A great Kasumicho restaurant where rose & table d’hote is OK

Le Recamier in Moto-Azabu is a little restaurant — verging on the tiny — which stands as proof that it’s quality, not quantity, that counts.

I went there with Nancy Lee Baldwin, Leader, Market­ing Service (so her card describes her) for Heublein (Japan) Ltd., and Philippe Sauzedde whose name card reads “Brand Manager — Cognac Bisquit — Pernod — Champagne Cremant des Maines Rose Besserat de Bellefon” for the same com­pany. There we continued our discussion of California’s Beaulieu Vineyard wine; a continuation of the tasting I wrote about last week.

Of course, anyone who knows Ile de France in Roppongi knows Sauzedde from the old days when he was the personable and knowledgeable maitre d’ there. It was his recommendation that brought us to Le Recamier, and one has to be boldly ignorant to it against his recommendation when it comes to food and alcoholic drinks.

Le Recamier is actually a house turned into a restau­rant. It has a main dining room that seats 25, a terrace for six to eight that is a de­light on a sunny day and a private room for eight to ten available for private parties as well as customers when the main dining room is filled — which it frequently is.

We began our lunch with the cremant with the long name. Cremant is partly sparkling, but the sparkle it had, combined with its drying flavor, made it a refreshing and excellent aperitif. I have had a long-standing prejudice against rose wines except in special circumstances. That lunch with that wine as an aperitif was a special circum­stance.

As we sippied our Cremant des Moines Rose brut, we studied the menu. Le Recamier offers two set luncheon menus for ¥2,300. Usually, I like the concept of Free Will when it comes to ordering meals, although a fatalist in other aspects of life, and prefer to choose from the a la carte menu. Tn this case, though, since I was hearing such inter­esting things from Ms. Bald­win about BV wines, I decided not to waste any intelluctual power in ordering food so as to be able to concentrate on what she was telling me.

I therefore made a rare exception in ordering and chose the table d’hote offerings. What my course included was Moules au Vinaigre de Xeres or mussels in Sherry sauce; Agneau au rosmarin or lamb with rosemary, and Oeuf a la neige or poached meringue with caramel in a custard sauce — all that for $2,300. My luncheon companions had the lamb for their main course, but chose Salade Niçoise as a starter and Gateau au Chocolat or choco­late cake for dessert. For wine we took a BV Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1982, ¥7,000.

I can only describe the food as fine quality at very reason­able prices. My mussels were very tasty; the lamb was done to perfection, and how do you describe a meringue dessert when done by a master? Both Sauzedde and Ms. Baldwin were very happy with their Salade Niçoise and thought I had made a mistake in not ordering the chocolate cake because it was so good.

Since I have mentioned “the master,” let me tell you about him. He is Chef-Owner Shingo Fujiwara who started his train­ing at the Tokyo Kaikan and then after three years, trans­ferred to Restaurant Tiffany in Harajuku. Two years there, and he felt he was ready to finish his schooling in the techniques of cooking in France where he worked at many great Parisian restau­rants, such as Vivarois, L’Archestrate, La Bourgogne, Gerard Besson, Guy Savoy, Chez Regine and Le Recamier. The last apparently left a last­ing impression with him, for he brought the name back with him to Tokyo.

If anyone is wondering about the meaning of Le Recamier, it comes from Madame Recamier, a Parisian hostess with the mostest of the early 19th century who attracted to her salon the great­est French political and liter­ary figures of the time.

I asked Manager Toshio Yokochi what kind of custom-ems the restaurant had in terms of nationalities. He said that it was 80-20 in favor of Japanese. Sauzedde told me that a large percentage of the 20 are French.

It was a very enjoyable and informative lunch for me. The wine was excellent, with the delightful cedar-like bouquet of the Cabernet Sauvignon mingled with the sweetish vanillin odor that the wine took with it from the oak barrels. BV’s Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon I can recommend.

Le Recamier is situated at 3-2-2, Moto-Azabu. To get there, going from Roppongi Crossing towards Shibuya, you turn left at TV Asahi Dori, the street on the hill above Kasumicho, go along that street until you see a Con­venience Store on the corner. There you turn left again and you will see Le Recamier in front of you on the left side. There is free parking in the lot across the street from the restaurant, plus parking space beside it — but with room for only one car.

The telephone number is 408-5044; reservations advisable.