Le Bourguignon: French restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo
Reviewed by Lukas Kratochvil
Recently I have been feeling alarmingly healthy. My fitness levels are up, my wine consumption is down and, shockingly, I have even lost some weight. What better way to address this unnatural state of affairs than to indulge in a stomach-widening Saturday lunch at a French restaurant? Few places in Tokyo hit the spot better than Le Bourguignon, a wonderful throwback to an era before the unhappy invention of calorie counting and cabbage soup diets.
Le Bourguignon is a small restaurant close to the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo. Its facade resembles that of a house in Paris, and it is no less appealing from the inside where a warm, cosy interior welcomes patrons.
Service is friendly but a little stiff and on the slow side. Luckily, this minor imperfection is forgotten the moment the amuse bouche touches your palate: gougere (choux pastry) stuffed with salted pork back rib meat and cream sauce. A small but potent example of Burgundian culinary art, the full, charred pork flavour and the decadent cheesy cream sauce combine beautifully with the sweet, buttery pastry. It may have enough calories to sustain a mountain climber for a day but it is absolutely delicious.
Having commenced proceedings with a glass of Louis Roederer champagne, we decided to try one of the by-the-glass wines on offer. This is a test of the sommelier's skill to source wine that tastes exclusive but is surprisingly affordable. Many fail but our sommelier passed with flying colours. He offered a Rully Maizieres 2007 by Vincent Dureil-Janthial. Rully is located on the Cote Chalonnaise close to the famous Meursault region in Burgundy. It is usually very much a source of poor man's Burgundy: watery, uneventful wines at a fraction of the cost (and quality) of a good Burgundy. This wine however was a complex, rich Chardonnay with beautifully integrated oak that resembled its much more illustrious cousin from the village of Chassagne Montrachet.
The starter consisted of sauted fromage de tete (meat jelly of stewed pork skin and pork head meat) with turnip risotto and ravigote sauce (vinaigrette with meat broth and Dijon mustard). The fromage de tete had the lovely flavour of premier quality pork with hints of allspice, pepper and bay leaf. The salty and sour tastes of the terrine and the sauce were further complimented by the bitterness of the turnips. The starchy rice was a worthy accompaniment to the meaty jelly.
This was followed by a juicy, firm-fleshed gurnard from Choshi port cooked in a chicken broth with shiitake mushroom and olive oil. The broth had an opulent chicken and herb flavour, but remained subtle enough not to overwhelm the taste of the gurnard. This is an excellent alternative to a more potent sauce which in many restaurants obscures the flavour of the fish. By this time we were enjoying a rather conventional but delicious Meursault 2006 by Louis Jadot: an elegant wine with fine acidity, nutty oak and stone fruit flavours that worked very well with our fish.
The main course consisted of sauted boneless short rib of Ibaraki beef with scallion sauce and sautd green beans and red onions. The quality of the beef was exceptional even by Japanese standards and the zing of the scallions cut through the richness of the meat. We matched the dish with a medium-bodied Bordeaux, a Chateau Prieure Lichine 2004 from Margaux. The red berry, cedar and oak notes complimented the beef sensationally well.
The dessert was an interesting take on a French classic: Mont Blanc from red kidney beans (instead of the customary chestnut) with rice bavarois, accompanied by red pepper pudding with vanilla ice cream. The Mont Blanc did not work for me, but the red pepper pudding displayed the exquisitely subtle but concentrated natural sweetness of red pepper and complimented the ice cream well. We indulged in a range of delicious dessert wines of which the most memorable was a Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles 1998 by Dopff & Irion, a decadent Alsatian wine with notes of candied fruit, rosewater and spice.
Lunch at Le Bourguignon will set you back 3,000 to 7,500 Yen while the dinner set menus range between 5,000 and 10,000 Yen. Many but not all of the set menu items are also available a la carte, but the set menus are better value for money. The wine list is dominated by Burgundy and Bordeaux and well worth some detailed study. By-the-glass wines are around 1,200 yen.
Name Le Bourguignon
Address 3-3-1 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Subway Roppongi (Oedo Line and Hibiya Line) 5 mins
Phone +81 3 5772 6244
Opening times 11:30am - 3:00pm; 6:00pm 11:30pm; closed Wed. and second Tue. each month
Credit cards? Yes
Foreigner friendly? Menu in French but not English; little English spoken
Non-smoking section? Yes