Thursday, November 25, 2010

Poisson, Kagurazaka (シーフードレストラン ポワソン)

After a series of mediocre Kagurazaka bistro experiences, here's a pretty good one. It's an Organic Seafood Italian though, so maybe not in line with the steak frites you were expecting. Let's get oriented first - it's on the 5th floor of the Rakuzan (Mountain of Fun!!!!) building, on your right as you crest Kagurazaka itself and head gently down toward the crossing with Okubo Dori. Being on the north side of the street, it's on the edge of the cobbled section, and if you look down from the outdoor elevator lobby, the sign that you can barely see at the top of this picture is Menosou. OK?

Really staking their claim to the seafood title, aren't they? The wine, the crab and sea urchin shells, and on the left the pen shells (tairagai), in case you haven't seen them before. This building is a treasure trove to my current state of mind - there's the tea shop on the ground floor (the aforementioned Rakuzan) where, despite their high-end leanings, they were roasting hojicha on the street in an old machine today. What a great smell - same as roasting coffee, the taste of the beverage can't approach the amazingosity of the smell. In the basement is now a decent-looking Italian place that I'll probably get to soon. On the second floor is a new branch of Uobaka's Squid Center - now I don't need to remember to go to Shinjuku to get that live-squid sashimi experience (really, I want to try it once). And in between are a Japanese place and an Italian-looking vegetable specialist. You could spend a week in the building.

You could spend a few hours just in this room. Partly because I was on the phone with Koala and didn't get there until 1:30, partly because I bet it's just not that crowded at lunch, it's very peaceful. They sat me in the 'pergola' area, where curtained pillars form a virtual enclosure; maybe they put the curtains down if you want to use this as private space. Not unusually for Kagurazaka and mid-tier foreign restaurants, the customers were well-heeled and decorous. Except me, I mean. I kept taking pictures of them.

If you didn't know the kanji for 'organic' and 'natural' before visiting this place, you'd sure know 'em after. The menu is positively swimming in that sort of descriptor. I wanted to make more jokes about it, but I can't since the ingredients and cooking were both good. It's too serious to joke about. One thing about going late is that they were out of things. I was denied the smoked walasa (another name for younger buri) and offered the organic salad ("just leaves, really" said the waiter) or these baby sweetfish, escabeche-style. Didn't seem like I had a choice. Good fish, a little big for whole eating; some very crunchy bits.

Making tomato sauce pasta that's not a throwaway is a mark of something good. This is a quality tomato sauce with monkfish bits, zucchini and peppers (the shrimp & broccoli in cream sauce was also sold out...). The fish meat was very tasty; you'd probably join me in wishing that it wasn't crumbled bits but instead was tail meat. Presumably they're saving those to roast for dinner. Maybe with bacon. Mmmmmm.

Perhaps the point of eating here is the grilled fish course - this is a natural sea bass from Mie. It was high-quality and sensitively-cooked. If the fish were still alive, it would be pleased and gratified to have been cooked so sensitively. I couldn't place the flavors that went into the green sauce; it was good too.

For some reason 'dessert assortment' took my fancy, then let it down again when it proved as uninspiring as this. Then the cheesecake proved to be very good, and this from a confirmed bored-with-cheesecake eater, and I was happy again.

You could just have the fried fish and grilled fish above as the 'short course' option - take off Y700. Hardly seems worth it. Bread isn't a throwaway here either, and they serve it with a flavored oil of their own comprization - rosemary, garlic, tasty. Overeating would be a straightforward matter. Service also deserves a mention; a little distant, but noticeably professional (drinks came very quickly throughout). This is a decent place - I'm not ready to say I recommend it, but I would go for dinner in a pinch. An Organic Italian Seafood Pinch (TM).

Never trust a big fish and a smile.

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