Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Canova, Sendagi

Plan for a day off: Run. Decompress. Ride bike to Nezu/Sendagi for foreign-food lunch. Done.

New Tokyo Tower is getting pretty damn big. If you get up next to it, you'll definitely be incredulousized at its biggosity. As it is, and if you live on the good side of town like me (West Side haterz, bite me), you get nifty views of the tower all the time. I can see it from my apartment now that it's tall. And when you get up a bit, like riding up to Asakusa and then across Kototoi bridge, you get cool views like this.

Personally, though, I think the view in the door of a little Italian restaurant can be just as good as the tower. Canova is the highest Tabelog-rated French/Italian place in the neighborhood, so I started by trying to go there and succeeded.

The interior is surprisingly small, surprisingly warm and stylish, and surprisingly understaffed. With the chef and one waitress, they were running and stressed the whole time I was there. And slow. I stood at the door for well over 5 minutes just waiting to sit down.

But once I got started on the B course (Y2.2k), I was happy. I think this was just a cabbage soup, but it wasn't wasted - really deep flavor.

Nor was the salad wasted - somehow the greens were surprisingly fresh. Now, you can make some kinda comment about sourcing top quality produce and organic smegma, but I know they get it from the neighborhood. During lunch, the chef picked up the phone and made a call. I thought it was weird that he was doing that during service, especially when he said "Hi, it's Canova." I stopped paying attention to the call, but figured it out when a guy came in 5 minutes later with a head of cabbage.

I tell you what, as starters go, this was ace. The little bruschetta on the left was one of those things that makes me want to cook like that, or wonder how it's done so simply but so well. The rice was nothing special. The chunk of beef was extremely special, extremely. The whole thing looked terrible against the orange placemat, which is why you get this angled shot.

Whenever there's lasagna on the menu, I end up ordering it. It's never what I want though; one of these weekends I should really do the make-your-own lasagna project. I can always make pasta, and there's homemade sauce in the freezer, so all I'd need to do is make ricotta. This was a bit delicate, with more white sauce than red, but it bubbled merrily in its crock, and tasted fine.

The red wine-stewed beef cheek tasted fine too (I'll accept this for lunch; for dinner, it's gone into the category wherein also resides grilled Iberico pork: lazy Italian chefs). Great texture, good taste, perfectly-cooked turnips. It was awesome how he got them hot and a little soft throughout without really cooking them. You know I like my turnips raw though, so you might have found these weird.

Tiramisu was very soft and creamy, with, dare I say it, a hint of orange? Coffee was made from Illy beans on, I think, a La Marzocco automatic machine, and with that sort of pedigree even disinterested service couldn't get it too wrong.

With this lunch, let's just say I was very pleased on the day and would happily go back for dinner if I was looking for something in this price range and area. I wouldn't tell you it was amazing, I wouldn't recommend you beat a path to the door. But I don't think you'd be let down.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the decor was weird. You expect bottles of wine, jars of beans, brightly-colored pictures in an Italian restaurant. You don't expect all of those things to be from Israel. Now, there are those who will tell you that Japan was populated by one of the Lost Tribes (hat tip to El Al for alerting me to this when I sent him the pictures). I am not among them. And I am not among those who understand where Canova got the decorating scheme from, because when I asked, the chef said "Oh yeah, I received all that stuff." It didn't seem like he wanted to talk more about it. Almost like his tribe was still in hiding.

One time I saw a terrific photo book that was full of shots like this - Tokyo cityscapes, and especially highways, totally devoid of cars. It's hard to imagine how the photographer got the shots. This one's not hard to understand - as sometimes happens, I was cruising along on my bike when suddenly I found myself on an elevated highway. Japan does this to smooth out intersections - temporary elevated sections that feel just like the big highways. Imagine me on my powder-blue step-through frame, tooling along, realizing there aren't any cars behind, me, and easing out to the middle of the lane to take a rolling shot. There you go.

It's a great feeling, like peeing outdoors.
03-5814-2260

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