With its heavy use of olive oil and garlic and emphasis on grilled food, the cuisine of the Mediterranean is as healthful as it is tasty. Drawing together popular dishes from Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Spain and the suspiciously non-Mediterranean Britain and Japan, the menu at Harajuku restaurant Cosa Nostra reads like a backpacker’s diary, with maps or flags denoting the country from which each dish has been taken.
The restaurant itself offers a relaxed atmosphere. Tiled wooden tables are spread over the third and fourth floors, while a counter bar serves drinks and light bites. The covered patio on the third floor is decorated with hanging plants, grape vines, fairy lights, Greek sculpted plaques and specials boards; large windows let in the gentle sound of the traffic below, while collapsible seats complete the outdoors-indoors facade. French music plays softly in the background.
The mood is perfect for working your way through Casa Nostra’s extensive bilingual menu. Our starter, a two-person plate of tender prosciutto ham, salty salami and slivers of rich parmesan cheese (¥1,500), came drizzled in olive oil; the moist suppli di riso (Rome-style rice croquettes, ¥500 for three) were coated in crunchy breadcrumbs and a simple tomato sauce.
Best among the main dishes by far was the chicken kebab (¥1,300): a red-hot skewer yielded meat charred to succulent perfection, oozing juices and complemented by a gorgeously tangy and thick tomato and ginger sauce. You could practically taste the charcoal. The selection of pizzas and pastas offers plenty to ponder too. We went for a crisp Bismarck pizza (¥1,600), topped with strong cheese, subtle ham, soft asparagus and a runny egg. For those of a braver disposition, the escargots de Bourgogne (¥1,200) presents six shelled, viscous snails in a buttery pesto sauce.
We washed down our mouthful of mollusk with a bottle of Negra Modelo (¥800), a sweet, light Mexican beer first brewed by Viennese migrants in 1926. This we followed with the house white, a very crisp Trebianno D’Abruzzo (¥500). Casa Nostra also serves sangria at ¥500 a glass or ¥1,800 for a carafe, as well as a lively selection of spirits and cocktails.
After being informed that the chocolate mousse advertised on the specials board was all gone, we tucked into a creme brulee (¥680) instead. It was a happy ending: the dessert’s brittle crown gave way to a creamy center, and the mikan topping was a nice touch. And even when the food was all gone, Casa Nostra’s inviting ambience encouraged us to linger for another drink or two.