by Christine Cunanan-Miki
TUCKED AWAY in Daikanyama is a delicious little bit of France called Le Petit Bedon. Unpretentious and inviting, the restaurant wows diners over with its classical cooking, extensive wine list and reasonable prices. It’s run with French joie de vivre and Japanese fastidiousness by Patric Pachon, the restaurant’s director and manager, and chef Bernard Anquetil. Both names may ring a bell with long-time expatriate gourmets since Patric is the son of Andre Pachon, one of Tokyo’s most respected French restaurateurs, while Bernard used to hold court at the popular Brasserie Bernard in Roppongi, once the watering hole of serious devotees of French cooking.
It’s a great formula for success. And how Bernard came to Le Petit Bedon is worth telling as well. After many years in Tokyo, Bernard had all but packed his bags to return to France when Andre Pachon broached the idea of his joining Le Petit Bedon. “Why not?” Bernard had reportedly said. “It’s a new challenge for me.” So with little fanfare, Bernard brought over his chef’s hat and apron — as well as many of his fans — over to Daikanyama.
Bernard’s arrival at Le Petit Bedon may have been relatively low-key, but his food is definitely worth making a big fuss over. He has created new versions of such Brasserie Bernard classics as the “Maitre Keller” style turbot terrine souffle (Terrinette de turbotin “Maitre Keller,” ¥3,000), the pan-fried duck breast fillet (¥3,500) and the Marseille fish soup (Soupe de poisson a la marseillaise, ¥1,200). At the same time, he has kept the most popular dishes that Le Petit Bedon became famous for, such as the scampi and tomato puree in pie (galette de langoustine et tomate au pistou, ¥2,600) and the braised beef cheeks in red wine (joue de boeuf braisee au vin rouge, ¥3,500). The variety of the restaurant’s specialties leaves no doubt that Bernard is equally skilled in handling fish or meat.
To end the meal with aplomb, Patric has assembled an impressive array of French cheeses that are painstakingly sourced from different suppliers, and an equally astonishing tray of cakes, ice creams and sweets that are made on the premises and vary daily. The house specialty (or perhaps I should say, surprise) ice cream, a tangy but creamy raspberry and red pepper concoction (¥1,200), was the perfect finale.
With such good cooking, it is almost painful to say that the wines were just as formidable as the food — but they were. The delights of the evening were the excellent local wines that Patric sourced from his hometown region of Languedoc-Rousillon, which were priced so moderately that I had to check the menu twice to confirm that they were not actually half-bottles.
Le Petit Bedon, which means “the little stomach,” is exactly what you will get after a long and wonderful meal here. The flexible dinner set menu (¥7,000 including taxes and service charge) is highly recommended for both gourmets and gourmands because you will be able to choose anything from the a la carte menu for each course category. Fortunately, those who are watching their weight or their wallets can stick to a la carte and order most dishes in half portions (which are ordinary Japanese-sized portions rather than full French ones) so as not to entirely miss out on the experience.
WHAT TO EAT
We were completely won over by the puree of scampi and tomato juice in a pie (Galette de langoustine el tomate, ¥2,600), the pumpkin soup laced with a frothy foie gras cream (Creme de potiron, cappucino de foie gras, ¥1,200), and the half-lobster risotto (Homard en risotto, ¥3,600). The stuffed quail with a madera sauce (Caille farcie au parfum des sous bois, ¥3,200) was also a winner.
WHAT TO DRINK
Forget all the fancy famous names (although there is a lot of these as well) and go with the local wines from the Languedoc-Rousillon region. A fruity white called Gerard Betrand “Viognier” 2003 (¥4,600) and a nice full-bodied red called l’Opera de Villambert Julien 2001 (¥5,300) went extremely well with the meal and offered the best value I’ve ever seen in an upscale French restaurant in Tokyo.
WHERE TO SIT
It’s such a cozy and attractive place that every table is good with the exception of those near the kitchen door.
HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
Plan on spending around ¥10,000 per person for a dinner set menu and local wines.
WHO GOES THERE?
The French community, expatriates living or working in the Shibuya and Ebisu areas, old-timers who used to frequent Brasserie Bernard, and Japanese Francophiles. Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn is reportedly a big fan.
WHO TO ASK FOR
Restaurant manager Patric Pachon, who is fully trilingual, will be happy to assist with meal and wine selections.
Le Petit Bedon
Hillside West-A, 13-13
Tel. (03) 5457-0086