The gentrification of Marunouchi continues apace. No longer a staid salaryman ghetto, it has reinvented itself as some of the most sophisticated commercial real estate in the city. The latest arrival in the neighborhood is the sleek steel-and-glass Mitsubishi Trust building, rising high above the venerable prewar brickwork and gabled roofs of the Industry Club of Japan.
It is not the architecture we’re excited about, though — it’s the opening of Dean & Deluca. After 25 years tickling the palates of New Yorkers, this self-styled “Museum of Fine Food” has become a Manhattan institution. So it is entirely appropriate that, for its first foray overseas, it should land among the concrete canyons of Otemachi.
Although a fraction the size of the original, it covers all the same bases. Half of the floor area is taken up by a bakery counter overflowing with bread and patisseries. There are shelves piled high with gourmet packaged food, much of it of Italian extraction; a rack of herbs and spices, all in D&D’s trademark silver cans; deli cases arrayed with sandwiches, cold cuts, cooked pasta and salads; and a counter serving coffee and tea for sipping on the spot or for takeout.
A small open kitchen runs along the back wall. The rest of the floor area is devoted to dining tables. The effect would be claustrophobic were it not for the bright decor, all white and chrome, and the high ceiling equipped with revolving fans.
D&D opens early in the morning to feed the incoming office crowd with coffee and snacks. From 11 a.m. it offers a selection of light lunches — sandwiches, clam chowder, a fish dish, pasta. In the evening, it segues into a casual restaurant, with white table cloths and wine globes. The menu features deli-type starters (liverwurst, terrine, smoked tongue and the like); exotic sushi (anyone for foie gras and radish rolls?); and an appetizing selection of grilled and roast meats (turkey, lamb, pork, duck or rib steak).
We haven’t eaten dinner there yet, but we enjoyed our lunch the other day — a good, spicy penne arabiata with button-size mame-ika squid, plus bread, a small side salad and a drink for 1,200 yen.
We’ve also investigated some of the takeout fare. The meat loaf — formed into balls the size of a small grapefruit, not carved into slices — is substantial and tastes just the way it should; the coleslaw is authentic, too; and the “roasted beef” sushi roll (actually wrapped in pastrami and enhanced by large chunks of pickled ginger) adds a bold new wrinkle to the vocabulary of fusion sushi.
The bread is hearty and wholesome (sourced from Maison Kayser and Cicoute Bakery), but the cakes and desserts were disappointing. However, as you would expect, the coffee is excellent, far and away better than you’d find at the Starbucks next door. They also have a small but diverse list of Californian wines, ranging from Bonny Doon at the low end (big, gluggable Red House) all the way up to Chalk Hill Chardonnay and even Opus One (no vintage listed on the bilingual menu).
In New York, D&D is considered exclusive and expensive, but here in the heart of Tokyo, we have come to expect nothing but the best and hardly bat an eyelid at the price of imported luxury foods. What makes D&D stand out here is the style and poise it brings to a formerly unprepossessing neighborhood — that and its unusual Big Apple blend of Italian and Jewish deli flavors. It’s proving so popular that further branches are sure to open soon. Until then, though, we are happy to include D&D on our list of reasons for making the trip down to this newly fashionable part of town.
If further evidence of the new-look Marunouchi is needed, you need only walk round the corner to the new Juchheim Meister Restaurant. It’s a modern, low-slung building, with pastel-decorated dining rooms and a row of outdoor tables facing onto a small plaza. Unlike the Juchheim coffee shops, this is a full-fledged restaurant, with set lunches from 1,800 yen and dinner courses from 6,000 yen. The dainty continental cuisine is enhanced by a good range of German wines.
Juchheim Meister Restaurant, Tokyo Fire & Marine Bldg. 1F Terrace, 1-2-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; tel: (03) 5218-5581. Open Monday-Saturday: lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (last order); tea 2-4:30 p.m.; dinner 6-9:30 p.m. (last order). Closed Sunday.
The same upmarket momentum can be found in the basement of the New Tokyo Building. (If you walk back toward Yurakucho along Marunouchi Naka-dori, New Tokyo is the office block on your left after the new Marubiru). Opening next Wednesday, June 18, is the first offshoot of Vin Picoeur, the brilliant little counter grill in Ginza. The concept is the same — charcoal-grilled pork and chicken, warming pot-au-feu and a substantial cellar of French wines. Let’s hope it’s just as friendly and intimate.
Change is so constant in this city it’s no use getting too attached to any favorite hangout. However, we must confess to feeling sentimental at having to say au revoir to Aux Bacchanales in Harajuku. It was not the first Parisian-style sidewalk cafe in the city, but it was always the best place to sip pastis at the bar, listen to rapid-fire French argot, or just kick back, nurse a glass of vin rouge, and enjoy people-watching. The attached restaurant had its ups and downs, but it served some of the best brasserie fare in town.
After eight years Aux Bacchanales had become a Tokyo institution. But sadly, last Sunday, it closed its doors for the last time — victim, we hear, not of the sanitation department but of Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s plans for a city jail just up the road. The Ark Hills branch will still continue operations, but it just won’t be the same.