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La Bonne Table: French cuisine between informal and upscale

by Robbie Swinnerton

This spring brought more than cherry blossoms to Nihonbashi. It also saw the wraps removed from the two new Coredo Muromachi Buildings. Both have multiple floors of restaurants, bars and food stores. The pick of the lot is without a doubt La Bonne Table.

If the name evokes images of laid-back French farmhouse cuisine and cheerful check tablecloths, you’re well off the mark. La Bonne Table is crisp and polished, straddling the cusp between informal and upscale. But that is hardly surprising, given its lineage.

This is the first offspring of L’Effervescence in Nishi-Azabu, one of the hottest high-end restaurants in the city. Chef Shinobu Namae’s precise, innovative modern-French cuisine draws gourmets from around the world. So there was considerable anticipation to see what form his second, more “casual” outpost might take.

Namae has always placed emphasis on the quality of his ingredients, sourcing them from small-scale market farmers who share his concerns about sustainability. Here in Nihonbashi he’s giving that produce free rein.

That’s why the first dish you are served will comprise a score or so of salad vegetables, some lightly cooked, others as fresh as the moment they were picked. They come from Eco-Farm Asano, a pioneering organic farm in Chiba that works only with like-minded restaurants.

The menus are prix-fixe (lunch ¥3,600; dinner ¥6,800). Both are ostensibly three-course meals, but a number of extra nibbles are added throughout the meal. Not least of those is the bread, a tasty sourdough that is shipped up from the Sucre Coeur bakery in Osaka because nowhere in Tokyo meets Namae’s criteria.

But it’s the output of La Bonne Table’s own kitchen that really impresses. One of the first highlights is a wonderfully smooth potage made from new-season white onions and adorned with morsels of home-smoked bacon, charcoal-grilled new-potato gnocchi, oven-roasted beets and tender spinach leaf. A signature dish if ever there was one.

Among the mains, the roast guinea fowl is also outstanding. Ours was served with a tapenade liberally seasoned with the bird’s bitter innards, along with green asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and spelt (an ancient species of wheat).

But the standout platter was a superb single-serving pie stuffed with red-wine-simmered beef tail, potato, lotus root and garland chrysanthemum, accompanied by a vivid orange sauce of flavorful “aroma red” carrots. The message here is: La Bonne Table serves food that is both subtle and satisfying.

You won’t see Namae much in that gleaming open kitchen. The man in charge is his former sous-chef Kazunari Nakamura. The floor staff will also be familiar to regulars in Nishi-Azabu. It’s a good team and they’ve hit the ground running.

What doesn’t work? Well, it really doesn’t matter that the lunch menu overlaps so exactly with dinner. But whoever chose the BGM channel should know better: This food deserves a whole lot more than classic rock.

Coredo Muromachi-2 1F, 2-3-1 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; 03-3277-6055; labonnetable.jp. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (L.O.) and 5:30-9:30 p.m. (L.O.); nearest stations Mitsukoshimae and Shin-Nihonbashi; no smoking; lunch ¥3,600 per head, dinner from ¥7,000 (plus drinks); major cards; English menu; English spoken. Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com

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