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Friday, May 29, 2009

FOOD

Simple, refined French in Ebisu


Special to The Japan Times

If you don't have the luxury of an expense account, A ta Gueule, a tiny French hideaway in Ebisu, promises a gourmet experience that won't break the bank.

Chef George Somura specializes in classic French cuisine and comes with an impressive resume. After stints on the Orient Express, at Raffles Hotel in Singapore and Stellato in Tokyo, he opened his own restaurant in 2005.

The decor, like the menu, is simple and refined; green banquettes line the mustard-colored walls and the atmosphere resembles a cozy bistro. The seasonal menu features locally sourced produce and domestic meats and fish: fresh vegetables from Kamakura, suckling lamb from Hokkaido, and sakura ebi shrimp from Shizuoka. This month, there's an appetizer of fleshy white asparagus served alongside their willowy wild cousins, dotted with sabayon sauce and strips of Parma ham.

You will get a substantial three-course meal for ¥4,800, but if you're really hungry, you might consider the ¥6,500 course, which includes one of the chef's decadent soups. The chilled beef consume topped with spoonfuls of truffle-cream puree was deceptively light and held dark, woodsy flavors that unfurled across the palate.

Although the veal rib from Aomori was an extra ¥700, we deemed it money well spent. Rare slices of veal arrived in a spectacular, architectural presentation, laid across the rib itself, which served as a buttress for two sizable stalks of green asparagus and a slice of tender artichoke. After the amuse-bouche of pork rillettes, a soup, an appetizer and piquant rhubarb granita, the rib like seemed a daunting task, but the meat's springy texture combined with the rich, slightly tangy mustard sauce won us over.

Despite our bulging bellies, we tucked into the chocolate cherry souffle, four plump cherries floating in a sumptuous bath of dark chocolate, accompanied by a scoop of lively pistachio ice cream. It would have been bad manners, as well as bad economics, to decline.

1-23-15 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; (03) 3449-8757; open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-10 p.m. (closed Mon.)


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