Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lunch Out - A Nu

Yuki and I like to indulge in a fancy lunch every now and then, as weekend lunch specials offer one of the few bargains to be had in Tokyo. Last weekend, we went to A Nu, a French restaurant in the Hiroo district, to (belatedly) celebrate a year of dating. Their dinner courses start at more than $80/person and go as high as nearly $200, but there lunch course costs less than half of that at $35. Obviously $35 is hardly a cheap lunch and the portions are smaller than at dinner, but the quality is still top notch.

The appetizer (I had a tuna tartar topped with diced apples and celery) was decent enough, but nothing spectacular. I thought the celery overpowered the apple a little and there was a bit too much of both to really let the flavor of the fish come through. Far better was the fact that they provided a constant supply of probably the best baguettes I've tasted in Tokyo. The crust was crackly, the center warm and soft, and there were slices of delicious butter with big flakes of salt on top. I think I ate a loafs worth...

The fish dish was grilled onagadai, a firm white fish, served with an eggplant basil sauce, which looked eerily like baby food but tasted ok, and a really cool foam of basil-infused milk. To be honest, the fish was good enough that I'd been happy to eat it as-is, but the foam made things interesting.

The meat dish, roast duck with a beet sauce was a real winner. The skin was crispy, the meat tender, and the sauce matched it deliciously. Bonus points for presentation, with super thin circles of bright red beets dotting the plate. There was also an onion "sauce" that looked and tasted like they'd just minced up an onion and given it a couple of whirls in a cuisinart: after trying a couple bites, I ignored it and the dish was a billion times better for it.

The desserts were fairly common desserts served in a creative way. In their tiramisu, the mascarpone cheese was solidified like a meringue and floated with little coffee tapioca pearls in a creamy soup that tasted like cream and lady's fingers.

For the Mont Blanc, the cream was also solidified like a meringue and sat on top of a chestnut mousse.

Since we were celebrating (and it was only an extra $5), we decided to get an extra dessert, picking caramel cheesecake with a cognac-orange sorbet. I was surprised by how strong the cognac flavor in the sorbet was, but it balanced the creamy cheese cake, which was excellent on its own as well.

Fancy restaurants rarely serve large portions, but if I just wanted to stuff myself I'd just go grab an $8 bowl of ramen. I go for food made of top quality ingredients combined and prepared in ways I would never have though of myself. In fact, I rarely walk away from one such meal without thinking just how big of a difference good ingredients make. I couldn't care less about eating organic, going local, or whatever other trend is popular at the moment, but knowing how important it is to get the good stuff makes me understand the nuts blowing through half their paycheck at whole foods and farmers markets a little bit more.

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