Friday, October 22, 2010

Home Roppongi

It seems to be a law of dining out that the best places are the hardest to find. Every city guidebook will tell you to avoid restaurants catering to tourists around the major sightseeing areas, but unless you have local friends or good luck it can be hard to hit upon the dark alley that will yield the hidden treasure you're seeking. Home is one of those impossible-to-discover gems. It's an organic restaurant with an eco-chic, trendy-traditional vibe, which here means lots of polished wood, potted and hanging plants, long counters rather than individual tables, and unmatched pottery dishes with individual character. It's tucked away on a side street a good distance from any subway station, and occupies the third and fourth floors of a nondescript building. Though I passed nearby it every day on my way to work, I never would have known it was there if not for a friend's introduction.
Home offers a lunch set including their organic salad bar, pictured at the top, plus a choice of the day's special or several regular items. A few days ago, the special was the omurice above, which my friend ordered. Omurice is one of those delightful Japanese adaptations of western food: a soft, fluffy omelette wrapped around rice flavored with ketchup and other ingredients, all doused with some sort of sauce. The one above had bits of chicken stir fried with the rice, and an alfredo-like cheesy cream sauce.
I had the natto-jiru lunch, a vegetarian option that's always on the menu, though the ingredients of the soup and the pickles in the long rectangular relish tray do change slightly from time to time. The soup is a broth made with natto, the infamous fermented soybeans of deeply savory, slightly funky flavor. Natto is much lauded for its healthful qualities but loathed by most foreigners and many Japanese as well. It's an acquired taste, but not all that different from smelly cheese, and I quite like it. Besides natto, the soup also contains bite-sized pieces of firm tofu, strips of flat, fried tofu (aburage), sliced scallions, and mushrooms. The pickles, from left to right, are radish, sour plum (umeboshi), and chrysanthemum petals. The petals had a soapy, leafy taste, exactly what you'd expect from the flowers' scent, and they were the only part of my lunch that I left unfinished.
The salad bar is just as coolly minimalist as the decor - just a few rustically cut types of organic vegetables set out in glass bowls and labelled with their provenance. Though you end up with something more like a plate of crudites to be enjoyed with the three very good dressing options rather than a normal salad, the vegetables are wonderfully fresh and flavorful, without any of the wilting lettuce or canned items all too common on salad bars elsewhere. The plate above contains a spicy ruffled dark green leaf, maybe radish or wasabi (I forgot to read the label), mild, juicy pieces of raw cabbage, and rough-hewn cucumber and carrot sticks.

Minato-ku, Roppongi 3-17-2
Cosmo Roppongi 3F

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