Aligot: a traditional dish from central-south France, made from mashed potatoes blended with melted cheese, butter, cream and garlic. Aligot: one of Tokyo’s tastiest, most unusual and atmospheric little bistros.
Set among the carousing backstreets of Kanda-Jimbocho, Aligot breaks the mold in more ways than one. It makes no attempt to look in any way Gallic, occupying as it does a decades-old converted timber tradesman’s house. Downstairs, there’s little more than an open kitchen with a counter along one side. There’s no room for seats, so you stand as you tuck into your cassoulet or bouillabaisse. Upstairs, at least you get to sit, but apart from one table in the corner, it will be at low Japanese tables with thin zabuton cushions on tatami mats.
It’s absolutely worth it, though. Besides being admirably affordable — this neighborhood has long been the domain of students and low-status salarymen — the cooking is assured and the menu remarkably adventurous. Among the highlights: homemade pork sausages; steamed mussels and asari clams; sautéed Hokkaido venison; and those namesake creamed potatoes, here called Aligot de Aligot.
One more item to look out for: the best pie you’re likely to find in all Tokyo. The standard recipe made with lamb is good, but the venison version is even better. Served with a generous lake of rich gravy, it is a rare treat.
1-18-7 Kanda-Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 03-5217-6677; www.yumemania.jp/tenpo/arigo; 5-11:30 p.m. (Sat. 4-11 p.m.), closed Sun. and hols.; nearest station Jimbocho; smoking OK; ¥3,500 per head (plus drinks); major cards OK; Japanese/English menu; some English spoken.