There’s a lot to like about Bistro Nemot, especially in its details. The Parisian-esque signage. The way the menu is carefully written out by hand in vintage French school exercise books. The massive glass jar of fermenting sauerkraut that dominates the counter in front of chef Norihito Nemoto’s compact kitchen.
But these are all secondary considerations. It’s the food Nemoto puts together that makes his little, laid-back, counter-style restaurant one of the highlights of the still new and vibrant Eat Play Works complex in Hiroo. All his dishes are takes on the standards of French bourgeois cuisine — charcuterie, omelettes, roast meats and the like — but he elevates them well above basic bistro level.
Look no further than his superb pate en croute, which he prepares from wild venison supplied by Nozomi Onodera, a noted hunter on Miyagi Prefecture’s forested Oshika Peninsula. Flecked with raisins and pistachio, then baked in a classic pie crust, the meat holds just enough jelly to keep it beautifully moist.
Nemoto also likes to prepare fish en croute as a main course. Initially he was using isaki (grunt), but now we’re into autumn he’s switched to salmon, which he scatters generously with ikura (salmon roe). It’s outstanding and, like most of his dishes, substantial enough to share between two.
These are still early days, but already he is demonstrating his mastery of a wide range of dishes. His Provencal soupe au pistou is hearty and warming, wafting Mediterranean aromas of fresh basil and garlic. His joue de boeuf (beef cheeks) is lovingly simmered down in red wine until rich and tender. The omelettes are fluffy, perfectly formed and served with a rich Mornay sauce that makes no secret of its Gruyere cheese content.
This marriage of technique, precision and quality raw ingredients should come as no surprise, given his lineage. Until January, Nemoto was sous chef at the plush, two-Michelin-star L’Effervescence in Nishi-Azabu, where he worked for a total of five years.
Just one month ago, L’Effervescence marked its 10th anniversary with two gala, eight-course banquets, at which each dish was prepared by a different chef — seven of them alumni of the restaurant, such as Chihiro Naito of An Di and Kazunari Nakamura of La Bonne Table. Nemoto’s contribution was his version of the classic oeuf mayo.
He takes a soft-boiled egg with a still-molten yolk, wraps it in a delicate crepe and serves it on a parsley emulsion. Cut into it and the three elements — egg, wrap and sauce — form a seductive tricolor commingling. At Bistro Nemot, this has proven so popular it’s become a signature dish. In the more upmarket setting of this celebratory banquet, it lost nothing of its impact and appeal.
Nemoto remains under the umbrella of the Citabria group that runs L’Effervescence. This allows him to access the same producers of premium ingredients — such as the Kiwami eggs from Tochigi Prefecture he uses in his omelette and oeuf mayo, and also the Bricolage bread he serves with it. It’s a formula that works for all of us.
Eat Play Works 2F, Hiroo 5-4-16, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0012; 03-6447-7131; bit.ly/bistronemot; open 3-10:30 p.m. (L.O.); closed Wed.; a la carte (around ¥3,500/head, plus drinks); takeout not available; nearest station Hiroo; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; English menu; English spoken