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
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.
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
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.
but not least was dessert. I had dessert -
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
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.