Thursday, July 21, 2011

Aile Blanche, Azabu Juban (エルブランシュ)

Juban, damn your branded hide. The last time I was this disappointed in a well-hyped restaurant was at Piatto Suzuki, just around the corner from Aile Blanche. In this case I at least had Tabelog on my side, saying AB is 25th best out of Tokyo's 1700 French restaurants, but for once even the rating failed.

I'm afraid my entry into the ladies-who-lunch club may be delayed, and my dining companion may defer future engagements.

This is a small restaurant - it's rather like a reasonably-sized apartment that was converted, and it has only 15-ish seats in this room, plus a small semi-private room behind a curtain, and what must be a tiny kitchen. I was puzzled by the service right away, but that's never enough to put me off my feed.

We didn't get to choose anything; the course just started. And we saw right away that we were in the land of large plates. This is a gazpacho, which was very herbal and quite good, topped Kitakata-style with small slices of cured ham, and cleverly hiding a set of melon balls (did I ever tell you that story about high school?). The melons were extremely soft and ripe.

And then...the magic happened. No, the home page describes the lunch course as "magic of foie gras plus 4 other plates", and this is the magic. A few bits of foie with sherry vinegar sauce and half a cherry. Pretty good, and probably enough at single-spoon size (picture not actual size).

I tend to look forward to quail; this was an exception. Actually, before I deride the quail, can I supply the most damning indictment possible of the fish course that preceded it? I forgot to take a picture. The horror. Anyway, the tai was a nice piece of fish, cooked reasonably well, and the accompanying vegetables were dull.
The quail was pretty dull too. It was a bit gummy, and there was something disturbingly artificial-tasting in the sauce (which I'm sure was laboriously crafted).

Fortunately the quail came with a nice bowl of palate-cleansing soup.

The light lemon flavor was quite refreshing.

And we finished up with the coconut panna cotta (I sure hope this was supposed to be a frozen dessert, because otherwise they didn't take it out of the freezer soon enough) with caramel sauce and passion fruit ice. The ice was extremely tart but also the best thing about the dessert (which was basically frozen coconut milk).

Honestly, the most interesting thing about the restaurant for me was the bathroom. This is the view you see while doing your business over the (auto-lid, tankless, Satis) toilet - a stalactite statue, crystal light fixture, and double-framed card of shapely hips and buttocks. This kind of quirk was the last thing I expected after our pedestrian meal, and it made me wonder if there's something better lurking in the kitchen, only coming out at night.

You want to find out? Go right ahead without me.



  1. The soup is actually used for washing your fingers after devouring the quail with your hands. Or you already knew that and I completely missed the joke.

  2. No, I think you got the joke. But it WAS surprisingly pleasant and refreshing.