Friday, May 14, 2010

Les Tonneaux, Hatchobori

More hot Friday-night Fowl-On-Fowl action, wherein we visited the restaurant of Peacock's colleague's husband, and it turned out to be a cool neighborhoody spot.

And when I say 'neighborhood', I mean, like, y'know, from the block, because inadvertently or not, they've done a great job of creating a downtown New York vibe. It's the exposed brick, and the big black steel beams on the left side, and the wood-front cabinets with the pretty star-shaped pulls.

A cool thing is the adjoining wine shop, which stocks a big range of German imports (though unfortunately they don't have a system like Maru where you could pick bottles from the shop for Y500 corkage!). A real oddity for Japan, but it makes for an interesting wine list. We drank a bottle of sparkling Riseling, a first for me, and it was quite worthwhile - very fruity, only barely sweet, not too bubbly. If you find dry styles in French champagne to be too dry or too acidic or too anything, you'd like this. I think they should finish off the American-style theme by proposing wine pairings for individual dishes; they could probably increase turnover of the German bottles that way.

The American style is actually all over the menu too, which is funny because I only remember hearing that Wada san worked in Switzerland. There's griled salmon, and American-style steak (or French-style, I suppose), and lots of grilled vegetables. There are also plenty of Japanese touches, which makes for a cool mix.

These, however, are just olives. But pleasantly glistening.

This gobo-mushroom tart seemed OK; it wasn't mine. It turned out that the tart shell was filled with mousse of the aforementioned flavor, and I think I thought that it was a bit too soft and smooth considering how hearty and rustic gobo usually is as a vegetable. Still, points for the east-west fusion thing.

And more points for featuring a straight Japanese item that fits perfectly with the foreign theme. These are shinjos, basically ground seafood, balled and deep-fried. The sticks and eating style were reminiscent of either Asian street food or Mardi Gras depending on your perspective. Top-quality shinjo, with added pieces of roughly-chopped shrimp to keep the texture from being monotonous (although the best shinjo I ever had was extremely light, fluffy, and mono-textured). These came with garnish - a curry salt that was good, but not necessarily with the shinjo, and a tartar sauce, which always reminds me of fish sticks (I used to be proud that I could make them as dinner for Dad and me, including the tartar sauce, when Mom was working at night).

In retrospect, this may have been the winning dish on the night for me - just baked seafood and vegetables with pesto (I think it was pesto). The scallops were really sweet, as were the shrimp, and the vegetables were copious.

Grilled...was it swordfish?... No, that's right, it was buri (never edit, that's my motto).  Japanese chefs often cook buri and swordfish until they're a bit dry; funny that a culture that eats so much raw fish doesn't have a concept for 'pink and juicy in the middle' when it comes to cooked. You won't find any 'seared ahi tuna' on Japanese menus, let me put it that way. Without digressing too much, this was good cooking, and again plentiful vegetables.

Generously-portioned lamb chops and side dishes; the ratatouille met with particular approval. I thought the lamb was maybe a touch too rare, but this wasn't my dinner.

This was; I was just so amused by the concept of a big steak on a menu in Japan that I had to get it. It's sort of a rolled rib roast, which is a pretty nice cut to be throwing down like this, and was a bit on the done side but had enough pink left to be palatable. The fries weren't done enough though, no question about that.

I'm thinking in retrospect that the menu is pretty clever - all of the things that we took for starters could easily do double-duty as izakaya-style snacky, shared plates (especially the seafood and shinjo), which would really help draw multiple audiences to a neighborhood that's a bit off the beaten track (I think the street is called Heisei Dori, but it's the major one between Showa and Shin-Ohashi).

The other thing I'm thinking is that the cost performance is very good. With a decent list of glass wines, and the generous portion sizes pictured above, you could eat a main and a glass by yourself and be happy, or have a much fuller meal in various office or personal configurations. The basic competition in the neighborhood is Maru, as mentioned above, or Gare de Lyon a few blocks farther south. The food looks better here than at Maru, and from experience I would say is better than Gare, and the cost performance is equally good or better. If they had the Maru-style bottle program, I'd be sold.

Well, this post was awfully full of neighborhood references, but it kinda is my neighborhood.

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