Fill up on veggies at this inviting Shibuya bistro


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2007

Photos by Karryn Cartelle

Photos by Karryn Cartelle

After a recent Friday evening at Shibuya’s Leroux, we can promise one thing: this quaint bistro will leave your notions about French food in shambles.

Located along Inokashira Dori west of Yoyogi Park, the restaurant can be easily spotted by its yellow sign, outdoor tables and ceramic statue of an old maid. A chalkboard announces the day’s specials.

Crossing the threshold, we find Leroux’s interior warm, wooden and cozy. The décor is minimal, with empty wine bottles lined up on a ledge in front of the open kitchen, which is where head chef Shuichi Sorimachi does his work.

Before Sorimachi was a chef, though, he was a nomad, scouring the world for cooking techniques, then touring Japan’s farms to source ingredients. The relationships he forged on this journey have enabled him to use seasonal, farm-to-plate vegetables on Leroux’ multidimensional menu.

The five course menus—all priced quite reasonably considering the quality of the cuisine, not to mention the cost of fresh produce at Tokyo grocery stores—include an omakase (¥5,800), three ¥3,500 sets (including a vegetarian option), and a recently added course for groups of women (¥2,800). The English descriptions aren’t perfect, but this is a two-man operation (Sorimachi plus sous chef), and we appreciate the effort.

We began with a selection from the wine list, which has several enticing bottles under ¥5,000: a sparkling Opéra Brut (¥3,800). The seven-course feast started off on the right foot with a vegetable cocktail with three dipping sauces: black miso, sea salt and a creamy house dressing. By the second dish—marinated baby eggplants with ginger and tomato topped with broccoli sprouts—we were already thinking about booking our next reservation.

Photos by Karryn Cartelle

Photos by Karryn Cartelle

The third course, sautéed yuba with dried plum filling, we considered a speed bump, going for adventurous fusion and ending up more appealing to our eyes and nose than taste buds. We decided it was time to slow down, have an ice cold Premium Malts (¥630), and anticipate entrées yet to come.

It turned out the draft beer was fortuitous, as it perfectly complemented the next dish: marinated and beautiful grilled shiitake mushrooms, dressed unnecessarily but divinely with lemon and parsley.

To this point, the only carbohydrates had come in the form of beer and the fresh focaccia, served with thick olive oil and big granular rocks of salt (a la carte, ¥400). So we were pleased as the rigatoni pasta arrived in a marinara sauce with Japanese myoga ginger and gobo burdock root.

As we loosened our belts a bit, course number six arrived: vegetables en papillote, including eggplant, goya, pumpkin, tomato, bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, squash, okra, onions and beet root. With the soy-vinegar sauce: wow.

Dessert was a warm apple tart made with Calvados and whole-wheat flour, accompanied by homemade vanilla bean ice cream.