Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Quinto Canto, Osaka (クイントカント)

Any lunch that starts this way has got to be pretty good, right?

No, seriously, I went to Osaka for the first time ever, and since someone else was paying the fare, I felt it left me plenty of room financially to act like a big shot. I worked the inter-pipes and came up with Quinto Canto, which had the several advantages of being open and reservable for lunch, being ranked very highly on the Tabelogs, and being a chain restaurant. That last part, I only learned by accident. You don't need to know it to enjoy or disenjoy a visit here.

On the way down I was struck as usual by how similar every station looks. I was also struck by how much English gets used and how poor most of it is. 'ROUNGE' indeed.
This restaurant is on Nakanoshima, the island in the middle of the river that I bet is the Yodo River and divided the old downtown of Osaka (as opposed to the 'New' Yodo River, which is huge and probably man-made. I read on a tourist site that it was a place with a lot of parks for quiet contemplation, so I paused to soak it all in. Sitting next to me while I took this was a guy soaking up a can of 'extra strong' 9% alcohol chu-hai, and I quietly contemplated that doing that on your lunch break is not a good place to be, and one we should all strive to avoid. 

There it is! OK, I stole the idea of taking a picture from this pedestrian bridge from their web site, but it's a requirement to view their front door from here. It's impressive, especially with the little blurry guy. #nofilters
The interior is modern-Italian to me. The staff are young and suited, and floor is polished and tile, and every place setting comes with its own marble slab and artfully-decorated napkin.

Plenty of 'Q' motif happening. I like to think Quinto Canto means 'five songs', and I'm not going to spoil that by translating it for real. Although it could well be fifth song, because this seems to be the fifth location in the owners' chain.
I've become so westernized that it didn't even occur to me for a while that this was in English for my benefit. Americans are like that, right? Just expect everything catered to them, on a silver platter. Or a marble slab. With a rhinestone cowboy. This lunch course is what, Y5k++? One nice thing is that they didn't indulge themselves in my most-hated Italian restaurant frivolities, the 'coperto' (a surcharge that should be like the cover at an izakaya, but in practice gets added just for giggles even when you're having a fixed-price meal) and the bread charge.
As usual for my recent lunches, it's a ladies-who-lunch destination. And due to its proximity to a bunch of massive offices, it's also a presidents-who-lunch-with-underlings-and-office-ladies destination. This was seriously a company president and two guys under him, plus three secretaries in their office uniforms. We're still in Japan, after all.
Despite the potential for confusion when you've suddenly detoured to the slopes of Mt Etna!

Top right in this pile of volcanic rock is a single little chou pastry, dyed black with charcoal and filled with a foie gras mousse and a splash of lemon. Pick it out of the rocks and eat it, watch out you don't grind a molar on some residual crumbs of ash.

An excellent bite, I was impressed.
I was impressed here too. For a couple reasons.
And not necessarily because they served me two versions of this plate. As I was contemplating the first one, the waiter came back, apologized profusely that they made the dish wrong, and took it away. Here's what came back. Can you see the difference? They forgot the dried tomatoes on the first one. "Now it's perfect," he said. I was impressed that they brought me a new plate instead of just adding tomatoes, but I wish I had scarfed the first one quickly, because this was delicious. Cooked tuna, tomato-bread paste, eggplant puree, nasturtium leaf, tomato-flavored tuille on top, delightful.
This looked better in person, I promise, but it was a piece of white fish with broccoli and italian parsley. I mean, you could read that from the menu above the same way I just did, because I don't remember what the fish was either. This was nice but not a patch on the first dish in terms of interest.
The bread wasn't much of a patch on anything either. They're trying to make this as simple and white as possible, and they're doing a great job of it. The lack of flavor means it doesn't interfere with the rest of the food...
Oh, there you go! This pasta looks like it could be a dessert. It's squares of thick pasta, charred peppers, squid and fish bits, and the black stuff is squid ink paste, and there's saffron and maybe shellfish in the sauce. That's a lot of ingredients I like a lot, and it went well together after you stirred it up a bit.
The 'one spoon' interlude was the most interesting thing in the course. From left to right, frozen mango, raw shrimp, almond slices, sherry vinegar jelly. And under it all, something with a bunch of pork fat. It evolved in the mouth a lot, with the cold, crunchy mango softening so you could taste the shrimp and then the pork fat taking over, with the vinegar tang throughout.
Wow, another cool pasta-like course. This is white bean puree on the bottom, then beet risotto on that. The oxtail bits were fabulous, the dish just needed a LOT more of them, and the lemon zest was delightfully zingy. I'm just filling space here to get to the unfortunate point that there were way too many thyme leaves sprinkled over the assemblage, and if you didn't steer around them, you didn't taste much else.
Ooooh, that's cool! Soft spring lamb with lentils and brussels sprout leaves. The orange sauce was tomato based, and the pecorino, though unannounced, was a hit.
If that was a hit, this dish was sh*t. They made a big deal about how you could choose the size of your final pasta, and then the waiter made a big deal about me choosing the largest size. What the heck is a pile of dried spaghetti with an average tomato sauce doing in this course, or this restaurant? There was nothing to distinguish it from a pasta with tomato sauce that you might make at home and eat in front of the TV, regardless of how many other vegetables they claim to have simmered to make it.
Fortunately we came back to reality with the 'strawberry patch' dessert. Glazed strawberries with a chocolate cream dirt in between, and further rocks of meringue mixed into that. Really nice, even if the 'dirt' thing has been overdone. I ate the leaves on top of the first strawberry before noticing they had carefully sliced off the top and replaced it so the diner could take it off. I'm a natural kinda guy.
This seemed exactly like the kind of place that would have coffee cups that were hard to drink out of, and lo and behold here's one of them. It's all glass, and there's no hole in the handle, so you have to pinch the glass between your fingers to pick it up. The little hazelnut meringue thing was delicious, and I was happy to finish with it.

It's been a long time since I went to a place rated 4.3 on Tabelog. The scores have maybe gotten inflated through confirmation bias, and this was just lunch, but I'd say you should go, and it wasn't disappointing.

Except that damn pasta.

1 comment:

  1. The menu reminds me of Eleven Madison Park.