Bistrot D’Artemis

Bistrot D’Artemis

Enjoy casual, authentic French cooking in the heart of Yoyogi


Originally published on on November 2007

Photos by Kenichi Shimada

Photos by Kenichi Shimada

You can’t drink a newly poured glass of champagne until the effervescence of foam settles in the glass. The same effect occurs at some newly uncorked restaurants.

Only 11 months old, Bistrot D’Artemis has been reviewed nearly 20 times in every chic Japanese publication. But gone now are the effervescent foodies, off in search of the next new thing, and it’s possible to garner one of the 30 seats in this great little spot.

Bistrot D’Artemis seems whisked from a street corner in Paris, Lyon or Marseilles. Outside is the yellow neon sign, red awnings and the few sidewalk tables surrounded by shrubbery. Inside is the dark wood flooring, red banquette, vintage lighting, mirrors, the chalkboard listing daily specials, and waitstaff in the requisite black vest, bowtie and long white apron tightly cinched at the waist.

The details are right, but details don’t draw crowds. Chef Kenji Takashima is responsible for that. From his small narrow kitchen, Takashima turns out classic bistro fare, confidently prepared in generous portions at reasonable prices. And he’s got a 1,000-bottle wine cellar to boot.

The welcome at Bistrot D’Artemis is genuine. You feel immediately at home here. Your reserved table will have a small placard with your name written in chalk.

The extensive printed menu lists standards such as quenelles Lyonnaise (¥1,680), cassoulet (¥2,100), skate meunière (¥2,100), or confit de canard (¥1,890). The best place to start, though, is from the chalkboard of seasonal specials. A recent visit featured assiette de legumes, a plate of pristine vegetables—beet root, pumpkin, eggplant, carrot, red daikon, and spinach—roasted, then anointed with olive oil, a touch of red wine vinegar and sea salt (¥2,100).

Autumn is saury season, and the pate de sanma et aubergine was a succulent combination of lusciously oily fish filets wrapped around a filling of roasted eggplant and served with a small emerald mound of herb salad (¥1,890).

Photos by Kenichi Shimada

Photos by Kenichi Shimada

Grouper is not often seen on Tokyo menus, but should be. Takashima’s take on poisson au soupe is more like fish gravy with a hefty chunk of roasted grouper, firm and delicious, centered in a shallow bowl of rich “soup” laden with morsels of enoki mushrooms (¥1,890). I wanted to lick the bowl, but settled for wiping it clean with a slice of the housemade bread—freshly baked and sliced and replenished if you need more to mop up sauces.

This visit’s main dish was roasted Hokkaido lamb with new potatoes and sautéed trevise, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, served in a savory reduction sauce seasoned with parsley. Very tasty, but unfortunately, more fat than meat (¥2,625).

One minor problem is the small tabletop. If you order several starters, with a main plate or two, the dishes arrive with no place to land. But the attentive waitstaff will juggle plates around to fit them all in.

The wine list is very well selected, heavily Bourgogne, but with choice bottles from Bordeaux and other regions. Sadly, there are only two wines available by the glass, a serviceable house syrah and a good white Viognier (both ¥550), but a dozen or more bottles are priced around ¥3,000.

Desserts include a seasonal clafouti, an airy Crème d’Anjou with blueberry sauce, and an outstanding crème brulée made with red pepper (¥525).