Aaaaaaarakicho. We finally made it here, months and months after starting to think it was worth a return visit. This was really the first time I've explored it seriously, and it turns out to be a 'difficult' neighborhood. The places that look good also look scary in the no-menu-no-prices way. Believe it or not, we sat down and then immediately left two places in quick succession - just something wrong with the vibe, and once we saw the food we said "no".
So while we were walking around in circles obsessing over which establishment to favor with our custom, we kept smelling something good from Bistro 18, where a 50-ish, stylish, married-ish couple was bustling about a mostly-empty restaurant.
Come to think of it, Arakicho was pretty much empty tonight. Not sure why a summer Wednesday should be so dead.
Nor why the flavor of the ratatouille should be so ordinary. Too bad.
Chef was pretty mellow. I mean, he didn't talk to us at all even though we were sitting right in front of him for an hour. That's too bad, because he had cool hair and glasses for an older chef.
Country-style pate was lame-o.
But the healthy portion of crusted lamb chops was really good, pan fried and then oven-finished.
And the stewed tongue was appropriately good enough to be called the house specialty, as the stew often is in places like this. Sometimes it's tongue, sometimes it's cheek.