Friday, 7 May 2010

Il Vino d'Enrico Bernardo

A new one-star restaurant in Paris where the menu has no mention of food! Wine reigns supreme.

What a wonderful concept!! Linda visited me from Nashville and I reserved a table at the new one-star restaurant, Il Vino for us. Enrico Bernardo is the Meilleur Sommelier du Monde of 2008 and has opened his own restaurant in Paris.

We were eager to see the menu and when it was presented to us, we were confused. No mention of food on the entire menu!! Just a list of wonderful wines by the glass. When the maître d'hotel comes to take your order, you tell him which wine tempts you and then you learn what dish will be prepared to go with that.

Linda and I both chose the Nuits St George which was served chilled. It married with a lovely dish of fresh cheese-stuffed ravioli. For the main courses, I had duck with a wonderful Barbera D'Asti, and Linda had a dish of St. Pierre and fresh green asparagus, married with a glass of the best Condrieu I have ever tasted: so flowery, complex and full.

If you do not want any wine, that is ok too and they will tell you about the dishes. There are two dégustations: one à l'aveugle (blind tasting), and the other featuring wines from all over the world in four courses with their appropriate foods.

Linda rarely drinks but joined the party and had two glasses of wine. By the time we got to dessert, we were sufficiently high as to opt out of a wine with (my) chocolate-caramel gateau and Linda's orange crèpe dessert.

Trip to Japan

Fantastic dining experiences in a variety of cities in Japan, including those on Fukuoka and Honshu

I just returned from almost a month in Japan. The dining experiences were fantastic, thanks to my friend Kyoko. In several cities, she made reservations for me and I tried one of the best sushi restaurants in the world in Kanazawa, a two-star restaurant in Osaka (nouvel kaiseki style) and a three-star restaurant in Tokyo.

In all three, the ordering was done over the phone before I stepped foot into any restaurant. In the sushi place (in Kanazawa, a real capital for fresh fish), I was reminded of a zen temple--so quiet were the people at the counter. After a fantastic omakase (chef's choice), the customers could choose the types of sushi they were interested in. I was lucky to sit next to an afficionado who knew what the chef's specialties are and so I had a luscious sushi with tuna and leeks. The chef even created a tsukemono (pickle) sushi. His name and the name of the restaurant is Komatsu Yasuke and I will definitely go back there.

Also in Kanazawa, is the animated fantastic market that is open every day except for Wednesday. I enjoy wandering around the stalls and viewing the stunning array of fish and shellfish. There are many delicious sushi places there and I had one of the best chirashi plates of my experience--and I have had a lot of them. On this one, there were fresh oysters which is a rarity on chirashi.

In Osaka, I want to Honkogetsu. It is a little hideaway in the center of a very animated night area. I had to literally ask 10 people to help me find it, and by the time I got to the last person, I was standing in front of the restaurant entrance! There too, I sat at the counter so as to watch the chefs preparing our small dishes. This was kaiseki nouveau. We had grilled bamboo (takenoko) which is in season in April and just delicious; sashimi to dip in natto (not bad!!),vinegar or shoyu; skewers with a variety of fish; grilled tofu steaks with a delicious sauce; a nabe of yuba and vegetables (yuba is tofu skin and I love it); etc. The counter is also conducive to socializing and I met a lovely couple who were celebrating their anniversary. True to kaiseki tradition, the dishes that the food in beautiful porcelain bowls and everyone got a different shape, size, and design. I even took pictures of those.

The top of the top was a three star restaurant in Tokyo: Koju. It is a tiny restaurant. We had a tatami room and were served by our lovely attendant. We chose the least expensive menu of the three proposed (prior to arriving at the restaurant), and were regaled with both fish and vegetable dishes. One of the most memorable was a salad of spring vegetables. Each one had been prepared separately so that the cooking of each was perfect. The sashimi dish was magnificent as was the main fish dish. In the fancy restaurants, it seems that they also beautify and "deliciousify" the rice. This was done in Honkogetsu and here, at Koju, we had rice with succulent seaweed and vegetables mixed in. For dessert were strawberries prepared in four ways all in one bowl. I have a lovely memory of this meal and would not hesitate to return. Kyoko invited another friend to experience this wonderful meal with us: Tomoko. She has a blog about food in English:

Stranded by the volcano, I was stuck in Tokyo for five extra days. That was no hardship gastronomically. One night, Tomoko invited me to go with her friends to a "sumo" bistrot where they serve the heavy nabe (stew) that Sumo Wrestlers live on. It is full of heavy meats, shrimps, and vegetables and of course, is very filling. We took a train to the suburbs and met her friends. In addition to the nabe, we had some dishes that I had never had: a cream-filled chicken croquette that was deep-fried, various sashimi dishes, a wonderful summer salad, etc. With this we had many bottles of cold sake. It was a memorable experience not only for all the different foods but also to spend an evening with such friendly people.