Dave Jones’ Cafe Beat

Food & Drink - September 23rd, 1988
Don’t let the modest sign, decor fool you

Brasserie Bernard in Roppongi doesn’t look like much on the outside. All it is is a sign that reads, Brasserie Ber­nard, and says that the brasserie is on the seventh floor.

If one were to judge the restaurant by the building’s ex­terior, he would be turned off. That goes to show that all is not gold that glistens. The most gorgeous exterior could produce food that contributes to the delinquency of one’s interior.

The brasserie’s decor could be described as nondescript. But what brasserie is supposed to look like a three-star restau­rant? Those which do are suspect. They usually are high-priced restaurants posing as brasseries, because they like the French sound of the word or they want to lure customers in with the implied promise of good food at reasonable prices, seedy though the building that houses Brasserie Bernard may be and nondescript the brasserie’s decor, you will get exceptional food at low-budget prices there.

If you’re looking for a good bargain, try the lunch menus, sign, decor fool you of which there are three. Menu A, consisting of a green salad and that day’s special, is 1,200 yen. Menu B is 2,000 yen and includes an hors d’oeuvres (there are six tempting choices), a main dish (six equally tempting choices), des­sert and coffee. Menu C at 3,500 yen, though still not on the fast, expense-account track, provides enough to satisfy a ravenous appetite and titillate the taste-buds. You can choose one from 12 dishes as an hors d’oeuvres and from six fish dishes or nine meat dishes as your main course. Dessert and coffee concludes that meal. Mentally I picked out an hors d’oeuvres and a meat dish from the menu. Together they came to 4,300 yen. So you see what you get for your 3,500 yen?

I went there with Franco Landuzzi, director of the Itali­an Tourist Bureau here and a gourmet of note. Any food that passes the inspection of his discriminating palate has to be good.

He chose Menu B and picked a Salade de Fruits de Mer or seafood salad to start with. He gave it high marks. For his main course he select­ed a Jambonnette de Volaille aux Endives or chicken leg stuffed with endives. He put a piece in his mouthy thoughtful­ly examined it with his taste-buds and gave the okay sign— which, coming from such a recognized gastronome, meant that it was delicious and inter­esting.

I went a la carte and took as an opening course Moules Farcies or mussels served in their shell with garlic butter, at 1,400 yen. It is one of the hors d’oeuvres included among the six of Menu B. The mus­sels were plump and tender: the garlic butter mild but with enough flavor to enhance the taste of the mussels. I was very pleased with them and invited Landuzzi to try one. He agreed with my opinion, com­menting that the mussels were cooked to the right degree of softness. For my main course I took Coquilles St. Jacques Nicoise, which is included in Menus В and C, at 2,600 yen. The scallops were fixed with a touch of garlic in a tomato-based sauce, typical of the Provencal region. They got my nod of approval.

The wine list is made with an eye to the purses of the customer which the brasserie prices should attract, with plenty of half-bottles available for a table for two. Most of the wines were from 3,000 yen to 6,000 yen. I chose a half-bottle of Chablis Premier Cru La Fourchaume 1985, at 4,000 yen. The temperature was correct, cold enough but not so cold as to mask the bouquet and flavor. Needless to say, it matched our dishes very well.

Chef at the Brasserie Ber­nard is Nobuo Hoshin, who learned how to cook the Anquetil specialties well. Maitre d’hotel is Bruno Zanotti, a Frenchmen despite his Italian name, which confused Landuz­zi for a moment. Zanotti, like any good maitre d’, knows the menu and the wine list of the brasserie well. Don’t hesitate to consult him, when in doubt.

There are two Brasserie Bernards. I have not tried the one on the seventh floor of the Printemps Building at 3-2-1 Ginza (telephone: 564-4239). Since Anquetil oversees it, too, it must be just as good as its twin in Roppongi, which is also on the seventh floor, but of the Kajimaya Building. It is on the left-hand side of the street as you head from Roppongi towards Aoyama, It’s not more than 100 or so yards from the intersection. You can’t miss it, as you will run into the sign announcing the brasserie standing in a prominent position on the sidewalk. Telephone is 405-7877.

The Roppongi brasserie is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily, though it is closed for lunch on Sundays and holidays. The Ginza branch is open from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily except on Wednesdays.