Canoviano Cafe: Modern Italian cuisine in Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown complex
Reviewed by Lukas Kratochvil
If you find yourself craving top quality Italian fare during your trip to Tokyo without wishing to sacrifice the health benefits of Japanese cuisine, you could do worse than paying Canoviano Cafe a visit.
Canoviano Cafe is a modern Italian restaurant with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients, impressively reminding patrons that contrary to popular belief it is easy to be both health-conscious and a decadent gourmet.
Located in the Tokyo Midtown complex, on 1F of its ultra-modern Tadao Ando-designed Galleria building, the sleek, minimalist design manages to exude both style and comfort, the latter no doubt aided by the friendly staff on hand to guide you through the six course set lunch.
We started off with a supremely refreshing dish of cold capellini with white fruit tomato sorbet and Japanese white peach. The tomato was concentrated and intensely sweet, but had enough tartness to counter balance the sheer lush sweetness of the juicy peach. A solitary small but intensely flavoured basil leaf added some contrasting spice.
Next up was an equally refreshing salad of seasonal organic vegetables with lemon dressing and fish carpaccio. The Japanese like to show off their immaculate seasonal vegetables and this dish showcased an almost impossibly sweet tomato from Shizuoka, along with courgette, snow peas, mizuno, cucumber, chicoree and about a further dozen or so vegetables. The dressing was very subtle and designed to let the vegetables speak for themselves. The carpaccio of kochi, a white-fleshed fish, was rather low-key and provided mainly a textural contrast to the crisp vegetables.
We decided to go with the healthy spirit of the meal and only enjoy a limited amount of wine by the glass. The by-the-glass offerings provided some excellent quality and value for money. We had a Pinot Blanc and a Muller-Thurgau from Alto Adige. The region is famous for refreshing, subtle wines made from those grape varieties, and they complemented the food well. The wine list should you wish to take your grape based indulgence beyond a few glasses is all-Italian, decent and appropriately, if not modestly, priced.
The salad was followed by an Italian classic with a Japanese slant: tagliatelle with a bolognaise-like wagyu (Japanese beef) sauce and burdock root. The tagliatelle were correctly al-dente, the beef sauce was rich clearly made with good quality red wine and the burdock was firm and provided a good textural contrast. However, while burdock is a popular Japanese ingredient, it was surplus to requirements here: the flavour distracted from the overall harmony of the dish.
We were now ready for the fish main course, which arrived in the form of amadai (tile fish) with crunchy scales, grilled vegetables and a fruit tomato and caper sauce. The vegetables and the sauce were excellent: bitter-sweet grilled brussel sprout, crunchy, starchy lotus root and a satisfying, sweet tomato sauce with the zing of caper acidity. This could so easily have been a real highlight; unfortunately, the fish was not quite up to scratch. The scales were wonderfully crisp, but far too oily and the flesh of the fish was juicy but overly soft almost mushy - rather than beautifully firm-fleshed.
The meat course was more internally consistent. Roast of Kirishima pork with mustard sauce and grilled fennel, zucchini and new potatoes. The sauce was uncharacteristically subtle for a mustard sauce, allowing the full-flavoured, juicy pork to shine. The vegetables were again exceptional, but the outstanding pork relegated them to mere supporting roles.
We closed with a simple but delightful dessert of vanilla ice cream with mint leaf, cherries, raspberries and blueberries in red wine sauce. This sounds exceedingly conventional but stood out as a highlight because of the lively acidity, spice and red fruit flavours in the sauce which made this a perfect late summer dessert. The dish was in no way sugary, the sweetness of the vanilla being more than matched by the tartness and fruity flavours of the rest of the composition.
Throughout the meal we were treated to some very fresh, warm bread and superior quality olive oil. This is a minor detail, but given the surprisingly often dry, cardboard like baked goods even some Michelin starred restaurants dare to inflict on their guests, this was a very nice touch and much appreciated.
We will definitely be back, and next time we will aim for dinner rather than lunch to take advantage of some of the more interesting items on the wine list. Lunch for two including drinks was a reasonable 12,000 yen.
Name Canoviano Cafe カノビアーノ カフェ
Galleria, 1F, Tokyo Midtown, 9-7-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Opening times 11am-3pm (last orders 2pm) 6pm-11pm (last orders 9.30pm)
Credit cards? Yes
Foreigner friendly? Yes English menu, some English spoken.
Non-smoking section? Yes all non-smoking