If Arashiyama is on your list of places to visit this spring, have lunch at Le Plat Plus. A ten-minute walk east of Arashiyama Station, this west-Kyoto institution is often overlooked. Even so, at Wednesday lunchtime every table is full, and other, hopeful diners are waiting.
Sun streams through the windows and the reflection off the red awning tints the walls a rosy pink. Menus from renowned French restaurants adorn the walls, as do antique clocks that all display different times. The abandon is welcome, as lunch at Le Plat Plus is a leisurely affair. The mixed appetizer plate includes: escargot in garlic parsley sauce, sauteed scallops, grilled pork fillet, and a single mussel in the shell with fresh onion and tomato salsa; a testament to the versatility of Ouchi Nobihiro's kitchen. Langoustine and scallops with aioli and salad are a deluxe picnic, especially with the oven-fresh pain de campagne.
For mains, the pan-fried Japanese sea bass with anchovy sauce and grilled tomato is substantial; the sweet tomatoes contrast with the crisp baked parsley. Piquant, whole-grain Dijon mustard can't redeem the ordinary roast beef in tomato sauce, but the potato wedges are golden-brown, with a crunch unrivalled in the back streets of Heian-kyo. The B set for Y1900 would suffice but as the C set includes dessert, we indulge. The tart blueberry sauce offsets the richness of the cheesecake and the creme caramel suffers in comparison. Vivid matcha ice cream melts into the Mille Feuille, which fulfils the obligatory strawberry quotient of spring.
A 50cl decanter of house Pinot Noir is ample for a three-course lunch (including tea or coffee) of just over two-and-a-half hours. Small talk isn't on the menu at Le Plat Plus as only two staff work the two floors with over 35 covers. The second floor is non-smoking and there is a lone smoking table on the first floor whose days look numbered. A typical lunch runs Y7400 for two, including drinks. Evening prix-fixe menus start at Y2800, and wines are priced from Y3100 per bottle. Reservations are essential.
by Justin Ellis