Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

ici: sophisticated French cuisine at bistro prices

by Robbie Swinnerton

The backstreets of Ebisu do not lack for great French cuisine. So how can a tiny new restaurant put itself on the map in such a popular dining district? One approach is to adopt a short, catchy name written in lowercase letters. But at ici (French for “here”), the real strategy is offering brilliant value for money.

At just ¥5,800 for five courses — plus a dainty appetizer with your aperitif and a small patisserie alongside your coffee at the end — ici’s menu is priced at bistro levels. But owner-chef Shuichiro Iwata’s cooking reflects the two years he spent working in Paris restaurants, including the renowned Michelin-starred Senderens. More impressive yet, he works entirely solo in his kitchen but still manages to offer plenty of choices for both appetizers and main dishes.

Among the standout dishes on last month’s menu were a tasty pastilla (pie) filled with duck confit and an impressive ballotine of quail. With food this sophisticated, who cares that the dining room is small — just 12 seats, most of them at a long counter — and has minimal decoration? Just a short walk from Ebisu Station, ici is a great addition to this well-endowed neighborhood.

1-26-12 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-6885-3396; Open 6-10:30 p.m. (L.O.), closed Mon.; set menu from ¥5,800; nearest station: Ebisu; no smoking; major credit cards accepted; English menu; some English spoken. For more details, visit www.eatpia.com/restaurant/ici-ebisu-french.

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