Tucked away on the corner of two side streets near Azabu Juban station is a tiny gem of a restaurant, complete with an idyllic sunken outdoor terrace. Milieu proves that delicious French food in Tokyo doesn’t have to break the bank — its set menu is priced at just ¥1,200 for lunch and ¥2,100 for dinner, a far cry from many of the city’s other Francophile outposts. And the reasonable prices don’t mean that diners suffer from substandard fare either, as daily offerings are carefully made with fresh, natural ingredients personally selected by the chef.

By no means am I an expert on French food, but when a Parisian friend of mine recommended Milieu for its well priced, authentic fare, I checked it out. The evening was clear and balmy, so I chose a seat on the terrace and settled in to see what my meal would have in store for me. Since the menu changes daily based on the freshness and availability of meats and produce, one never knows quite what to expect at Milieu. The dinner menu (¥2,100 ) includes an appetizer, main and dessert, and there are generally three of each from which diners can choose.

My starter consisted of a generous slab of pâté accompanied by thick slices of a warm, fresh baguette. While the texture of the pâté was a little too chunky for my taste, the flavor was delicious — smooth and rich without being overpowering. This washed down very well with a glass of the house red wine, which was poured by the waiter in a larger-than-usual amount.

In the several times I have been back to Milieu since my first visit, I have had the pleasure of sampling a wide variety of main dishes, each one as satisfying as the last: a tender beef filet cooked rare in a red wine sauce; juicy roasted chicken accompanied by grilled vegetables or stuffed tomatoes; innovative pasta dishes made with ingredients such as black mussels or winter squash. But perhaps my favorite offering to date was a light yet creamy chicken and mushroom stew that warmed from the inside out. Made with a base of white wine vinegar, chopped onions and a generous helping of fresh herbs, the steaming broth seeped into the chicken, making the meat tender and full of flavor. A whole potato completed the dish, which was absolutely perfect for a cold winter day.

Milieu’s dessert menu also changes daily, although there are a few standards that pop up more often than the rest. On my first visit the chef recommended the gateau chocolat, and I have been hooked ever since. This thick, rich cake has a slightly crispy top and is served with a dollop of whipped cream. It can be a little much on its own, but with a piping hot cup of coffee it makes the perfectly decadent end to a meal whose flavor is much richer than its cost. (Kelly Wetherille)

2-23-12 Higashi Azabu

Open daily, 11 am-10 pm
(03) 3568-7850