Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ozawa, Shiroganedai

Like me, you may have an impression of Shirogane as stylish and packed with stylish shopping and dining. It's not. I think the apartments are the most stylish thing; there are certainly plenty of cool-looking ones. The restaurants are sparse, but one that stands out on the main street is Ozawa, which lives in a sort of patinaed-copper-colored building in the middle of the main street. (The other one that stands out is the big, grand branch of Italian chain La Boheme.) Given the convenient location and the fact that they had a table for lunch (the first 6 places didn't), this seemed like a good choice to meet Auntie Em. No relation to Uncle N, by the way.

Do be careful - you'll follow the first sign back around the curving corner and then not notice that this other door is off the to side, with very little handle or marking to differentiate it from the other window panels of the restaurant. There's an entrance there, honest. Work for it.

The color and shape of this building make me feel bubbly, as in "We're gonna party like it's 1989." Ozawa has certainly been here for a fair few years; you can see that in the thin linearity of the logo, and you can see it in the style of cooking. Let's just jump to the takeaway and say "All those guys who learned to cook 30 years ago in France? This is what they're trying and failing to cook like."

Thankfully the dining room has been upgraded, maybe in the late 90's, to an earthy pallette and open kitchen with copious quantities of hanging copper. I was polite enough not to ask, but I bet the head waiter, 20 years older than anyone else, wearing a chef's jacket, and deeply concerned with guests' happiness, is Ozawa himself. He was really likeable.

So were his snacks. This is clever stuff - on the left is a 'pot au feu of beef and beets' consisting of beet gelatin layered with thin beef slices, and on the right is a curry-scented shrimp fried in light dough. Good ideas.

This, though, is what I'm talkin' about. It's shrimp in light gelatin, obviously, with a nice red-pepper sauce around...and the red pepper sauce is concealing the thick layer of tomato gelatin. While this is more of a summer thing (cold gelatin, lots of acid), it's technical, beautiful and tasty. This is the kind of classical technique that I bet 150 Tokyo low-end bistro chefs learned and forgot. Ozawa does a lot of dishes this way, because...well, I bet because they can. It's not easy, but it's cool. You know how many places, even ones I love, include gelatin in their dishes by adding a loosely chopped mound of it - no molding, especially not with things inside.

Likewise, boning a quail, making it perfectly cylindrical with sticky rice filling, and simmering it in broth is a tricky business. And a tasty one. Okra, turnip, potato, possibly cooked separately to get to very proper degrees of done-ness each. I wish I had had something more substantial and maybe more roasty, but this was very good.

Anyway, you can fill up on dessert - your choice of the chocolate cake (I think, but I may be forgetting), pear tart and cherry clafoutis-like object. In any combination you want, and/or ice cream and pear sorbet. Decent desserts - not outstanding, but definitely a cut above what you expect from a French dessert cart - here, look at the low-quality volume at Rabelais.

There it is - the exception that proves the rule about 'Old French'. You could have a comfortable time here, enjoying the warmth, quietude, nice service, and pleasantly tasty food, as long as you were in a position to enjoy that sort of environment and pay a little extra for it.

Service non compris, mes amis.

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