When Australian foodie Sarah Crago moved to Tokyo a couple of years ago, she brought with her an ambitious dream of opening her own restaurant. With a background in restaurant and food marketing and writing, and having completed a Masters in Food Culture and Communications in Italy, she was well prepared for all facets of the business. But she still needed to come up with an original concept; one that would stand out on Tokyo’s crowded streets. Fast forward to July 1, 2017 and Crago has done just that with the launch of Out, a unique eatery in Aoyama where customers get to enjoy “one dish, one wine, one artist.”
The dish in question is a luxurious truffle pasta served with a robust glass of red wine, and a punchy Led Zeppelin soundtrack (played on vinyl through stereo speakers). “Tokyo diners are astute to perfection and the pursuit of true craftsmanship. We wanted to take this concept to the extreme and create a perfectly formed restaurant experience,” says Crago.
And indeed, an evening at Out is a perfectly curated experience. A half-circle counter, with seats for 10 diners, sits in the center of the small space. As night falls, the pink neon glow from the restaurant’s signage bounces softly off the concrete interior, creating a retro yet contemporary atmosphere. (Impressively, the interior was designed by renowned architect and rocker Ryu Kosaka of Aoyama Nomura Design.)
The set menu costs ¥4,000 and consists of 150g of pasta (freshly made on site every day using organic Italian flour and farm eggs from Japan), 5g of fresh truffle, and a glass of red wine. Considering the high quality of the truffle, the price is relatively reasonable.
There are options to add extra portions, and you can also order champagne by the glass or bottle. Giving a nod to Japanese ramen eatery culture, there’s a beautifully customized ticket machine in the corner where you both order and pay for your meal.
When we visited, the main ingredient was French black truffle from New South Wales, Australia, served with tagliatelle flavored just slightly with olive oil, butter and a hint of parmigiano-reggiano cheese. The truffle is grated onto the pasta at the table, giving you an up-close glimpse of the mushroom’s rich brown flesh, patterned with white veins. The flavor is delicate (“It’s all in the aroma,” as Crago says), and perfectly complemented by the wine, which Crago chooses specifically to match the variety of truffle.
Every few months, Crago plans to switch up the type of truffle and wine on offer, and when asked if she thinks she’ll tire of the Led Zeppelin soundtrack, she quips: “There are a lot of Led Zeppelin albums!”