May 29, 2008
Class is the name of the game at this refined Omotesando eatery
Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on May 2008
Chefs know that customers eat with their eyes. I’m such a sucker for exquisite chinaware, proper wineglasses, subtle lighting, fresh-cut flowers, crisp table linens and attentive service that Radio Bar, an impeccably designed bar/French restaurant hidden down an Aoyama side street, could serve me a boiled boot, and I’d ask for seconds.
Radio Bar is owned and run by Koji Ozaki, arguably Tokyo’s finest bartender. As dapper and polished as Hercule Poirot, Ozaki prepares and serves cocktails the way a tea ceremony master prepares a bowl of green tea. Every aspect of his Radio Bar—from the gleaming dark wood counter and sparkling glassware, to the practiced movement of the cocktail shaker and the opalescent foam crowning a jade green gimlet—has been carefully thought out to make the guest feel relaxed and welcome.
Two years ago, Radio Bar underwent a thorough, but subtle, remodeling and Ozaki decided to expand the bar menu to include complete dinners. Though the chef, Junko Kubota, is in the kitchen unseen by customers, she must also take tea ceremony and ikebana classes from Ozaki, just as all his bartenders do, so as to keep the comfort and aesthetic pleasure of the guests foremost in her mind.
Chef Kubota serves carefully prepared, classic dishes, made with organic vegetables and the finest available meat and fish. Ordering à la carte is perfectly okay. Choices include Salade César (¥1,000), joue de boeuf (¥2,300), etuvée de légumes fermier (¥1,500), terrine d’ ayu à la genievre (¥1,800), or terrine de foie gras (¥1,800).
Her prix fixe menus offer great value. The ¥5,000 course consists of an amuse bouche, hors d’oeurve, a palate-cleansing granité, entrée, and petit dessert with coffee or tea. The ¥7,000 course includes both a fish and meat entrée. Other, more expensive courses can be arranged personally with Kubota.
Ozaki has fashioned Radio Bar in the style of a French country house with exposed beams, dark wood floors and etched glass panels. The walls and silk curtains are done up in Ozaki’s lucky color: sapphire blue. The upstairs dining room, with its semi-private alcove, is kept romantically shadowy as in the days of candlelight, but discreet pinspot lighting illuminates and showcases the food presented on the gold-rimmed plates.
A recent ¥5,000 course included an amuse bouche of Tasmanian smoked salmon with a sliver of boiled egg, followed by two medallions of foie gras paired with dabs of plum preserve, cracked pepper and a petit herb salad.
The palate cleanser, champagne granité brightened with pomegranate juice and grapefruit, was served in a frosty Baccarat shot glass. Kubota made sure that even the accompanying demitasse spoon was chilled. The main dish, a luscious slice of roast pork with pork jus, was served with a mushroom duxelles, carrot, water lily root, and florets of cauliflower and broccoli. Dessert was a slice of her delicious gateau chocolat with raspberry coulis and accents of orange and strawberry.
The best start to an evening at Radio Bar would be with one of Ozaki’s signature champagne cocktails. Served in a voluptuous tulip-shaped glass, the fresh strawberry, peach or pomegranate fruit which flavors the bubbly is squeezed through a square of cotton muslin, the traditional Japanese method of extracting juice.