Monday, March 21, 2011

Douze Gout, Kyoto

Have you had this happen? You go somewhere a bit old-fashioned and traditional, like Kyoto, and spend a long weekend being old-fashioned and eating traditional food. By the end of it, you feel like you could murder a burger. It leads you to think things like "European food for lunch."

Silly me, I was a bit bummed about getting turned away from the bistro-style place we poked our heads into earlier - fully booked. They also seemed irritated that we even asked such an impertinent question. Luckily and conversely, the much classier Douze Gout seemed embarassed that all they could offer us was the table by the door.

Did you see the picture above? And this one, which is what you see after passing through the brown curtain? I'll sit by the door. Apology accepted. I'd sit outside. How cool is this?

Cool enough to have a semi-open kitchen. I suppose this is the garde manger, where they do the plating and cold stuff? I don't really know. I just know that that guy was making these beautiful salads, and you'll probably skip down a bit now to see what I mean.

This starter bite was wacky - the white is white asparagus and cream (I think), while the red is beetroot and red cabbabe (I think) and the stick is parmesan toast. The stick didn't go with the soups all that well, but the whole sure was technical and creative and interesting. And tasty.

And here's that beautiful salad. The chef was a finalist in the Japanese qualifying round for the Bocuse d'Or competition, which I like to think explains a bit of his very fancy plating stylez. The rim is festooned with fresh, steamed and pickled leaves and veg. The center is the dreaded 'bagna cauda', although with the creaminess and all the odd spices (cumin) wedged in here, I think it rises above the mediocrity the name has come to imply.

Speaking of rising above, that toast is getting right up there, isn't it? I love it! I also loved the little rings of carrot that they laboriously pasted to the inside of the glass, and more than that I loved the light, cold, cream-of-carrot soup and mousse. Can't remember if it was peas or cabbage. Spring. Fresh. Cold.

Nice job on the fish; good crisp on the skin, interesting mix of sauces (I could have sworn the brown one was veal), little pile of fresh mushrooms and leaves for contrast.

For the meat course (and feel free to ignore this digression in favor of appreciating the artful plating), they made much fanfare of bringing us a knife and fork from Laguiole, the French village of artisanal cutlery makers. This was completely irrelevant, because you could have eaten this course with a spoon (a Laguiole spoon). It's very pretty, isn't it?

The meat is chicken, roasted and shredded, but the theme is 'bees', with honey figuring into the mix somewhere and the dark sauce being dripped in a trail meant to put you in mind of a bumblebee's flight.

At least one person at the table said this was a top-5 dish in their life so far (and at least one said "eh, this is nice but too obviously meant to appeal to women"). I do love lightly technical things like this though, with the spinach wrapping a puck of meat, and softness and sweetness of the chicken was lovely.

More lovely than this Japanese-style fruit-and-jelly dessert, even though it hid ice cream underneath and was topped with incongruous chocolate sails. This was OK.

But this was beautiful, and reasonably tasty. It's basically creme brulee. So cute!

Even the coffee cups are cute here. Oh, and you know, this wasn't coffee, it was chicory coffee, which was presented as a healthier, more natural alternative to coffee rather than a pale coffee substitute for poor people. That's how I think of it, but maybe I've read too much John Steinbeck and Wright Morris.

Should have saved the cute lines, because even the bill is cute here. Coming and going in a big lacquered box is a sure way for me to be less grumpy about dealing with it. And to tell you the truth, for the amount of enjoyment this place offered, the fixed-price lunch above was a great deal.

Dinner, you might want to be careful.

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