Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Restaurant Miyahara, Iidabashi (レストランミヤハラ)

One time I read that the technique used by sumos to gain weight was to eat one massive meal per day - and only that. I'm not going to say I'm there, but with small breakfasts and dinners, a lunch course like this one feels enormous. Makes me wonder how I used to eat a longer fish-and-meat course...maybe with an extra dessert. I'm sure I could get back in training for that, and start using that vanilla-scented hair oil too. By the way, Miyahara is quite good. You can tell just from the outside, can't you? 

There are tons of appealing things about it. There's the warmth of the dining room, the warmth of the service, the warmth of the...well, the fish was the only warm dish in the course, but any place with copper pots and other knicknacks hanging around is espousing a certain (warm) philosophy, doncha think? It's great that they've put some effort into having things like Belgian beer (in addition to the semi-ubiquitous Duvel, they had Achel, which is the smallest of the 7 brewing Trappist monasteries (incidentally, I read recently that the recipe for Chartereuse, which is also a monkal concoction, is in the hands of three monks. They each know 1/3, and occasionally leave their prayers to whip up a batch. At $50 a bottle or whatever it is, that must support their Brozas handily.), and they also had Leffe and Hoegaarden (and while those aren't impressive brands, that's a good selection for a French restaurant, just like this is a good place to end this weird paragraph.)).

If they served this Hokkaido deer and foie gras terrine for the price of the whole lunch course, I would grumble only a little. It was really, really good; dense and meaty, smooth and soft from the fat, delicious. The waitress said "Regular customers always ask for it," and when I complimented the chef on its deliciousness he said something like "Yeah, I make it when I can get the deer," which sounded like "I know, and I'm kinda tired of thanking people for saying it's good." Then again, I had to stick my head through the shelves at the pass and yell to get his attention, so he might not have been amused at the interruption. I think he likes leaving the floor to the 2 waitresses. Boy was this a good terrine. The crappy slabs at Clos Montmartre are weeping just thinking about how inferior they are.

The carrot-cream soup was more cream than carrot, and I'd prefer to leave it out and shave Y3-400 from the course price, but there it is (you might be able to add dessert to their 'business lunch', which would be a good idea. Or you could source your own dessert, see below.). Having this picture is, however, a good excuse for me to get the vegetable fetishists in the audience excited by the fact that the carrots, and much of the other vegetal matter, is grown by the chef's parents on their little farm in Chichibu. It's all very Alain Passard, non?

When she dropped off this plate of grilled snapper, the younger waitress said sotto voce "The jaw is the best part." In addition to being cute, this is mostly true - you should always get fish jaw if you see it on the menu at an izakaya. It's mostly true because Japanese chefs have that weird tendency to over-grill fishes, and the extra fat in the jaw keeps it moist, like poultry dark meat - if you don't overcook, the fillets will probably be tastier. This was an excellent quality fish. It was also a little overdone, and that kind of snapper that has thicker, tougher, whitish skin with brown lines around the scales. The older lady at the next table mentioned cheerfully to the staff that it was dry and chewy. I held my tongue, because that sort of complaint isn't the done thing here in Paris, and it wasn't that true either. Anyway, nothing stopped me from enjoying every bite. Except I wished he hadn't put dried basil and cumin together in the herbage. Hmm.

While we're trying to take arty pictures (I call this one "Hey, Sugar"), it's a good time to reflect on how nice the service was, especially this woman in the background. She spent a bunch of time explaining things and chatting about the restaurant. There was one thing on the menu I hadn't heard of - Ishikawa potato. As far as I can tell, these are a subspecies of (ahem) village potatoes that were originally grown in the Ishikawa village of Osaka's Kanan area (河南, no relation to the promised land). Ishikawa doesn't exist any more; it merged with some other villages in Showa 31, long before you and I were born. The nice waitress didn't tell me any of this, and I hope to forget it soon as well. Who needs to know this sort of trivia?

Many is the time I've left an otherwise-good French meal in Japan thinking "Why'd you let me down at the end like that? You should just outsource your desserts instead of selling the same 3 boring things everyone else does." Sharing the ground floor of of Miyahara's building is a pastry shop called Beau Claire, started by a former employee, and lo, one of your dessert options (in addition to sorbet, ice cream, tea creme brulee, and (upcharge) tarte tatin) is this, their signature Beau Claire cake. If you're like me, you're thinking "Ooh! What an arresting exterior! What's inside?" Well, I'll show you in just a second! No, I won't because you already saw that there's a picture of the innards below and started looking at it. No one's reading this sentence, are they. Damn. 10 seconds of my life I'll never get back.

What you've got going on here is yer basic chocolate shell with chocolate cake and chocolate mousse and store-made marmalade, and a dusting of yellow powder that should be pollen but isn't, and a few tiny drops of sugar syrup to complete the image because "Beau Claire" is Japanese for "the yellow moon is crying". I almost asked what flavor the marmalade was, and I'm glad I didn't because marmalade should mean 'bitter orange', and that's what this was. And hooooo was it a good cake. Honestly, I thought "Next time I have people over for dinner, I'm running up to Iidabashi to get these for dessert."

Speaking of running up here, I want you to use Exit B1 from Iidabashi station when you go. C1 looks closer, but it's an Oedo line exit, and that means you'll have to do all sorts of stupid things with stairs and elevators if you don't arrive by Oedo. Let's all agree to boycott the heinous Oedo line, eh? But let's try Miyahara for dinner, it might be good.

Opens at 6 PM, Tobias.

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