GRAZING ITALIAN AT 'CUBICO' IN ROPPONGI - TOKYO
Trattoria Cubico is a relatively new restaurant (c. December 2003) in a futuristic new building - 'Roppongi T-Cube Building' just above Roppongi-itchome subway station.
Its a compact and bijoux place. Note the narrow chairs!
The kitchen is on the top level with dining areas on three levels.
A little bread, a little virginal oil and a little Kirin Draft beer; my needs are simple.....
Sliced grilled octopus in chili garlic oil.
The freshness of seafood in Japan is second to none. The culinary technique at 'Cubico' was excellent. The octopus was just cooked but still tender, which is a fine judgement indeed. The chili garlic oil dressing was subtle, allowing the true flavour of octopus to come through and not be overpowered. That, dear Reader, is the secret of good cooking - to enhance rather than to oppress.
Seafood risotto with grilled vegetables.
There is always debate about which ingredient is more important for a good risotto. Is it the rice or the stock? Or is it the 'heart', the continuous stirring and melding of passion? I was the last customer so I could time the whole process; an authentic 30 minutes. This was risotto made with 'heart' in the Northern style; each grain 'al dente' but covered with unctuous sauce. The seafood stock was of the highest concentrated flavour and the smokey grilled vegetables were sublime.
Demonstration platter of desserts.
Almost as good as the plastic models available at Kappabashi 'kitchen district'.
Tiramisu and Mimosa.
I could not choose between these two so my waitress suggested a "duo of delices".
Real coffee and amaretto in one with real ball of mascarpone and sponge in the other....mmmm.
Selection of grappa or is that grappi?
My waitress, Kumiko, brought this selection to my table but also recommended the next one below. I was quite tempted by the grappa from Sassacaia but took her recommendation.
'Berta' grappa from Moscato d Asti grape.
Raisin nose, sweet fruit and toasty oak finish was very yummy with dessert.
Espresso and Grappa.
My upper and downer prescription for jetlag.
L-R: Kumiko YAMAGUCHI, Chef Mamoru INOMATA and a junior server.
Chef Inomata trained in Piedmonte and Tuscany for 8 years and it shows. It was remarkable that we were half a world away from Italy and yet, the 'heart of Italy' showed through in the restaurant, topped with Japanese superlative service.
Kumiko learnt her trade entirely in Japan and would love to travel abroad. I was real glad of her linguistic skills in English and Italian, which overshadowed any semblance of Japanese I attempted.
This was a chance find without my usual insurance of local recommendations. I tried to be critical but there was no quarter given or expected. This is a most competent Italian trattoria in the heart of Tokyo and one that demands return visits to work through the menu!
The only 'fault' may be that the narrow chairs are a little difficult to get off, at the end of the repast but that is more the responsibility of the gluttony en passant.
GRAZING ITALIAN AT ‘CUBICO’ IN TOKYO – REPRISE
I wandered back for a quick dinner despite being a ‘little under the weather’ due to overindulgence with the sake the night before. The place was a little busier than my previous visits. I was shown to the table nearest the kitchen.
I left it to Chef to cook whatever he wanted, only stipulating that it would be suitable for a palate somewhat jaded by a hangover. It was like a Chef’s Table with dishes not published in the menu.
Fresh ink pasta with baby squid, baby asparagus and baby tomatoes.
The squid was the most tender that I have ever had. Incredibly, they seemed to melt in the mouth; I could never have believed that squid could do that. The baby asparagus was made even tenderer by peeling. This also had the benefit of ensuring no hint of bitterness would prevail. The sweet tomatoes burst like bubbles of sunshine. Bravo!
Pan-fried Scorfano fish in a cioppino-style sauce with mussels, scallops and prawns.
White wine, red balsamic vinegar, soup stock, seafood and herbs were combined before my eyes into this scrumptious but light course, which even a queasy stomach could digest. Brava!
Pastiella and figs.
This should have been a Neapolitan flaky pastry surrounding a moist ricotta and dried mixed citrus peel filling. The taste concept is the contrast between the dry outside and moist inside. Alas, as it had been kept refrigerated, the pastry was soggy and the filling had dried out. It is indeed the mark of a good chef that Mr Inomata accepted my critique and invited me to let his kitchen do better next time. As I was leaving, I saw the remains of my dessert being taken apart and discussed in a kitchen huddle. I just know it is going to be better next time!
Apart from the dessert, the savoury dishes at this restaurant are consistently delightful. My jaded palate was revived admirably. I’ll be back..... Perhaps next time, I may face up to some wine as well.
Photos & Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, May 2004