A lovely bistro – Benoit

Went to this casual French bistro near my neighbourhood for lunch. Located on the 10th and 11th floors of La Porte Aoyama, Benoit boasts some pretty nice views of the city. (That probably sounds very low for people from i.e. Hong Kong… but in Aoyama… that’s a skyscraper!)

Of all French restaurants in Tokyo, Benoit did not seem to enjoy as much of a hype as the various establishments of Joel Robuchon or places like L’Osier and Quintessance. Perhaps, after all, it is just a bistro. However, it actually belongs to the Michelin star-studded French chef Alain Ducasse and holds one Michelin star itself.

On this particularly sunny day, the large glass windows filled the restaurant with beautiful natural light; the sweet decor and pink walls made for a warm atmosphere that seemed to bring a sense of dainty girliness out of any female guest. (pedantic Feminists do not sue me for gender stereotypes!).

IMG_3979 IMG_3976 IMG_3973 IMG_3972As expected, the restaurant was filled with women and I did not spot a single man in there except one person who looked like a lesbian but might have been a girly looking man. IMG_3935IMG_3930 IMG_3929 I personally opted for the lunch set of 2 entreés, 1 main dish and 1 dessert, but I also tried a bit of almost everything everyone else on my table had. So here comes a list of all the things I tried on the day! IMG_3934Salade Benoit au foie gras de canard 
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Broccoli soup with ricotta cheese
IMG_3940 Brandade de morue (salt cod emulsion) topped with an oeuf mollet IMG_3942eggs eggs eggs ❤
IMG_3943 I also had coquillettes with jambon blanc, black truffles and comté cheese. Before the dish was served, I was asked about the amount of truffles I wanted to have as it is charged by the gram and freshly shaved upon serving.IMG_3945 The price of the truffles was extremely reasonable, although this was also reflected in the taste and insufficient aroma of the truffles. Nevertheless, the comté and truffle sauce was very tasty and this was probably my favourite entreé.
IMG_3951 For mains my aunt had this pork dish. I tried hardly any of this as I was already quite full after eating two entreés (as you can see, portions were not small).  IMG_3953I personally went for the scallops (noix de Saint-Jacques poêlées) in red wine sauce as it was obviously the lightest option available. These were fantastically sweet and succulent! The endives meunières were also fresh, soaking up the lovely sauce that had a tangy hint of orange.
IMG_3955I was full but as my Japanese aunt always said, we have a betsu-bara (other stomach) specially for desserts. My mom had this baked apple which you can get if you pay an extra 500 yen. It was good but I am very glad I didn’t go for this because what I ordered turned out to be the biggest highlight of this meal (at no extra charge too! oh oh oh oh!)

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This combo of chocolate, caramel, milk ice cream and salted caramel was simply DIVINE. I was initially tempted by every single item in the dessert menu but when salted caramel is involved it becomes a sure bet that I’d choose it over anything else unless I end up getting everything (which I didn’t, because I was on a –diet-). 

IMG_3960 It wasn’t the most delicate dessert I ever had – there were no fancy, intricate details but boy this was ORGASMIC. Like something you just want to shove in your face over and over again and not stop, EVER. This is what I call a magic stick. I think I would return just to have this again. 20140123-183615.jpg

I left feeling uber satisfied by this lunch. 
IMG_3966 IMG_3965And the bathrooms were cute too!! IMG_3967 IMG_3969

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By the way, if you come on a weekend I suggest checking out the Aoyama Farmers market to walk your heavy lunch off – it’s a mere 30 seconds away from the restaurant’s building and lots of fun. (You can find info about this here: http://whereintokyo.com/venues/25057.html)

Benoit 

Address:  Aoyama Building – 10-11 floor La Porte

5-51-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

150-0001, Tokyo, Japan      東京都渋谷区神宮前5-51-8 ラ・ポルト青山10階

Website: www.benoit-tokyo.com

Telephone: +81 (3)6419 41 81

Ogino

If you ask me what the Japanese are best at cooking apart from Japanese cuisine, I’d say French. Some of you might argue – Didn’t Italian food get popular first back in the 1920’s? How about Korean BBQ with Kobe beef? Not denying the quality of other international cuisines in Japan (with the exception of Chinese food perhaps, as I have yet to find anything brilliant in Japan apart from a sheng jian bao that was 10 times better than the famous Xiao Yang in Shanghai!) , but it seems difficult to find another culture that has a level of refined sensitivity and perfectionism matching up to what is required of artful French cuisine. This is in part accountable to how serious Japanese chefs get when it comes to sourcing ingredients, and our chef of the night Shinya Ogino is one such example. On the official Ogino restaurant website, all the farms chef Ogino sources from are introduced along with  smiley headshots of the farmers themselves. One of the things I admire most about Japan is that whilst farmers in many countries are commonly pictured either as exploited or lowly-paid workers suffering in the coutryside, Japanese farmers are often seen as proud producers of their specialties, regarding themselves as “researchers” of how to grow the best tomatoes,corn,eggplants,beefporkchicken whatnot.

So here’s our meal at Ogino (in Ikejiri-Ohashi, just one station away from Shibuya) !

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We opted for the 5 course “Menu Saison”. This was an omakase tasting menu although we were also allowed to pick out dishes from the a-la-carte menu if there was a particular dish we really wanted to try.

The first appetizer was a zuwai crab salad in an avocado puree, topped with a layer of mandarin orange jelly. Not a particularly innovative combination, but the mandarin jelly gave a fresh zesty kick to the creamy mixture, all for fostering an appetite to begin the meal.

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Next up was this jerusalem artichoke cream – probably the less impressionable of the appetizers; I would have liked it better with more flavour or a bit of a crunch. The jerusalem artichokes used were evidently very fresh, but IMO a bit of an accent would have been neat :p  IMG_3873

Before the second pair of appetizers we were served the bread and some delicious homemade rilette. IMG_3876

Our third appetizer arrived swiftly after the breads; although I’ve been telling myself to stop eating foie gras for both health and ethical reasons, this Vendée duck foie gras and truffle terrine was too good to miss so I had to side with the devil. The truffle aroma here was not particularly strong – what really took centre stage in this dish was the six blocks of fujinotori chicken, loaded with flavour permeated from the gamey foie gras. IMG_3882

The final appetizer was sauteéd st-jacques with truffled mashed potato in a “bacon cappucino” sauce. This one was divine! The aroma of black truffles in this dish was more apparent than in the foie gras terrine. The scallops were not particularly big but in here it meant a compact, intense sweetness in every little bite. They were also nicely done golden brown at the top and bottom, whilst remaining just opaque enough in the middle to be sufficiently cooked without losing moisture. IMG_3884

For our mains we had two different seafood dishes and two meat dishes. For seafood we had the oven-baked cod with cumin and Lobster thermidor. IMG_3886

I’d say I preferred the lobster thermidor. It was meaty, buttery but not overly so, and smelled oh so good! The cod was not so bad but it made me see why Ogino’s claim to fame was based on meats rather than fishes. IMG_3888

An icy palate cleanser was served between the seafood courses and meat courses.IMG_3891

For the meats we had the Za’atar (mixed herbs of middle eastern origin) lamb and roast veal (from Brittany). Both very good, but at this point I was getting so full that I really wanted dessert ASAP. (They say we have a separate stomach for desserts. I can only assume so, and the only way to keep enjoying food without making one stomach explode ought to be switching to the other one, right?)  IMG_3896 IMG_3894

The next three photos are of desserts that I did not try personally. I’ll just let the photos speak 😛

The warm chocolate brownie,IMG_3900

Pudding,IMG_3899

and panacotta. IMG_3901

I had the “reversed mont blanc” which was basically a standard mont blanc with ingredients done inside out, with the pureed chestnut and whipped cream sitting inside a gang of broken meringue pieces. Not bad!! IMG_3903

Lastly we had our herb tea and madeleines, and that was the end 😀
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Ogino’s motto (as seen on his website) is “世界はひとつ!美味くて安くて楽しい、それがOGINO料理です。” (The world is one ! Tasty, cheap, fun, that’s OGINO cuisine.)

When a restuarant prides itself on being cheap I normally would not expect it to be all that great. However in Ogino’s case the terrific cost-performance of my meal really shone through. At 6500 yen (around 65 USD) for a five-course meal including lobster and foie gras, I think Ogino’s claim to be tasty and cheap is certainly justified 😀

Ogino 

Address: 2-20-9 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
東京都世田谷区池尻2-20-9

Tel: 03-5481-1333

Website: www.french-ogino.com 

P.S. Ogino even has a link to his own blog in the “About Us” section of the restaurant’s page. When you click the link a message pops up saying that you can only enter the site if you can confirm to be over 30 years of age. Naturally being the good girl I am, I did not click it.

JK. Unfortunately there is nothing explicit in there. Just chef Ogino and his sidekick updating everyday about new goodies from their delis around the city!