Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2007
Uva Rara is located in a vast, two-level dining complex inside Yokohama station, but you won’t have any trouble finding it. Just look for the restaurant with the glassed-in kitchen, where sure-handed chefs chop, knead and grill top-notch Italian fare for the lucky diners inside.
Perfect for both a date or a solitary meal, for dress-up occasions and casual dinners, Uva Rara welcomes all comers. The interior hits just the right notes, with a space-conscious layout, sensibly bright lighting and terrace seating. Wine lovers on a budget will find much to admire about Uva Rara’s list, which boasts over 50 bottles, mostly from Italy and under ¥7,500. Prompt, helpful service and a menu that has everything from inexpensive pizzas to premium meats round out the winning experience.
Maybe the best way to navigate the food selection is via the ¥5,250 dinner course, which comes with an appetizer, pasta, main dish and dessert, plus coffee or tea. Though none of the individual dishes will satisfy gaijin-size appetites, the prix fixe menu offers an excellent meal and a very decent value.
The antipasto consists of five petite, though intensely flavored items (¥1,890 á la carte; ¥1,260 for 3). During our visit, these included homemade sausage with fava beans; a chilled vegetable omelet; a vinegary marinated white-meat fish with dill, olive oil and onion; herb-sauteed squid with anchovy and garlic sauce; and an excellent marinated broccoli with garlic and chili.
Uva Rara’s menu trumpets the kitchen’s sumibiyaki grilled dishes—as well it should. Using top-quality meats and vegetables, these items are uniformly wonderful. We sampled an á la carte order of grilled vegetables with bagna cauda (¥1,160), which came with sato-imo, eggplant, porcini mushrooms, negi, potatoes, and red and yellow peppers—a gorgeous array of earthy colors and hearty autumn flavors. Our course meal’s entrée was grilled “platinum” pork (¥2,310) lightly seasoned with black pepper and served with meaty porcini and sweet zucchini.
Another standout was the Uva Rara pizza (¥1,890), which comes rolled, topped with prosciutto, and filled with brie and mozzarella. Drizzled with a spicy olive oil and wonderfully doughy, this dish reminded us more of a calzone than a pizza. Our course meal’s pasta, “karasumi” spaghetti with Sardinian mullet roe and yari-ika (¥1,730), also kept the spice factor high, which compensated for the regrettably small portion. The kitchen’s sole misstep was veal Marsala (¥1,890), which tasted too much of the charcoal grill and not enough of the smoky Italian wine that gives the dish its name.
True to its crowd-pleasing ethos, Uva Rara draws customers that range from couples to families to groups of friends. Although we arrived as a rare autumn typhoon was lashing Kanto, the Saturday night crowd was large and genki. They—and we—appreciated the fact that the cooking on display out front tastes even better than it looks.