Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Ma Terrasse, Kagurazaka (ア マ テラス)

Many times I've lied and many times I've listened, many times I've wandered around Kagurazaka's bistros. This included a lot of mid-to-late-night rambles, and it's hard to find places that are open. One that's reliably so is Hap, and one that's reliably closed is organic vegetable-specialist A Ma Terrasse. Today I ate lunch there. It was pretty good. For those of you who will understand the comparison, think Coulis, but a little more meaty and a little less awesome. It's down one of the side streets (like so many good places, nothing good in Kagurazaka is ground-floor street-level), and is housed in what I guess is a converted house.

The first floor is walkway and kitchen and storage; you have to teeter up the steep, narrow, curving staircase to get to the 18-seat dining room. The waiter has to do that too. So does the chef. And they have to do it together, because they're the same person (at least for today's lunch). Fortunately there's a dumbwaiter, and he worked that thing to good effect. Hopefully they have staff at dinner time; I actually went back down to place my order when he didn't show up for a while.

With only 3 customers - me and a pair of women drinking beer and exclaiming about the food - and a lack of lighting, it felt a bit cold in there. That must be why there are blankets on all the chairs. I liked these cheery paintings though; I guess with the rough white walls and bright colors they're going for a southern-France feel. For lunch, 2 courses will set you back Y1680, and dessert is another Y315. I like to be precise about these things. You'll see in the food - that's good value volume-wise, and the quality is pretty good too.

The country-style pate was nice, but the organic vegetables really elevated it. I struggled from time to time with the taste of the meat (note to self: if you order something that clearly says it contains liver and gizzard, don't complain that it tastes like liver, OK?), but overall liked it. And there's no denying that it was well-made. I loved the various pickled vegetables and raw shoots. What are they all? This was fun. I was very pleased with the casual, kicky appearance at the time, but looking at the picture now it just seems like a mess. Too bad, because that doesn't do justice to the taste.

This was advertised as inada wrapped in a crepe, and the advertising didn't lie even a little. To me, this was a mistake - inada is a strong fish, some say the king of silver fish (I just made that up, but it is very good, especially in winter), and when cooked it has a strong taste. Why you'd want to pair that strong taste and sorta gummy cooked texture with a lightly sweet crepe is beyond me. Pretty sure the lighter sauce was shrimp-based, and the sweetness of that went well with the crepe even if it didn't with the fish. Thinking about other meals I've had in this price range, I'd say this guy is reaching for something better (for example, he's not just making salads and steak frites) and getting partway there. But not charging for getting all the way either, so the cost performance is good. (BTW, dinner is Y3600 for the same volume I ate today plus coffee, and I can easily imagine they would offer better options, so that sounds very good to me too.)

Let's finish with a little dessert. For an undistinguished square of chocolate, this was excellent. It was gooey and dense in the middle, with some unidentifiable flavors (it said 'raw barley' on the menu, but I didn't ask). The sauce was caramel-black pepper, and it added a lot to the cake. The passion fruit sauce and ice cream, not so much. Still, if all desserts in Japan were this worthwhile, the country could take over the world.

Mellow is the man who knows what he's been missing.

1 comment:

  1. Any review that refers to both organic vegetables and a Led-Zep song gets my vote! Their website suggests a very user-friendly BYO policy, worth bearing in mind.