Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Bistro Marx: Casual, classic cuisine high above the streets of Ginza

by Robbie Swinnerton

There are several good reasons why Bistro Marx is one of Tokyo’s hottest new openings of the year: The excellent cooking and high quality ingredients; the spacious dining room and comforting absence of table cloths; plus the fact it’s under the imprimatur of one of France’s finest chefs. But when all is said and done, it boils down to one factor: Location, location, location.

Not only does Bistro Marx occupy pride of place on the seventh floor of Tokyo’s newest landmark building, the impressive Ginza Place, which opened in late September, it has a view to kill for. It sits right over the busy Ginza Crossing — the very heart of the city’s most enduringly fashionable district — looking across at the iconic Seiko clock tower and prewar architecture of the Wako luxury department store.

Best of all, it boasts an open-air (but covered) terrace area with tables for 20, and they’re not just reserved for meal times. In the afternoon you can saunter in for a genteel al fresco teatime. It also stays open as a bar into the wee hours, offering romantic (if breezy) cocktails above the Ginza rooftops.

As you’d expect given the provenance, the food doesn’t disappoint. Chef Thierry Marx holds two Michelin stars at his Paris restaurant, Sur Mesure, and was one of the first to introduce modernist techniques and flavors from more “exotic” cuisines into France’s gastronomic mainstream.

You won’t find many avant-garde accents on the menu here (for these, you need to book yourself into Marx’s fine-dining restaurant next door). At Bistro Marx the focus is firmly on the satisfying staples of French everyday cooking — but executed with considerable finesse. The ¥3,800 three-course lunch menu makes the perfect introduction and represents great value for this part of town.

As starters, the current menu opens with a choice: Saint-Jacques marinees, finely sliced raw scallops draped over a bed of couscous and anointed with a beautiful citrus marinade; or soupe de chataignes, a thick, smooth potage made with new-season Japanese chestnuts. From the get-go you know you are in good hands.

Pan-fried sea bass is served over leeks in a cream sauce, together with a mixture of barley, red rice and other grains. The navarin d’agneau is even better: delicious, juicy chunks of lamb slow-simmered and served in its juices with root vegetables and plenty of white haricot beans. As with the fish, it is underpinned by a slice of bread, not only raising it vertically but adding extra wholesome substance.

These dishes also form the basis for the ¥6,800 four-course dinner menu (also available at lunch). And throughout the day, you can investigate the illustrated a la carte menu — which is where you will find the Marx Burger (¥2,900).

Made with lean wagyu beef, it is served between light, brioche-style buns, with chunky fries, homemade pickles and, in place of ketchup and mayo, a rich tomato fondue and creamy bearnaise sauce. On the plate it doesn’t look quite as impressive as in the menu photo. But it terms of flavor it certainly delivers.

Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.