Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wine and Grill Kazusa, Azabu Juban

Do you like that whole 'private dining' thing? Kazusa is practically unlabeled, with only a high second-story sign saying the name in stylized, half-unreadable script to let you know that the nondescript building on the quiet stretch of road south of Telebi Asahi is the right one.  The door doesn't open unless you know just the right way to turn the handle and pull. We yanked on it for a while, then knocked. Regulars know how to open it.

There aren't many seats in the dim, red-accented interior, and within a short period after we arrived, most of them were indeed full of regulars who had made reservations. Mr. Kazusa (I guess that's his name) said he likes it that way - actually the 8 people present were more than he really likes, because it's a little too much to serve all of them. He's really fussy about his food, in the best way.

Being a sommelier years ago, he's a bit fussy about the wine too. There's no list, but you can ask him about bottles or else choose from the 7 selections by the glass. At left is his recommendation with lighter foods, made from the ancienne Terret Sec grape - despite its previous popularity, this winery is evidently now the only one in France to use it. (For the record, I think there's a reason it fell out of favor.)

Fussy about the food, I said, and this is where he starts things off by offering you duck prosciutto that he's cured himself (soft, silky, delicious), ham made from 'wine pigs' that he's boiled himself (almost as good) and straightforward liver terrine (better, much better). Just great stuff.

Likewise this gazpacho - perfect as a course on a hot day, and with the vinegary marinated shellfish upping the refreshment quotient as well as getting around the fundamental problem I always have with soup - the sameness of texture. Another great course.

The lighting flatters the food too, doesn't it?

Grilled scallops with a sort of ratatouille...not quite the equal of the previous two courses, but nothing wrong with this, and I wish I had been served something this good in many, many Mediterranean-influenced dinner in Japan before.

Believe it or not, we were full and tired by that point (do NOT snack in the afternoon, OK?) and took home the whole roast pork loin. Rallying shortly after arrival to eat it, we confirmed that it was as juicy as indicated on the menu. There's an easy way to get it this way - don't cook it very much. See the pink in the middle? If you think your pork has to be done, you're going to miss out. I loved watching him work the 'thermometer', which was a thin metal skewer that he inserted into the meat (which was grilling over bincho charcoal, according to the helpful plaque) and then touched quickly to his lower lip. I guess it's a sensitive measuring device, but it must leave an unsightly blemish if you time the meat wrong.

Definitely recommended - far beyond what you'd expect from looking at the usual web sources for information. Can't wait to get back again.

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