April 9, 2009
Chez Andre du Sacre Coeur
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2009
Chez Andre du Sacré Coeur doesn’t need to prove its pedigree with inflated prices and a snooty clientele—this Parisian bistro has been in proprietor Laurence Masukawa’s family since the ’30s. Though forced to sell up when her father died, Masukawa nursed the dream of reopening the café’s doors, finally doing so halfway across the globe. Now located in the heart of old Tokyo, this French eatery, with its fresh white walls, brass fittings and smart wooden tables, is the real thing. The unpretentious atmosphere and reasonable prices attract a crowd of local families and businessmen who stop by for a leisurely coffee or something more substantial.
The fare is simple French food cooked well: most starters come in at under ¥1,000 and main courses at under ¥2,000. We started with the quiche Lorraine (¥600). Warm from the oven, the pastry was layered and light and the filling succulent with slender slivers of onion. A complimentary green leaf salad was lightly doused with a simple vinaigrette that bit beautifully into the creamy filling.
For the main course we ordered boeuf en ragout, which at ¥2,000 was the most expensive item on the menu. Served bubbling hot in a rustic ceramic pot, the sauce was rich and slightly caramelized, containing large chunks of beef and vegetables. This dish had the warmth of home cooking without the rough edges: the fatty beef dissolved slowly in the mouth, and the vegetables retained just enough bite to prevent the stew from becoming sloppy.
To accompany this we had a glass of the house red (¥600), a 2007 from the Languedoc-Roussillon area. This table wine combined uncomplicated cherry flavors with an enticing muskiness and light tannins. The impressive French wine list changes monthly, but you have to order by the bottle.
For dessert, we chose the crème de caramel (¥400), a custard pudding with a blob of real cream on top. The light surface concealed a reservoir of sticky, slightly burnt caramel which, combined with the rich sauce of the beef, was rather hard to spoon down. I’d recommend lightening the bill and the load on your stomach by skipping dessert or sharing a main course—the demi-poulet rôti garni (¥1,500), for instance, is half a chicken, and along with the complimentary bread, more than enough for two.
When we finished the meal, Mrs. Masukawa pointed out a black-and-white photo of her father standing outside the former Chez Andre as a little boy. His somber expression made it clear that even at that young age, he took the bistro business seriously. It’s with the same scrupulous spirit that his daughter has taken up his mantle.