There has been a flurry of building activity this past year in Tokyo’s Azabu Jyuban neighborhood, where long-time mom-and-pop stores have been steadily replaced by flashier outfits.
But it is not just the small, family-run businesses that are being pushed out – in the past year, one of the few, local supermarkets in the area was replaced by upscale French frozen and organic foods stores and a Tully’s coffee shop turned into a Dean and Deluca outlet.
Among the more curious new inhabitants of Jyuban are a shop specializing in honey, a very swanky teppanyaki (grilled meat and vegetables) restaurant whose heavy door seems to be permanently closed and a soon-to-open store with a name – Koji-ya – that suggests it must be a maltster. Maltsters make and sell koji, or rice malt, which has been used in Japan for centuries to make rice wine, such as amazake, a kind of sweet rice wine, as well as to marinate vegetables, fish and meat. It is anybody’s guess what this modern-day maltster, Koji-ya, might display on its shelves come opening day.
We have yet to venture across the threshold of most of these new Jyuban establishments, but one newcomer that we tried recently turned out to be a winner.
“We are the Farm,” is a funky, farm-to-table eatery housed in what used to be a small, family-run dry cleaner’s. The atmosphere is casual but comfortable and while the name suggests it might be a vegetarian restaurant, the cuisine features everything from kale and beets to duck and beef.
The name, “We are the Farm,” is supposed to inform us that the people who run the restaurant actually till the land where the vegetables are grown. Naturally, the cuisine is seasonal and highly dependent on whatever produce they manage to harvest at any particular time.
As part of the All Farm group, which manages two farms and several restaurants, “We are the Farm” uses vegetables grown from seeds that are actually collected from the plants, rather than commercial F1 hybrid seeds that are used to mass-produce vegetables of identical color and size.
On the evening we visited, the Y5,800 tasting menu included a starter featuring a tomato variety brazenly named, “the world’s best tomatoes,” a kale salad, a five-vegetable apetizer, a dish of sautéed beets and mushrooms and a choice of free-range chicken cooked sous vide (that is, placed in a vacuum-sealed pouch and cooked at a low temperature for up to 48 hours), grilled duck with mozzarella (Y600 extra) or wagyu beef sirloin steak (Y900 extra) for the main course.
But before we tucked into our food, we had to try one of the curious-sounding cocktails on offer, which featured various vegetables. The kale beer and beet sangria we chose turned out to be tastier than they sound and surprisingly delicious.
By contrast, the organic wines by the glass that were on offer failed to impress. Like most organic wine I have had in the past, both the white and red wines lacked both flavor and body. I told myself that next time we would have to try one of the bottles instead.
Fortunately, the food was better than the wine. The tomato with the grand-sounding name was delicious with the basil sauce and fresh cheese while the vegetables cooked in various ways were all superbly fresh and tasty.
Most surprisingly, the kale salad was very good. The last time I bought kale from the local organic food market and made a salad with it, the toughness of the kale leaves made it difficult to swallow even in small bites, while the prickliness left us choking when we finally gulped it down our throats.
Another unexpected surprise was the duck, which I ordered as my main dish. Not only was it succulent, it was the most tender piece of duck meat I have ever had.
While my meal was satisfying throughout, my dinner companion’s main dish – the beef, which was an additional Y900 – while tasty, was disappointingly tough.
Thankfully, the meal ended on a positive note with an interesting and delicious dessert (not included in the course).
With its uplifting color palette and perfectly light creaminess, the combination of pumpkin, beet and kale ice cream turned out to be just the thing to close a sumptuous and healthy meal and encourage us to come back some day for more.
We are the Farm is open from 17:00 until 23:30 on weekdays and Saturdays and from 17:00 until 23:00 on Sundays. Lunch service is expected to start in mid-September, after which the restaurant will also open from 11:30 until 14:30.
Address : Re-Flat 1Flr