Beacon—Fine Food with Fine Ale

Food & Drink - September 21st, 2007
Beacon, Tokyo

We’d heard about Beacon from our neighbors Bruce and Jane, who said it served good food at fairly reasonable prices for a fancy restaurant in Omotesando. Always on the lookout for a nice dinner option close to home, my husband and I booked a Sunday night table. “You’ll have a nice, quiet time,” the staff at Beacon told me. “It’s usually very lively all week. But Sunday evening is quite relaxing.”

We liked what we saw as soon as we entered. Styled as a modern American chophouse, the restaurant was dimly-lit, cozy and intimate—but not stiflingly so—with cascading gold lame curtains and window-side tables offering great views of the room but also enough privacy. It’s really a toned down combination of Grand Hyatt’s Oak Door and the New York Grill of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, with the same Western-style servings and straightforward tastes. Chef David Chiddo has a string of successful ventures to his name and he has applied the same basic formula to each one: decent portions of good quality fusion food plus steaks and seafood, value for money, and a relaxing atmosphere that can take you from Sunday brunch to a noisy Saturday dinner with friends. My husband, who prefers more subtle flavors, was prepared to pick at his food and watch me eat virtually all of the five-course meal we had ordered. However, he quickly turned enthusiastic after finishing most of the crab cakes we were supposed to share.

It’s not easy to find proper crab cakes in Tokyo. Many we’ve tasted are either too salty or oily, or else full of extenders because crab is so expensive here. Beacon’s version was crunchy on the outside and filled with enough chunky strips of soft crab meat inside to make us check the menu prices again (¥2,200). Meanwhile, the Spanish tuna and avocado tartar with a dressing of sesame, chili, soy sauce, and ginger, was spicy, chewy and deliciously original. However, it reminded me more of Korean food, than of anything close to Southern Europe.

Another winner was the clam and bacon chowder, with herbs, potato cubes, celery stalks and chewy clams peeking out from under a thin blanket of cream drizzled with olive oil. It had just the right consistency so it was neither too thick nor too watery. Beacon serves this with homemade warm brown bread and butter whipped with honey—and just remembering this sweet and salty comfort food pairing as I write is now making me hungry.

Beacon is also famous for its grilled meats, which come from Australia and are properly sized for Western appetites. I had 200 grams of a very nice grade 1 Angus sirloin, which was rubbed with cumin and cayenne pepper (an original rub) and then grilled to near perfection. My husband ordered a filet, which I usually don’t touch, as it’s not fatty enough for me. But, Beacon’s version had that meaty taste that Japanese beef lacks; while being so tender that I actually offered to swap midway. Then, just to check out the seafood, we also had a hefty Tasmanian salmon, nicely salted and well grilled so that it was neither too dry nor too raw.

The assorted side dishes also left me happily full until Tuesday, since we ordered everything that caught our eye and ended up going home with several doggie bags as well. We especially loved the “garlic toast steak fries,” another Beacon original, and the grilled asparagus with goat cheese and walnuts. Meanwhile, their mashed potatoes were whipped with garlic for added depth and flavor. Everything raw was fresh and crunchy, whatever was fried arrived crisp, and anything boiled or simmered was not overdone.

Finally, one of the best reasons to visit Beacon is probably for a taste of their Tennoz Ale, which is brewed at the very popular T.Y. Harbor Brewery, a sister company. T.Y. Harbor is casual and fun, with outdoor dining and freshly brewed ale as its biggest attractions. At Beacon, however, you have the luxury of fine dining and the usual assortment of New World wines, plus incredibly drinkable ale on tap.

I had just finished writing this when my friend Beth called to discuss restaurant options for our Saturday night out. Coincidentally, her husband Bertrand had suggested Beacon—and after writing about their clam chowder and steaks, there was nothing better I could think of. We had the same ¥7,800 menu again, and everything was just as good as the first time. Even with a round of drinks and a nice bottle of New World red, our share of the bill came up to just under ¥25,000—which is a decent enough price for a good dinner in Omotesando.