GRAZING ELEGANTLY ITALIAN AT 'SADLER', TOKYO
Claudio Sadler opened his Milan restaurant (Via Troilo 14) in 1995 and now holds 2 Michelin Stars, He has been described as "rigourous in applying the rules and shining in transgressing them". Claudio is also artistic director of 'q.b.', a kitchen school - Centro di Cultura Culinaria.
Sadler restaurants organise demonstration lessons and courses on monothematic cookery all year round e.g. Mrs MTF was invited to a series about 'Appreciation of Olive Oil and its Uses'. A few steps from Amendola Square, Sadler has opened 'Sadler Wine & Food', The secret of this new premises is the raw materials that come from small producers and select craftsmen for genuine quality and taste. The wine cellar is particularly interesting, with more than 300 French, Spanish, Australian and New Zealand labels.
Claudio continued his innovative updating of classic Italian dishes, when he opened this Roppongi Hills branch and the adjoining casual restaurant, L’estasi, in 2003. It is a straight fight between 'Sadler' and 'Cucina Hirata' for 'Best Italian Restaurant in Tokyo'.
I propose to take you, dear WFEDder, on a 'grazing' tour of 'Sadler Tokyo'.
My dining companion was a frenchman of the discerning sort; before his divorce, he had 2500 bottles of wine laid down. Alas, french women and divorce lawyers also know a thing or two about fine wines; it was carnage....
Chef Andrea Tranchero and mystery French guest
The kitchens and team
The normal cellar stock
A sommelier doing his thing
Please note that during the meal, all glasses are chosen by shape and size, to match the wines; just for the pernickity amongst you WFEDders!
It was a themed degustation evening in cooperation with Michele Chiarlo Wines of Piedmonte. Michele was born into a 5th generation grape growing family and became an independent winemaker in 1956 by buying a winery in Calamandrana. Now, the family vineyards and wineries span all three Piedmonte prestigious zones of Calamandrana, Gavi and Barolo.
Three Wise Men - Sadler Senior Sommeliere, Alberto Chiarlo (Michele's son) and his Tokyo distributor, Guariglia Ernesto of 'VinArte'.
The media sharks circulate before dinner
Sadler Tokyo and L'estasi spaces opened up into one function room
All the bread including grassini is baked in-house. The grassini are to die for!
1. Falda di Peperone 'Quadrato di Carmagnola' con Tonno Tonnato e Formaggio Fresco al Miele e Nocciole.
This Square of Capsicum with Tuna, Cheese and Walnut Honey was an elegant starter. I wondered how a dry wine would cope with the honey but in fact, only a gossamer hint was present.
Wine 1: Gavi Rovereto 2002 from 100% Cortese grapes.
Colour: Pale straw colour with greenish tints.
Bouquet: Grapefruit, green hay and anise.
Mouth: Dry and fragrant with good length.
2. Ravioli di Coniglio Glassati al Burro d'Alpe, Cipollotti e Punte di Asparagi.
Sadler is famous for taking classical Italian dishes and refining them. This simple rabbit ravioli with Alpine butter and tiny cipolloni onions was doubly delicious with the top-notch wine.
Wine 2: Gavi Fornaci di Tassarolo 2003 from 100% Cortese grapes transplanted in 1910 from pre-phylloxera stock.
Colour: Light gold colour with green highlights.
Bouquet: Honey, anise and citrus.
Mouth: Full, generous character with balanced acidity.
Undoubtably the best white wine that evening. If this is what pre-phylloxera wines tasted like, the human race is sorely poorer in the aftermath!
3. Risotto Carnaroli Mantecato al Castelmagno, Sedano di Monte e Profumo di Rosmarino
Another seemingly simple dish with the best ingredients but we wondered how they would pull it off; cooking risotto for 80 diners all at once!
Wine 3: La Court Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Nizza" 2001.
Colour: Intensely reddish purple.
Bouquet: Complexed cherry, chocolate and coffee.
Mouth: Rich and full with persistent length.
One of Chiarlo's stock wine-in-trade that stood up nicely to the intense Castelmagno cheese.
4. Calamari Farcitti con Guanciale di Bue e fagioli Saluggini cotti nel Forno a Legna
Squid stuffed with Beef Cheek, cooked in a wood-burning oven was undoubtably the best dish of the evening. Chef Tranchero is well-famous for his beef cheek stuffed ravioli but here was a twist on his signature dish. The calamari was baked to perfection and I must agree that a wood-burning oven imparts that extra smokiness. We gave this 4 thumbs-up and remember, my french friend is extra picky!
Wine 4: Barolo Cerequio 1998 from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.
Colour: Deep garnet red with brilliant highlights.
Bouquet: Blackcurrant, cherry, mint and violets.
Mouth: Full bodied flavour of blackcurrant and cherries with tannin and lingering finish.
It went nicely with the calamari. As an experiment, I also tried the previous Barbera that was nice but did not match as well with the dish.
Moral: Don't play with the wine choice! Unless....imagine what raptures we would have been in had we matched the heavenly 'Gavi Fornaci di Tassarolo 2003' with this master dish? Perhaps, it was a good thing that we did not, as I am sure Man is not meant to Savour so much Pleasure at one table!
5. Lingua di Vitello Salmistrata Stufata al Vino Vecchio Uva e Tartufo Nero.
Veal tongue stewed in old vino vecchio and black truffle on a spiced rice cake. This was a richly flavoured stewed dish and the rice cake was deceptively filling.
Wine 5: Barolo Cannubi 1998 from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.
Colour: Deep garnet red with tawny (dull brown) highlights.
Bouquet: Intense liqorice, cinnamon, dried mint and a hint of floral potpourri.
Mouth: Silky with firm tannin and lingering bitters.
This was the red wine of the evening to match the strong flavours of the veal dish.
6. Bunet all Astigiana
Chocolate fudge dessert with vanilla ice cream, fruit jellies and sauces.
Wine 6: Barolo Chinato.
Colour: Browny Red.
Bouquet: Complexed spices.
Mouth: Full sweet wine with bitter tinge.
This digistivo and elixir was created in the late 1800's by a pharmacist in Serralunga. It is Barolo blended with alcohol infusion of quinine and other Alpine spices, sweetened with cane sugar. What an interesting mix - the bitter sweet tipple may be one of the few drinks that goes nicely with chocolates.
7. Piccola Pasticceria e Caffe Espresso
7. Grappa di Barolo Cerequio
The complexed steam and copper bain-marie (double boiler) process instead of direct flame on copper stills, seems to justify their use by producing delicate and scented grappa with hints of apricot and chocolate, that lingered for a while - nice!
I have been to 'Sadler Tokyo' and 'L'estasi' many times before, so I knew what Chef Andrea Tranchero and his team were capable of, but to do it for 80 people en-masse, and maintain quality was a marvel.
The additonal pressure of the culinary wolves (media reporters) and Tokyo's discerning foodies did not seem to affect the kitchen's resolve.
The conclusion is that Sadler is 'Tokyo's Best Elegant Italian Restaurant'. Others may prefer the more homely style of 'Cucina Hirata' but I believe they are both winners in different style categories. For an elegant, indulgent night out; Sadler Tokyo is the place - but bring a big wallet!
Photos and Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2005.