Friday, May 6, 2011

Aila, Ebisu (アイラ 恵比寿店)

Aila is a French Colonial restaurant. Or so they say. You say 'French Colonial', I think 'Le Colonial', and I like that atmosphere. (Of course, if you say 'black', I say 'white', and if you say 'bark', I say 'bite'.) The exterior here is very much 'converted house', with ivy and discrete lighting (or 'le lighting discrete', as they used to say in Laos in the old days. I still entertain fantasies of going all Kurtz for a year or two.). It's a pleasure to walk up the hill southwest of Ebisu and find this at the end.

The interior is not at all French Colonial as far as I can tell. Unless it's the white walls. It's more 'American country' to me (though a Turk would probably think it was 'Turkish country'-style. Frames of reference.) But I'm never, ever going to complain about eating in a place with a muted, deliberately worn style and lots of art involving cartoon dogs (who are both French and Colonial).

The menu is the type I like - you can get the chef's course, out of which everything sounded good, or can else very reasonably priced 'courses' that are really just 'choose your starter, main, and dessert'. We went the latter option, getting the shortest course (no mixed starter, no coffee). Ample volume.

What I need (in addition to someone to remind me to rotate pictures before uploading them) is a good doctor to tell me I need to stop eating fatty foods. Until then, it's still going to be foie gras terrines with dried fruit filling and a layer of butter on top, astride a brioche toast. a-heh, a-heh.

In this salad, the only thing 'astriding' is the mild goat cheese on the toast at left. The house-smoked duck to the right was OK, no more, but the whole assembly was a hit with the flavor diversity and good dressing.

Much like a balanced meal, a positive review needs a bitter element. Tonight we find it in the soup, a still-wriggling fly of disappointment. We both liked the sound of the pea soup, featured as a course on the good-value prix-fixe. Seeing other small plates like pate priced at Y600, we got one order to split between us. It turned out to be a nice pea soup, with a lovely shrimp ravioli, and the split portion turned out to cost $20. I even asked the waitress about it twice, like "Really?" and she said "Well, it's a la carte..."

Back to happy thoughts, like unicorns and bunnies. Not such a happy ending for this bunny, who was stuffed with vegetables and herbs and then gently roasted before being sauced. Doesn't look like much, but tasted good; could have been more done to my tastes even considering the general softness and smoothness of rabbit meat.

Someone's on a confit kick. I think we've all been through these at some point in our dining careers. For my part, I used to look for restaurants like this one all the time, and often get confit. The cassoulet-style white bean sauce was excellent, the duck good.

They have a funny kitchen-upstairs, tables-downstairs setup, and with two parties leaving in succession, the chef had to come down to see them off. This delayed our desserts, and we got this (grapefruit peel?) granite as a consolation prize. Worthwhile.

But the parmesan beaked cheesecake with red fruit sorbet was warm, intriguing and excellent,

And the tart of the day, (rehydrated?) fig, was also good in its own way, almost like clafoutis. Earl Gray ice cream, I think.

There it is - nothing too complex, but nice atmosphere, nice service, and especially nice cooking.

At nice prices. What more do you need?


  1. Explain Kurtz? Found one website (aside from the one for the graphic designer) and I get the impression of rather wabi sabi - simple - black/white/wood - devoid of bright colors or any color really?? There was even a wall in one room that looked like the one in Little Chef's restaurant in Manhattan

  2. Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, going upriver and native.