Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Barbara Marketplace, Marunouchi

No kidding, that's what they call it. I asked them to consider changing the name to Barbara Martieplace, but they didn't seem to get the joke (and neither will any readers, except 3 by my count). Y'know though, this was a really nice lunch! I'd even think about it for an after-work sorta dinner.

Their theme is 'A Melange of European Cuisines', which is an active turnoff. Focus usually produces better results, and they used the accent on Me, which I can't do, and thus showed their hand as being terribly, terribly European. Regarding the interior (as opposed to the extensive benchlike common seating outside, which is cool because it's outdoor seating but less cool because it's underground and set into the back corner of Shinmaru - exposed to outside air, but not really to the sky), a picture would be worth a thousand words. With 'marketplace' as the goal, there are hams, sausages, fruits, vegetables and canned goods all piled and priced around the counter (10 F le kilo!) - and they would be even more charming if they weren't plastic!  They also follow the 'empty wine bottle' motif so loved in Japan, but with a distinct high-end focus - I counted 12 empties of Opus One, 3 or 4 Moutons, 3 Latours and a Margaux. Hard to believe all those bottles were drunk in the restaurant; is there a service to recycle expensive bottles from expensive restaurants by selling them expensively to lower-end places?

The food stretches across the varying spectrum of 'European lunch in Japan', meaning pasta, curry and meats. I went with the chicken curry and loved it - a sizzling hot ceramic dish with a pile of rice, sweet Japanese-style curry, sliced chicken, asparagus, and bamboo shoots, and the whole thing topped with a layer of melted cheese and a genuinely delightful spice blend. The best part about it was the inclusion of fennel seeds (probably), because from bite to bite it tasted a lot like a good Italian sausage oughta taste, and that's a taste you just can't taste in Japan.

All lunches come with a piddly drink bar (coffee, tea, juices) and a few buffet-style sides (bean salad, carrots in vinegar, potato salad), and prices range from Y1000 to Y1260 for the meaty/roasty items.

For some reason I keep thinking it's called Babar, but that's a totally different phalange of pachyderms.

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