One of my loyal readers pointed out to me the other day that, in a manner of boring consistency, I only seem to write about French restaurants. Alors ma chère Midori, I agree that these fantastic establishments are hogging my attention but I can only let up when all these brilliantly trained chefs stop a) opening up new restaurants and b) being so brilliant. I know that my fellow gourmand Monsieur Terry White, who has been kind enough to mention my blog on his http://www.gaishoku.blogspot.com/, and who has been so encouraging will come to my defence! So here's yet another...
This little gem is to be found in a maze of backstreets in Hatagaya, near Shinjuku. I guess it's not that hard to find but you will need a map if you decide to make the trek out there and do not get hopelessly lost like I did. It's in the basement of a modern concrete building but you can still see outside and there is plenty of light - it will be very pleasant once it gets warmer. Recently for lunch I ordered a 2,300 yen menu and received just about the best value meal I have had in a while. The menu consisted of an hors d'oeuvre of two pieces of "kochi" (a type of flathead fish) one coated in sesame and deep fried and the other coated and fried in almond. These were served with seaweed and lemon, spinach and a broadbean. An anti-pasto style entree plate followed featuring chicken heart, terrine of foie gras, pickled radish, baby squid, smoked salmon and pickled onion with blue cheese. Both the kochi and the entree plate were very unique in that they were uncompromisingly Japanese in character with a very clear bias to the bitter in their flavours, which is something I rarely experience. The taste was interesting more than I would say it was delicious, but worth trying nonetheless. The starters were followed by a pleasant turnip and celery cream potage. The main course was a tasty pork cheek served in a tomato and orange cream sauce with bamboo shoots, steamed vegetables and rice. The caraway seeds in the sauce again lent an interesting hint of bitterness (actually my mother makes a pork dish that uses caraway and tastes very much like this). The main course was followed by not one but two desserts, the first being a granita of fresh tomato and watermelon which was not really sweet at all, and the second being a more traditional gateau au chocolat with crème. The meal was topped with an espresso and my dining partner got a pot of lychee tea, which I used to refill my espresso cup a few times (I think to the bemusement of our waiter).
Liaison really does provide a (sometimes dangerous) liaison of Japanese and French flavours. It is not your typical Tokyo French restaurant that re-creates what one might find in France. Rather, they have taken a more adventurous course, being truly Japanese and truly informed by French influences. I don't think the flavours work all the time for my palate, but I think they deserve great credit for their work and would highly recommend you take a visit. At these amazing prices what have you to lose?