Some restaurants are great for impressing clients or visiting in-laws, some are good for people-watching, and some are just right for a romantic dinner for two. Then there are places like Lauburu - maybe not so fancy, not so romantic, but dedicated to the art of serious eating.
Lauburu is specifically dedicated to the consumption of pork. From the brass pig's-foot door handles to the taxidermified inoshishi (wild boar) in the entryway, the rustic interior is brimming with porcine bric-a-brac. The chalkboard menu is loaded with cuts of pork we'd never heard of (at least not in French), and the center of attention is an open charcoal grill at the back of the dining room where much of the food is slow-cooked.
The food here is prepared simply - no rich, complicated sauces or sculptural statements on the plate, just good honest country cooking. Entrees run around Y3000 each, pricey even for Aoyama, but portions are huge - we enjoyed a large cote de porc with roast potatoes and an enormous pig's knuckle (jarret de porc en confit) accompanied by a good helping of stewed white beans (plus a tiny dish of cracked black pepper for seasoning). Other options include pig's ear, pig's foot and blood sausage. Our goat cheese salad was also very simple - just a plateful of lightly dressed endive and rucola balancing the flavor of warm, runny hunks of chevre on toast rounds.
If for some reason you're not in the mood for pork, you can choose rabbit, stuffed quail, or the grilled fish of the day. The all-French wine list is short but serviceable, with about a dozen selections all priced at a reasonable Y3000-6000. We enjoyed a peppery Cahors Ch. Lazgrezette (Y4800) with our pork; grappa and marc are available after dinner. The cheese platter is mostly hard cheeses like mimolette rather than runny varieties, and desserts include a rarely-seen-in-Tokyo rice pudding, prepared brulee-style with a crunchy crust.
The decor is country farmhouse minimal - white walls and wooden beams - but that's okay, because you're here for the food. Billed as a French/Basque bistro, Lauburu opened in April 2002; before that the chef did stints at Aux Bacchanales and elsewhere. Dinner for two costs around Y15,000 with drinks.
by Bjorn Katz