a salad for the lady, thanks.

This was described as veal with blue cheese sauce on the menu (I didn't look at the Japanese menu, oops), so I was surprised when it turned out to be entrecote. It was still OK. The white mound was, I think, white asparagus in cream sauce. The vegetables were generically overcooked, but this is the kind of thing one should certainly expect in this price range.

Cheese plate, really pretty good considering. All the cheeses were quite ripe, which is a good thing not generally seen in Japan. Not serving this with any bread, crackers, dried fruit...anything to break up the cream monotony...was a not-good thing not generally seen in Japan. We asked and received some baguette slices.

Dessert plate, pretty darn lackluster. I liked the brown thing at the bottom, a spongey cake drippingly soaked in Frangelico (I think). The little caramel-meringue thing (white, top right) was also good. Most of the other things were actively poor, especially the cheesecake-looking thing at 12 o'clock, which was in reality a dry and tasteless plain cake.

Y3990 for 3 plates - really good for Tokyo even if the food doesn't set the world on fire. I guess Brasserie Bec is still my winner in this space (and Le Pre Verre isn't much more expensive, and I'm not going to let me recent dull experience put me off just yet), but Asterix has a decent thing going, especially considering this neighborhood's much higher average price point.

Why yes, Mr. Carter, that was a reference to you!


  1. Can't keep up with your furious pace. "Yonks", Jon?

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for your blog, I was looking for ideas to go I found plenty.
    Im french leaving in Tokyo for me Asterix is the best french food I've eaten so far here! Its basically the stuff we eat everyday in France, so I dont compare with high-end restaurant food.
    French do like their vegetables overcooked, and the bread you just need to ask for it: its the same in France. You might need to ask 20 times but thats just the way we do. Asterix is an heaven for me!