Saturday, February 19, 2011

Biodinamico, Shibuya

Between drinking beers at Craftheads and eating dinner at the exclusive, highly-regarded Biodinamico, we stopped off at this hip bike shop to look at their vintage and rebuilt fixed gear specimens. Only after a while did we realize that it's actually a design firm, and we were kinda standing in their lobby while they tried to work in back. On the other hand, why do they have 10 fixed gears in their lobby? And do they know their name is bad English? Then again, 'mashroom' has a certain insouciant hip erroneousness to it, eh? Like they know it's spelled wrong and don't care, because it's like a mashup of mushrooms. Am I digressing?

And is the ceiling painting terrific here or what? You can't see it in the picture, I suppose, but the corners are all done up with these art-deco, faintly Mucha graphics. The whole restaurant is one room, 16 seats. 3 staff. Not what I was expecting after a glossy writeup in Tokyo Calendar last year and a high score on the tabelogz.

It's been a long time since you saw 5 pieces of cutlery on one side of the plate, eh? They're set up for serious eating. The maitre d' is also serious, of a type that might be described as 'sleek', which is to say 'a bit round, but exquisitely well-presented, and with pomaded hair'. The chef is young, and learned his craft froma  tender age at the elbow of various Italian grandmothers after falling into a trattoria in Italy while there for other reasons. Perhaps he studied later? It would be amazing if he reached this level of sophistication and execution without training. Aside from those two, there's just one other staffer, a combination kitchen/floor man.

All they're going to ask you is "Drinks?" and "Meat?" That's because there are 'two' courses on the 'menu', but the only 'difference' between them is 'Y1k' and the addition of a 'meat' main dish. I'd recommend it, because the meat was very good, the value is fine, and the overall volume is a little skimpy.

Skimpy, he says. Would you have us eat two of these incredible scallops, the cooking perfectly judged and a thin strip of lard laid across them? Or the accompanying roast scallop livers? What about the 'prosciutto' of tuna with basil sauce? Yes, I would have you eat two of all those things. Expecially the scallop, which was extraordinary.

In fact it made me wonder if this would be one of those meals that starts with a bang and goes downhill. This salad of warm duck, confit turnip, and (Italian imported) radicchio just kept us level - which is a great thing when you start that well. The duck was the star, but it all went together.

Usually I hate blogs that include pictures of bread. (Some days I hate my blog and want it to die.) This is here to remind me to tell you that the starter rolls and the repeated focaccia are made in-house and are quite good considering that. (No, I didn't mean that. I love my blog.)

It's going to be a couple more plates before there's any letup, aiiight? This is pancetta and leek ravioli with ground octopus sauce. And topped with a sort of slice of compressed octopus terrine. And a lot of thyme. Damn. Obviously you should like octopus to like this, but...if you picked off the bits on top, you'd still think this was awesome ravioli. Could I have another 10 please?

Just like you'd like the fresh fettucine, made every morning. No toppings but cheese, pepper and oil. It was really thick (I mean like a 4 or 5 on my machine - I've never done that before, but would now like to try) but the texture was great, and the high egg content was delicious.

Speaking of texture, I just don't know how some guys manage to cook fish with this level of technique when other people can't get it done to save their lives. It's a Himedai from Ogasawara, if my memory serves, and the springy firmness was terrific. With roasted endive. With grilled polenta. This was yet another course where I would happily eaten two or three times the volume.

Aside from being able to eat two of everything, nothing bad to say. And this is the meat course - wild boar, stewed with chocolate and raisins. I'm not making that up - it's a recognized style and everything. Call it Cinghiale in Dolce Forte, and you'll be right. I was thinking back to other famous boars I have known (including some from down in Shimoda and a fair number from Hiroo), and we asked where this had come from. I almost spit it out when he said "Canada", but with the barley risotto, braised radicchio, and celeriac-apple jam I figured there was enough quality stuff on the plate to make it worth eating. The only misstep of the meal, that - serving Canadian meat. Feh.

As far as desserts in Japan, and especially Italian restaurants, this was quite good. Left is a semifreddo, extraordinarily creamy, then some sort of barley crepe with fresh-but-pungent cheese filling (weird but good), and finally a ricotta cheesecake with preserved orange (I think). While I'm no fan of simple desserts, these showed, like everything else in the dinner, a really high level of technical competence in the service of tastiness. There's nothing better.

Coffee was very good. And there were nutty nibbles to go with it. The one that looks like fresh chocolate isn't; it's a nutty thing, but dusted with cocoa for some reason. The caramely nuggets on the right were terrific. I like food. Let's eat.

Actually, that's a good conclusion. I think the chef here really likes food. He said something to us about not having any school training, so I have to think what he does is the product of thinking about how to make something perfect in taste and texture and then going for it.

Obviously it ain't cheap, but it's a neat place.

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