I like the French, and their food

Food & Drink - December 3rd, 2004
tokyoweekender_Casse-Croute

by CJ Waggon

Got no idea why, but for some reason American folks who don’t like the French assume I don’t like them either, what with me being in the defense bid’ness. Reckon them folks don’t know no history. Weren’t for the French we’d still be payin’ taxes to the Queen of England. Must have no clue where we got the Statue of Liberty.

Heck, I ain’t got no problem with no French folks. In fact, I like the French, and their food. Why, after I reviewed a nice little French restaurant down Naka-Meguro way a few months back, I got a very nice email from a French woman named Celine.

“Just read your review for Comme d’habitude. They serve such a great food for so little money compared to the other fancier places. We are French and go there very, very often. We consider this is the best place to eat French food and, luckily, it is not the most expensive! I am always so annoyed when I read chronicles about the best places to get French cuisine in Tokyo, Comme d’habitude is never mentioned.”

Well thank you, Celine. Chow Time here is on the cutting edge of fine Tokyo dining, don’cha know?

When I showed the email to my assistant Kumiko, she suggested we take in another French restaurant close to where Celine lives. The place is called Casse-Croute, which is French for something or other. Kumiko says it’s not quite up to Comme d’h, but it is more casual, less expensive and easier to get into.

The night we went, Kumiko brought along her friend Henri, as French as they come. Henri gets a kick out of tasting what Japanese chefs do to French food. Seems to like it, though.

The way to go here is the ¥3,000 dinner, which comes to ¥3,300 with tax and service. You pick one appetizer and one main course from the menu, and also get dessert and coffee to boot. Kumiko held the wine list hostage, and ended up ordering a two bottles for the three of us, most cost ¥4,000 to ¥6,000.

C-C Cheeseboard

First to land was the Charcuterie Maison, house-made cold cuts like pork rillet and chicken liver served with a few greens and them tiny little French pickles. Real tasty, but Henri said it was on the lean side for real French Charc.

Then we got the Bonito Carpaccio with fennel and orange, which Henri really liked but said you’d never find this in France. Onions, fresh orange, fennel leaf and red peppercorns on what was essentially raw fish dressed with olive oil. Not French, but that don’t matter ‘cause it was some kinda delicious. Only ¥950 a la carte, too.

Next up was the Tian de Legumes a la Provancale, which I had Kumiko order cause I wanted a vegetable dish. This was your tomatoes, onions and Japanese eggplant in a casserole, all baked down with olive oil. A la carte this is ¥1,250 and worth every bit.

I got me one of my favorites, Duck Confit, a specialty of the chef. Little smallish, but with crispy skin, tender meat. Not too salty like a lot of confit out there. Chef must’a known I was comin’ cause he garnished it with spears of baby okra. Do I love okra, even if it ain’t dredged in cornmeal and fried in bacon drippins. This is ¥1,750 a la carte, so make sure you order it with a dinner.

Kumiko had the Salmon and Cod Millefeuille, a lovely big dish with the big hunk of salmon garnished with a fried basil leaf and split-open pea pods, pretty as you please. Gave me a taste — richly flavored, but surprisingly light.

Henri went for the Anago in Red Wine Sauce with Cous Cous, chuckling that his pals in France would never believe the combination. Said it was “interesting” but I’m sure he liked it because he scarfed it all down in just a few minutes. Only ¥1,150 a la carte.

For dessert we all went for cheese. The waiter parked this huge tray of cheese in all kinds and colors and smells on the next table, and started taking requests. The portions were a bit skimpy, but the cheeses themselves were in great shape.

All told, Casse-Croute is your good Tokyo neighborhood French restaurant, with plenty of good grub and a few surprises for not much yen. Charlie Jake sez one thumb up, check it out.

Casse-Croute

1-3-4 Shimo-Meguro , Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Tel.03-5487-3608

Web site: r.gnavi.co.jp/g789300/ (in Japanese)
Map: r.gnavi.co.jp/g789300/map1.htm (in Japanese)
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. • Dinner: 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Closed Mondays