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Canoviano, Tokyo, Japan, tasted on December 14, 2005 — I've recounted countless times my love affair with the standards in Japan when it comes to food. The emphasis on freshness, flavor, simplicity and the general high bar makes for a different food world than almost any city on earth (including Paris and New York). And even though before you get to Japan this might not occur to you, the fact remains that those standards remain in place when the Japanese apply themselves to non-Japanese food. One of the cuisines that highlights these same values around freshness, flavor, and simplicity the most is Italian food. And frankly, the best Italian food I've had outside Italy has been in Japan. In fact, in some cases the Italian meals I've had in Tokyo have been better than many of the meals I had in Italy. No restaurant that I know of represents this better than Canoviano in Tokyo.

Located next to the Daikonyama subway stop, Canoviano is buried in a smaller residential  neighborhood than you might expect. But in Tokyo where space is at a premium it appears they long ago stopped worrying about where the appropriate location for something was. The appropriate location appears to be wherever it will fit. Even though I had been there before, I was worried about finding it. The neighborhood maps at subway stops are  always extremely helpful.

This restaurant had made quite an impression on me in the past and I felt good coming back. Things felt comfortable and happy. The crusty bread had a soft and dense inside and was placed right on the tablecloth. I couldn't help but make a sizable mess of it and blew the crumbs off the table when nobody was looking. The olive oil for dipping was among the softest, warmest, and roundest flavors I've ever encountered. Silky excellence. Would it be wrong to want to bathe in it? OK. Pretend I didn't say that. That's kind of weird.

First up was Cold Cappelini with Raw White Fish and Bottarga. I don't know that this is the right word, but it's the first one that came to mind to describe the flavor - effervescent. There was a fruity sour tomato goodness. The raw fish was soft on the gentle cappelini base. Delicious. So delicate and yet the flavors were super solid.

I used to love salads. Even as a kid I ate salads all the time. And yet, the more I got into food, the less I enjoyed most salads. I think this was primarily because salads often felt like an opportunity for the kitchen to throw a bunch of crap together with minimal effort. But in this salad everything was carefully placed. One piece at a time, with everything equally dressed. Water Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with Uncured Friuli Ham. Chunks of gorgeous soft mozzarella were peeking out from key spots in the topography of the dish. Delicious.

Following the salad I got the Spaghettini with Meat Sauce of Guinea Fowl and Kyoto Vegetables. The poultry was light and golden but with a hearty savory sauce. A sense of warmth and comfort touches my soul when I eat pasta like this. I know it sounds corny, but I'm serious. There's something about al dente pasta with a distinct and perfectly savory sauce makes me super happy. Chunks of meat and yummy vegetables permeated this dish. Super satisfying.

Next up was Sautéed White Fish with Vegetables and Sauce. The fish, tachiuo (scabbard fish) had a slight grilled aroma amidst the sea of differently textured vegetables in their subtle turnip soup pond. The soup itself had a super clean flavor. Simple in a good way. The potato (which was Nagaimo, a Japanese Mountain Potato or Long Yam) was crisp and light but not starchy. It was like an apple. Pretty impressive considering that in the past I've not been a nagaimo fan. The range of textures made this dish. That said, I thought sauce could have used a touch more seasoning.

This delicate entry was followed by Sautéed Veal loin with Girolle Sauce. The sauce was savory and satiny delicious. The meat tender and juicy. The vegetables encompassed a range of textures. It reminded me of Passard and on how he uses vegetables. Very choosy, careful, and sparing. Excellent.

Last but not least was dessert. I had dessert - Caramel Gelato with Fresh Banana and Zabbaione Cream Sauce. This was delicious and not overly sweet. It had a slight and good burnt caramel flavor with light crispy almond slivers dotting the surface. Both the texture and the flavor were quite refined... by design. Great.

On the rare occasion that I've been lucky enough to travel all the way to Tokyo I really do my best to try as many new places as I can. Canoviano makes it almost impossible for every meal to be new as even though I've eaten there before, I simply can't stop myself from going back. And as special experience as it is, if I lived in Tokyo I could imagine myself eating there once a week. Hopefully I'll be back soon enough to get my fix.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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