Aroma Fresca

M TOWER 1/2F, 1-7-31 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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This 20 seat restaurant, in the Ginza since mid 2010, was previously in Azuba-Juban in Mianto-ku, originally having opened in May 1998. Chef Shinji Harada cooks Italian food with a touch of Japanese influence; he seems to have trained in Japan rather than Italy. He also owns a more casual eatery called Casa Vinitalia, based in the Azuba-Juban premises. Aroma Fresca is on the 12th floor of a building on a busy Ginza street, and had a pretty wood-floored dining room with a large, striking central flower display, the eight well-spaced tables surrounding this. You have to order a tasting menu, which was ¥16,000 (£105) per person. 

The all-Italian wine list is organised eccentrically, by vintage rather than region. Markups were far from kindly. Fattorio Colleallindole Miziade Antano Sagrantino di Montefalco 2008 was ¥13,000 for a wine that retails at around ¥4,000, the very enjoyable Antinori Cervaro della Sala 2010 was ¥16,000 for a wine that costs around ¥4,700 in a shop, and Tua Rita Redigaffi 2008 was ¥65,000 for a wine that up will set you back around ¥19,425 in a shop.

The meal began with tuna carpaccio with olive oil and peppercorns; this being Japan, the tuna was lovely and the peppercorns added an interesting bite to the dish (16/20). Crab salad with grapefruit had good quality warm crab, particularly nice grapefruit that had sweetness as well as acidity, though one piece of crab shell had eluded the kitchen (15/20). Smoked anago (sea eel) was served with a sauce of olive oil and tomatoes. Although the eel was good, the star of the dish was the tomato, which had remarkably deep flavour. These were from Japan but would have happily graced the Amalfi Coast (16/20). Bamboo shoot soup was pleasant though not particularly remarkable, and I ate better bamboo shoot elsewhere on this trip (14/20).

Spaghetti of hairy crab was served with braised radicchio and sun-dried tomatoes, the crab delicate and pasta having very good texture, though I have never been a fan of sun-dried tomatoes (15/20). Much better was ravioli of potato with basil sauce, the texture of the ravioli remarkably light, the basil flavour not overwhelming (17/20). Spiny lobster from Chiba prefecture was steamed and the flesh was tender, though the flavour of the lobster was not particularly striking (15/20). A citrus and passion fruit sorbet was that old-fashioned and to my mind rather unnecessary dish, the palate cleanser, but the sorbet was certainly well made.

Half beak with asparagus was carefully cooked, the fish having very good flavour, the asparagus of high quality (17/20). Even better was Japanese beef from Aomori in the north of Honshu. This was not ultra-marbled but was excellent, the fat from the beef having melted in the cooking process and delivering deep flavour to the tender meat; this was served with a simple green salad and a little mustard, garlic and horseradish (18/20). The savoury dishes concluded with a choice of either cheese or additional pasta. I opted for spaghetti with meat sauce, made from half beef and half pork, the pasta very delicate and the ragu sauce rich and delicious (17/20).

Mango with orange and mango cream featured very ripe and aromatic mango (17/20), whilst I had very good brown sugar soufflé, light and with just the right level of sweetness (17/20). The only odd thing was the very ordinary-tasting coffee that followed; in retrospect I should have opted for one of the fresh leaf teas offered.

The bill came to ¥24,000 (£153) per person, with a nice bottle of wine to share. Service was extremely well-drilled, the topping up of water, wine and bread faultless, our waiter speaking reasonable English and able to answer questions about the dishes without reference to the kitchen. This was a very enjoyable meal, on the border between 6/10 amd 7/10 level, and well deserving of its Michelin star.   

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