Eating at Les Vinum feels like dining with an old friend. Even on our first visit, the smiles from the staff welcomed us with warm familiarity, and the cozy room was a beacon of amber light. Though it was the height of summer, it felt as if a log fire wouldn’t be out of place.
The food only made us feel more at home. Les Vinum’s main courses—a feast of charcoal-grilled chicken, lamb or pork (¥1,600-¥3,000)—reminded us of childhood Sunday roasts with the family. While the lamb was a little plain and slightly overcooked, the Japanese pork was tender, juicy and mouthwateringly flavorful. Our hearty home-style meals, combined with the smooth, warm flavors of our red wine (Condado de Haza 2002 from the Ribera del Duero region in Spain, ¥4,400), had us settled in for a long evening of travel tales, laughter and general good cheer.
Stories aren’t the only thing designed to be shared at Les Vinum. Our appetizers (approx. ¥1,300) came with chopsticks and were served on small white plates. The combination lent itself to reaching across the table to swap a bit of creamy, white asparagus with smoked salmon for some fresh fish carpaccio. This latter, an effective mix of Japanese and Italian cooking, combined the light flavors of sashimi with marinated green, red and yellow capsicum.
The cuisine at Les Vinum is ostensibly French, as the divine homemade pâté indisputably proved. However, there was a distinct fusion element to our food. The desserts had the delicacy of Japanese cuisine yet retained the comfort-food status of their European origins. The ¥1,000 melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake had a gentle twist of orange that was light enough not to detract from the experience, and got our unanimous vote of choice. The mille-feuille (¥800) was unsurprisingly française, while the pineapple and coconut tart blended patisserie flavors with the tropicality of the East.
We finished our meal on a comfortably French note: a delicious Sauternes, suggested by the maître d’, which wasn’t actually on the menu. Despite this, there is a considerable range of wines—dessert or otherwise—to choose from: nearly 100 bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Argentina and California vie for your attention. And at least thirty of them are reasonably priced at ¥4,400.