Craftale, opened in September in 2015, has been creating quite a buzz in the Tokyo food and blog scene, so I thought I should check it out myself. Located along the famous Naka-Meguro river, it’s perfect for enjoying before or after a stroll along one of Tokyo’s more scenic areas.
Firstly, Craftale has nothing to do with beer made in small batches. The name is a portmanteau of “craft” and “tale,” as in the chef is weaving a story with his cooking technique and stylistic presentations. Perhaps more confusingly, it’s actually pronounced “craf-tah-lu.”
Besides the name, there is nothing unclear or unfocused about the restaurant’s focus on high quality food, drink, and service. This is beautiful food taking advantage of the ingredients’ natural colors and flavors, and at only 7560 yen for the course (there is no menu), it’s also extremely affordable. Two wine pairings are available at 3240 yen for 4 glasses, or 5400 yen for 6. The wine is mostly French, highlights each dish perfectly, and I would recommend paying just a bit for for the latter, more extensive pairing. This standard of quality always goes better with a little buzz.
The restaurant itself is actually rather casual and jovial. With it’s crisp white walls, open kitchen, and smartly procured tablewear and utensils, it almost feels like you are enjoying a meal inside a friend’s designer apartment in SoHo or the like. Extra points for the owner’s selection of background music, which included both Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this in the 2017 Michelin guide. We will find out at the end of the year, but until then…
Let’s eat Craftale!
Mousse made entirely of fuki no tou (butterbur sprouts) on top of tanpopo (dandelion) salad.
Udo (mountain asparagus) fritters with a fromage blanc and horseradish sauce, topped with slices of pickled udo. The batter contains shirasu (whitebait).
A beautiful dish! Horse tartare with a carrot mustard, powdered pickled egg yolk, carrots marinated in sherry vinegar. The “tree” is pastry crust, rounding out this portrait of cherry blossoms falling in Spring. The horse was outstanding! Not pictured is the first of the “bread pairings,” a sakura baguette. (Also, horse meat is referred to as “sakura meat” in Japanese, so there is a bit of a pun going on in this dish just for fun).
Continuing with the fairly unique proteins, the white-ish meat peaking out from underneath is frog atop a white asparagus sauce. Topped with sweet onions, Inca no Mezame potatos, na no hana (rapeseed) and nasturtium flowers.
The second “bread pairing” was a chiffon cake made with plenty of garlic and parsley. Apparently in France, they eat frog with these two ingredients.
Taking a Southeast Asian turn, the next dish was sakura masu (cherry trout) with a shrimp crisp topped with sakura ebi shrimp and lime. The broth was a sakura ebi dashi infused with lemongrass. A kind of fancy tom yum soup.
The “bread” course here looks like a traditional Japanese sakura mochi, but is actually sakura rice stuffed with shrimp XO sauce.
Detail of the inside of the rice.
The meat dish was an amazingly juicy and tender chicken that was cooked for two hours. Extra crispy skin, white meat, and dark meat atop two sauces- almond milk and clam. Garnishied with okahijiki (salsola) and asparagus. Divine!
The last bread pairing was a seaweed bread stuffed with seaweed butter.
The seaweed butter.
The first dessert utilized the same “mousse-ing” technique as the first course. Strawberry ice cream and candied strawberries topped with evaporated milk. This dish was very reminiscent of Narisawa’s strawberry dessert, albeit a bit more one-dimensional than Narisawa.
This second, more superior dessert featured a delicious ginger ice cream, meringue, lemon jelly, and a biscuit in the image of a honey comb. A fantastic end to an amazing meal.