December 11, 2008
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2008
Upon hearing of an undiscovered organic restaurant in Nakameguro, we trekked along the river in search of what would surely be a rustic space typical of the “healthy” café genre. Instead we discovered the red glow of Mother Esta’s European-style façade. The bistro was decorated with classy wooden furniture, artsy paintings and monochrome photos—and, thanks to the smiling staff, warm lighting and jazzy music, we instantly felt at home. We were the only customers for most of our long stay on this Monday night, but not once did we feel pressured by over-attentive eyes.
If this were Europe, you’d expect a thick steak and a heap of potatoes in a space like this, but not at Mother Esta; the kitchen serves up a range of organic seasonal produce, hand-chosen by the “veggie sommelier” then exquisitely and delicately prepared.
Only red wine could do the ambience justice, so we ordered two decanters of pinot noir: Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune (¥3,700) and the berry- and vanilla-scented Cono Sur from Chile (¥2,400).
Our otoshi (¥700) came in a white ceramic dish hollowed out to fit two hors d’oeuvres: a sweet condensed ratatouille of fresh vegetables, and a crispy fried broccoli croquette with tartar sauce. The first of our many appetizers was a warm dish of lotus root slices mixed with pine nuts and cubes of gorgonzola in a creamy cheese sauce (¥850). Next came piping-hot kinoko fritters served with salt mixed with crushed sundried tomatoes (¥1,500)—crispy, tempura-like morsels that gushed aromatic mushroom flavors with every bite. This was followed by an offbeat take on flan, with finely minced mushrooms and Japanese chestnuts, drizzled with bright green shungiku (chrysanthemum leaf) sauce (¥900).
Moving next to the handwritten main menu, we ordered a colorful brown-rice risotto that had just about every vegetable currently in season (¥1,400); its simple yet wonderful flavor, enhanced by parmesan cheese, was enough to make up for the diminutive portion. Still craving more grains, we ordered bread to go with our main dishes and were presented with three spongy natural-yeast varieties, served with an assortment of honey, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper (¥800).
Our high expectations were, unfortunately, left unmet after the first round of main dishes—both the sea bream in lemon-butter soy sauce (¥2,400) and lamb served with onion rings in a simple balsamic wine sauce (¥2,400) were simply OK. Nonetheless, the meal ended on a high note as we savored rich pumpkin cheesecake (¥800) and warm sweet potato and apple crumble (¥800).
We’d like to keep Mother Esta our secret “girl-talk” hangout, but we admit the relaxing atmosphere, comfy booth seats and healthy and hearty food make it a bistro perfect for any occasion.