November 19, 2009
Enjoy Michelin-starred cooking at down-to-earth prices in Ginza
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2009
Far above the bustle of Chuo Dori, midway between Ginza and Shimbashi, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Faro sits like a jewel on the tenth floor of the swanky Shiseido building.
The name, which means “lighthouse” in Italian, adequately reflects the feel of the place. Light suffuses the ample dining room, emanating through the large windows overlooking Ginza, bouncing around the colorful carpet and mint-colored walls and across the linen tablecloths and polished silverware. A large painting of a hot air balloon adds to the playful elegance, making us feel like we had floated away to a sunny piazza in Rome or Naples.
Focusing our eyes on the menu, we were delighted to find that Faro offers a ¥3,800 four-course lunch—a real steal for a Michelin-starred restaurant. Better yet, a three-course lunch on weekdays is only ¥2,800. For more decadent diners, there’s an ¥8,000 “Chef’s Tasting” menu, and in the evening, prix fixe menus start at ¥6,800.
The staff explained details of the menu in English, emphasizing the fact that Italian culinary techniques are coupled with the freshest seasonal Japanese ingredients. They then set about supplying us with a steady stream of bread and water, and kept it up, albeit a tad excessively, throughout the meal.
The first course arrived nice and quick: fresh, flavorful morsels of sanma and marinated mushrooms. This excellent starter was followed by an adequate yet tepid pasta course of bavettine (a kind of thinner version of linguine) with broccoli and bacon. The main dish made up for this, though—sautéed pork loin served with a salad of endives, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. Perfectly seasoned, the pork was both sweet and peppery, and the portion was very decent, not nearly as skimpy as in other places of this caliber. The meat nicely complemented the slightly bitter endives and the creamy, pungent gorgonzola.
The best, however, was still to come. As the tuxedo-clad garçons pushed the dessert trolley up to our table, we were shocked to hear that we could choose “as much as we liked.” Devilishly, we opted for four of the eight delights arrayed before us: tiramisu, crème caramel, berry cheesecake, and chocolate gateau. All were gorgeously decadent (if more reminiscent of France than Italy).
Faro isn’t as stuffy or pretentious as you might imagine a restaurant of this pedigree to be. The atmosphere was romantic and easy. The staff was a bit overzealous with the water, but otherwise unobtrusively attentive. Satiated beyond belief after dessert, we casually sipped our cappuccinos and imagined ourselves on a warm veranda somewhere in Italy.
While Faro’s Michelin star may be what beckons diners, this “lighthouse” will shine on for other reasons. Its bright, colorful, relaxed ambience offers a real beacon in a sea of lesser dining options.