Saturday, January 29, 2011

Caudalie, Yushima

If they want to convert the bottom floor of their modern, rebuilt Yushima house into a 1-room French restaurant with good style and serve decent food at reasonable prices, more power to 'em. That's what I say.

I saw Caudalie a year or more back while on a bike cruise around Yanesen; it's taken this long to get there. It's just one block off Shinobazu Dori, the west side of the big pond in Ueno, but even that block is enough for it to be totally quiet and devoid of commercial activity. They have a single narrow room, 16 seats, one waiter, 2 chefs, 1 dishwasher. Somehow the room doesn't feel very intimate, which is too bad. Maybe it's the high ceiling, or the lighting, or the sheer narrowness. The customers were mixed - old couple, middle-aged young couple, young couple, first date, business-y looking groups. I would have expected a bit more youth and female-ness, but the food is also more old-fashioned than expected, so maybe those girls are staying away.

They call the menu courses but it's basically a la carte - you can choose courses with exactly the sequence of dishes you want. There are a fair few upcharges, but nothing too silly, and for legitimate items like beef. All the courses start with two amuse - the first was turnip mousse with gazpacho topping. The gazpacho was good, the mousse was creamy and delicious, but the turnip flavor was missing in action. No crime there; I've yet to be dissuaded from my theory that the only way to appreciate turnips is raw.

And the only way to appreciate deer, according to Caudalie, is also raw. Rather, cured a bit, as in the slice on the left of the pickles here. This was more flavorful and smoky than the cured deer last night...and a lot thicker and chewier, which I also enjoyed more.

We ended up getting 3-plate courses - two starters, one meat each. Both of wanted the deer terrine, which was more of a meat-in-aspic thing. But since the aspic was wine-based, it was nice. Very chunky, and the carrots and prunes were inneresting additions.

Here's a sort of glamorous sausage-y thing - it's shirako, wrapped in prosciutto, wrapped in pastry, fried. It was very good and, yes, creamy.

Oysters in season are less creamy, which is a good thing; these were meaty and seasoned and cream-sauced and generally a bit overdone, but not offensively so.

Duck confit, again an overlapping order, was a decent version. Very soft and easy to shred, reasonably crisp skin. That little baton peeking out on the top right was memorable among the vegetables - roasted purple carrot. I couldn't tell if it was burnt or just really dark purple, and it tasted great.

Peach sorbet palate cleanser.

Big 'ol chocolate savarin, lots of rum in the sauce, toasted (hazel?)nuts on top, a bit gooey inside. This was good even though I found the sauce a bit much - alocoholic rather than creamy, which just wasn't what I expected.

Carrot creme brulee was creamy and carrotty and scorched on top; the baby yellow carrot and shredded regular carrots sort of let it down for me since they were just there, not integrated. Same thing for the cumin seeds scattered on - classic combination, neat to see it in a dessert, but it would be better if it was in the creme or the sugar or dusted on rather than being big pieces of cumin.

Lovely petit fours, aren't they? I do like a restaurant that goes the extra mile, and I imagine one of the reasons Caudalie gets such positive reviews is that it does all those touches. From left in the front row, these were a guimauve (you call it marshmallow), yuzu macaron (very good for a non-specialist shop), almond cookie, and chocolate covered candied grapefruit peel (very good as well).

Decent coffee, interesting cup and saucer, solid food, good prices, pleasant evening, over and out.

Since 2007.
03-3828-3006

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