Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brasserie Gus, Kagurazaka

If you can't handle some self-satisfaction in a post, now's a good time to stop reading. Today's lunch, both format and destination, is so amusing that there's sure to be smugness in the offing. After last Friday's disastrous lunch in Iidabashi followed by a tantalizing walk in Kagurazaka, my longstanding regret at not being an expert on KGRZ bistros reemerged. And I thought "Stop complaining and do something about it." Now I've got a list of 15 places - getting there for lunch requires a short walk, 8 minute train ride, short walk, so why the hell not? Here's the first one.

There's no great benefit to mankind in recommending a restaurant that scores a 3.8 on Tabelog after a shocking 200 reviews. But there's only one English review extant, and anyway this is worth reminding you about, and anyway you know these reviews cover every new place. It's extra shocking because it's really nowhere - leave Kagurazaka by Exit 2, the quiet end, and go straight ahead - down the street with no shops but the Adidas Japan headquarters, and also those of a magazine publisher. After a good little walk, there'll be a sushi place, and finally a sign with a French flag. Naturally that's the place. Look at the bikes parked outside - people obviously think it's far enough that it deserves a ride instead of a walk.

Inside is just what you'd expect - cramped, quaint, Frenchly-decorated, red-checkered of tablecloth (and me with my bad camera, so it was too hard to take 'les photos'). At least for lunch, I can promise that you'll be surprised by the menu - two courses of bistro favorites for Y1k, plus a small charge that we like to call 'le tax'. You get about 6 choices of each, plus perhaps some specials (today the starter specials were mushroom terrine (sliced and pan-fried, I think) and pate de campagne - these augmented 'house pate', duck rillettes, marinated salmon, and a few others. Mains are equally classic.). Enough of these paragraphs with no pictures. Let's see some food.

For some reason this was Meat Day, and I had the duck rillettes. I would describe this puck as 'unctuous' or perhaps 'silky' if I were the kind of lazy food writer that used jackass terms like those. Or if I were a food writer at all, instead of a guy who just goes to a lot of restaurants. 'Puck' is also sort of a descriptive-but-lazy word, like silky. Feel free to point out other examples in my posts if you'd like. All I can say in Ma Defense is "Christ, there's something new every day. Gimme a break. Gimme a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. No don't. I'm still trying to lose weight. That's why I ran to Tsukiji this morning." It also occurs to me that the salad dressing joined the pickle and pickled cabbage in being quite vinegary, which was necessitated by the high proportion of fat in the rillettes. Looking at the picture, I guess it's not so exciting. Trust me, it was pretty good.

Meat day continued with a hanger steak; the striations in the meat seem to mark it as such, and it triggered a primordial memory like "That's what a bistro steak is supposed to look like." It was also charred outside but warm and red in the middle, and made me laugh almost out loud when I first ate it. Good potatoes. Good vegetables. Mustard. If they offered this plate alone for Y600 with some bread, you'd have an unstoppable lunch...incidentally, in the course of writing that I learned that the hanger steak is sometimes called the 'bistro steak', or 'butcher steak' because butchers reputedly kept it for themselves, or 'that soft bit attached to the cow's diaphragm'.

You can get, by the way, the full course for Y2k, and that will get you your choice of starter, the fish and the meat of the day, and your choice of dessert. I augmented my course with this Y400 tarte tatin, which I found to be an unfortunate misstep. Not bad or anything; just that I was thinking of the thick sludge of caramel, buttery crustal layer, and textured apples on offer in the tarte tatin that's probably sitting by the register at Viron right now...and this wasn't any of those things. The crust was weak to non-existent, the apples had been sliced thin, layered and cooked to uniform very-softness, and they hadn't really caramelized in the bottom of the pan (the top of the tart). There was nothing wrong with it per se, and the ladies next to me seemed to enjoy theirs after the mere sight of mine made them each order one. I could still go back to this place any time. Every day.

Rich, thick, gooey.

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