news and views from michael rollins in tokyo

Category: Food/Dining (page 2 of 3)

Le Petit Tonneau Wine Dinner


The wine dinner Wednesday evening at Le Petit Tonneau’s Azabu-juban location was a great success and enjoyed by all who attended (and perhaps especially by yours truly). I go to a lot of these wine dinners, and this one was hands-down the best value-for-money of any I’ve joined.

For a surprisingly-low 8,000 yen we enjoyed five great wines from the Roussillon region of France, each paired perfectly with a dish conceived by Petit Tonneau chef Philippe Batton. (Full menu details.) Each wine was served in the “correct” glass for the grape and refilled as necessary throughout each course by the attentive and professional Petit Tonneau staff.

My favorite of the evening was the exceptional Domaine Seguela Planete, a sumptuous and refined wine made from equal parts Syrah and Carignan. The food, of course, was superb, and made all the better by the wonderful wines with which it was paired.

Panfried Seabass filet with almond topping served with dried fruit couscous

Panfried Seabass filet with almond topping served with dried fruit couscous
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The next one will likely be held in June, and if you’re interested in joining please drop me a line and I’ll let you know how to get on the list. The wines from this week’s dinner can all be purchased online at the Petit Tonneau online wine boutique.


One of my favorite restaurants here in in the Miyamasu-zaka end of Shibuya is RESPEKT, yet another offering from the good folks over at Cafe Company. Like many of their other restaurants, RESPEKT is a true multi-use space that works equally well for lunch/dinner, business meetings, hanging out with friends, or dining alone. The menu is varied, with food and drinks available all day, meaaning you can enjoy a meal, coffee, tea, beer or a glass of wine, just about any time.

Now, to be honest, the lunches were pretty dodgy at first. They looked pretty but lacked a certain depth. And flavor. And attention to detail. I mentioned this to 矢野さん the manager one day, reminding him that a mediocre lunch can spell death for a place in this neighborhood, and it seems like he took it to heart. I came back after a bit of a hiatus to find that the food had taken a turn for the better. Now I’m never disappointed with the food there, as it’s always creative, well-prepared, nice-looking and priced to please.

What else? Free WiFi. Free PCs. Funky, creative Shibuya-types. A great staff with very low turnover. Good wine list. How often do you run across a place like that? For me, it’s about once or twice a week.



Beaujolais Nouveau and Cassoulet

It’s November and that means Beaujolais Nouveau for the wine world here in Japan. While in many other countries (especially France, perhaps) the entire spectacle has become passe, in Japan we love our annual rituals and comfortably familiar events, and so dutifully exult in the 解禁 or “lifting of the ban” on Beaujolais Nouveau wine each third Thursday in November.

In keeping with the spirit of things I picked up a bottle on the way home on the 20th to share with R and my visiting Mother-in-Law. As is typically the case we ended up with a 35 dollar bottle of mediocre, light red wine. While the wine is touted as being light, fresh and fruity, the reality is more often than not a simple, bland and immature wine that leaves one wondering what all the fuss is about.

No surprise, then, that the thrill is starting to wear off even here in Japan, which imported a whopping 47 percent of the harvest this year. Expecting depressed sales, Suntory, a large distribtor, this year cut imports 18% to just 1.7 million liters, or the same amount consumed in all of France.

The following day we enjoyed a biodynamically created Beaujolais Nouveau with lunch at the Kunashita location of Le Petit Tonneau (great restaurants, these) which was also a bit underwhelming. Even M.C., the fellow who imports and sells the wine here, made a face after taking the first sip, and immediately had the waiter bring another wine from the same producer, Michel Guignier.

While the Nouveau was purplish and bland, the Morgon Cuvee Bio Vitis that followed it was deep, rich and complex. It turns our the two are made with grapes from the very same vineyard. The difference was the 18 months in cask and bottle for the latter. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are drunk 6-8 weeks afrer the harvest, and have been “whole berry fermented” using carbonic maceration and the pasteurized. I suppose it’s hard to imagine much complexity coming from that. The Morgon, however, was excellent.

At the restaurant we also had the great pleasure of enjoying Cassoulet, a wonderful rustic French stew of white beans and assorted meats, such as pork, pork sausage, duck, mutton and goose. The portion seemed small but was surprisingly filling and oh-so good! Lack of ingredients (particularly the sausage) will make this one hard to make at home, but I’m keen to try something based on the basic recipe.

Pairing wine with vegetables

Stumbled across this great article on pairing vegetables and wine on the NPR website today. It also includes some tasty-looking recipes that I’ll be preparing sometime soon.

すずらん (Suzuran)

This Shibuya noodle shop is a favorite of locals and cross-town lunch commuters alike. You show up any time between 11:30 and 13:30 and you’d better be ready to wait in line, and today was no different for us. However, these つけ麺 (tsukemen, a type of ramen) noodles are worth the wait. Hand-pounded right on site and served with a deliciously tasty dipping sauce, they’re as good as anything you can find in Shibuya.

On this day I ordered medium-thick noodles and 角煮 (kakuni) marinated pork. The noodles were just the right firmness and the pork melt-in-your-mouth tender. Probably a bit on the high end calorie-wise but, hey, it ain’t every day, right? Co-worker J, a fan of massive portions and anything noodly, had chashuu instead and gave it a big thumbs up. I’m sure we’ll be headed back sometime soon…

Noodles dipped in soup


What’s the opposite of “appetizing”, again?

Uoki sushi in Ark Hills (Akasaka) has long been one of my favorite kaiten sushi restaurants. Consistantly fresh, the portions are large and the quality exceptional. Not too expensive, either, when you consider the building it’s in. (You can’t swing a stick in the place without hitting a French investment banker…) I have a client nearby, and whenever I visit them I make it a point to stop by Uoki for lunch or an afternoon snack.

I noticed on a recent visit that they redid their counter-top menu, apparently going to great pains to make it accessible to the local foreign population as well. Too bad they did so without the involvement of a native English speaker. So, who’s hungry?

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