When I go out to lunch with friends, we often eat at Aux Bacchanales. It's a French-style brasserie that opens onto an ivy-roofed terrace, and it's especially pleasant being able to eat outdoors this time of year when the weather is nice. The menu, which changes daily and is written on blackboards the waiter carries up to the table, is consistently good. There's always a choice of a fish or a meat main course, as well as soup, omelette, and quiche of the day and a couple of salads. Baskets of long, golden baguettes are positioned throughout the cafe, and a basket of baguette slices comes with lunch. Though the bread is soft rather than chewy inside, it has a crisp crust and nice flavor. In fact, there's a whole bakery attached to the cafe, which sells the best pain au chocolat I've found in Tokyo, as well as a variety of other sweet and savory breads and pastries.
On a recent visit, the fish of the day was grilled tuna, a substantial chunk of meaty fish served on an herb-flecked pilaf of barley, rice, and perhaps some other grains as well, all of it encircled by a creamy white sauce. It's delicious, and I especially enjoy the unusual choice of carbohydrate - barley isn't something you see much of in Japan, unless it's in the form of barley tea. There's just the right amount of sauce to be rich without making you feel like you just ate a pound of butterfat. And the tuna, though cooked through and a bit crisp at the edges, was still tender and flaky.
We ordered coffee after lunch, but they brought out cafe au lait by mistake. The waiter came by and apologized a few minutes later, offering to bring regular coffee instead, but we were quite contented with our accidental drinks. The milk was prettily not-quite-mixed into the coffee, and just barely frothy on top.
Aux Bacchanales also serves some of the most beautiful and decadent desserts in the neighborhood. Though we didn't get anything this time, we admired the pastry case as we stood in line at the register to pay. My favorite is the tarte aux noix, which is like a pecan pie that's attained nirvana, but the strawberry tart looked extremely tempting today. There's also a tarte au chocolat, basically ganache in a pastry shell, that could put any other death by chocolate dessert to shame.
Ark Mori Bdg., 2nd Floor
Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-12-32