by Robert Forrest
So much for not repeating myself. But then I saw Trevor’s Christmas Special at the While Fox. Oysters, venison, foie gras, vanilla roasted monkfish…if you haven’t been yet, then you really must. It was my fledgling review for Weekender last year. Well, not quite, my first appointment was to drive an Aston Martin. How fortuitous, then, that I had yet to secure my driving license here, meaning I had to listen to the sonorous snarl of the exhaust respond to someone else’s feet. But perhaps if it had been me in the driving seat, I would not have discovered one of Tokyo’s finest foodie secrets.
For those of you still living in darkness, this is the tremendous French-Japanese izakaya run by culinary ronin Trevor Blythe, who escaped his Michelin stars in Europe to create his own cosmos in Japan. What’s unique about his style is how accessible he makes great food—witness the little shopping list above. But before those headline acts, we started on what appeared to be a more subdued note, Jerusalem artichoke soup with walnut oil. Immediately co-diner was convinced: she is the partner of the New Yorker I occasionally drag to restaurants who joined me when I first came, and she has been listening to his exclamations all year since. At last came a chance to shut him up.
It’s an odd contrast to experience such food while watching something so innocuous: a short-haired Brit, his wife, and one assistant flitting between grill, oven, hot plates, and fridge, when the taste is chandeliers, linen, be-suited butlers, and pearly chatter. There is such contrast between taste and sight that sometimes one can’t help but wish for a setting the food deserves. But they must keep the four seats around the end of the bar. This is where we always sit; I say always, but despite rabbiting on about the Fox, other appointments have limited me to just three trips this year. It was quickly agreed that we should come each season with the change of menu.
Now is the season for oysters and I confess, these were my first to ever eat, with their hopes hanging in the air that I would not try them. Initial hesitation was soon dissolved by the champagne jelly and yuzu zest into which they were sunk and with a quick coaxing from my chopsticks, soon slipped upon my tongue. Immediately cool and almost briny, they spoke of shadowed rock pools on a Baltic coast. New Yorker was quite disappointed with my approval. Next came the foie gras, straight from France, of course, served with too-few brioche and an apple and fig compote, before we turned our tongues to the monkfish. One bowl between two, with two smaller dishes to divide into: plump fleshy white organs puffed above white wine sauce in which potatoes sat boiled with mitsuba.
Beside the vanilla-tinged fillet flopped two discs of liver providing rapid contrast to the foie gras before, which doesn’t leave much space to mention the pumpkin and ginger granite, nor the spell-binding venison and saladana puree that lingers still as I write. I can only urge you to go yourself and try the White Fox firsthand. Please don’t make me repeat myself.
Best table: those four seats around the end of the bar in the far corner. Prices: nine small courses for ¥10,000 per person. Outstanding value. Location: two minutes from Oji JR station, also N16 on Namboku line.