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Friday, May 9, 2008

Authentic Argentine in Azabu


Special to The Japan Times

Nestled in the backstreets of Higashi-Azabu is El Caminito — which means the little path — a bar-cum-restaurant that serves authentic Argentine food.

Chef Keizo Asai of El Caminito
Chef Keizo Asai of El Caminito

Owner Keizo Asai was formerly the chef at the Japanese Embassy in Argentina. During his time in the country, Asai managed to gather an impressive repertoire of Argentine cuisine and was keen to share his skills on returning to Japan. He opened El Caminito in 1998, and ever since then the place has been a dimly lit haven for Argentinophiles to gather and practice their Spanish on the friendly waiting staff. Various relics of Asai's former life across the Andes, including a bright red poncho and gleaming accordion, decorate the room, giving a strong South American character to the dark wood space.

At El Caminito, red meat topped off with lashings of red wine are guaranteed to bring a flush of Latin passion to the cheeks of even the most pallid of urban customers. Dishes are reasonably priced, with starters coming in under ¥1,000 and main courses between ¥1,000 and ¥4,000. Vegetarians beware: the menu is heavy on the meat, offering black sausage and veal schnitzel for the delight of out-and-out carnivores and a range of pizzas for the less stout-hearted diner. For a typical Argentine meal, try starting out with empanadas (a pasty filled with beef, onion, olive and eggs) for ¥540 and follow that up with chorizo at ¥1,100. All meals are served on generous-size plates, with fresh herbs sprinkled on top as an attractive garnish.

It's not just the meals that come in large portions at El Caminito; wine is served in goblets that could fit a half bottle in one serving. The house wine is an eminently gluggable Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza that is available in both red and white. From the Trapiche winery, the wine costs a very reasonable ¥3,200 a bottle.

El Caminito Bar-Restaurant, 1-12-11, Higashi Azabu Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106-0044, Tel: 03 3582 9380


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