Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Galerie Coupe Chou, Shinjuku

Have you read any of my rants about 'old French' in Tokyo? This is a term I coined soon after arriving in Japan, when I ate at Chartreuse in Roppongi. It refers to the abundant class of 'first wave' Japanese-French restaurants. These were opened by quirky guys who thought Europe was awesome 25 years ago and went off to study cooking. They came back knowing how to make the classics, and have been turning out roast chicken and beef bourguignon ever since. Cooking has moved on, both in Japan and in France, but theirs hasn't, and often it's sort of atrophied as well.

Coupe Chou is the exception that proves the rule (that's such a great expression, mainly because it's nonsense). It's indisputably Old French (murals on the walls, dark and a little grimy, plates with the restaurant's name, sauce-on-top-of-meat cooking) but it's tasty, cheap and fun. Chapeau!

With a convenient location right behind HALC (you know the Bic Camera right outside Shinjuku's west exit? There.), we took a few minutes to browse digital cameras and golf wear before dinner. The Tabelog coupon is for a free glass of (palatable) house wine, and the menu has a solid range of courses and alacarts - the basic 3-course is Y3.5k and allows you to choose from the whole menu; adding soup and coffee for Y1k seems pointless. If the volume was a little small, the baguette was very good (and the sweetened whipped butter), and a small dinner and only one glass of wine is no crime for a Wednesday night. A good thing, in fact. The service was harried by the table of 20 women taking up most of the restaurant, but I still ended up with a warm feeling for the woman who seems like she might own the place.

Starters that crossed our section of counter were the sashimi with green sauce (the fish fresh, the sauce tasty and herby but overpowering, if that's of concern) and crab gratin (sweetish blush sauce and white ramekin reminded me of Brasserie Yoshi in Ginza, but bigger, tastier and cheaper. In the world of business, we call that a 'win-win-win' situation.). Mains were a steak with garlic sauce (sauce that you could smell in the next room, steak small but soft, not overdone, and tasty; good potatoes too) and half a lobster with drawn butter and herbs (usually I only eat lobster at The Lobster House, but I made an exception, paid the Y300 supplement with a little chuckle, and enjoyed it).  Desserts included a very competent pear tart (and I mean that; I've had incompetent ones, and this was better) and an odd 'fruit fondue' that was fruit segments and some purple sweet potato cut up for easy dipping in the bowl of airy cold cream cheese sauce. Not incredible, but an interesting change.

So this still qualifies as Old French, and I'm still not seeking these places out, but this was a perfect weeknight French dinner. Amusingly, I had lunch with a colleague yesterday and when I said "Hey, I went to a nice little French place in Shinjuku last night," he immediately said "Was it Coupe Chou? I went there one time about 12 years ago!"

Good choice!

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