Saturday, July 18, 2015

PJ's Cafe

Location: PJs Cafe

10/21/2017 Updated Review:

Rating: Very good
Meal: Dinner for 2
Price:  2775 yen
Payment: Cash only
Dishes: Eggplant soaked in balsamic vinegar, green salad with salami, red wine braised pork, gorgonzola pizza with honey
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: No

I'm changing this to a Very Good after eating here last night with my wife.  They have were shut for a long time, but came back with a menu that is more French than Italian.  We both really liked the food, and it was quite reasonable in price.  Probably the nicest place close to where we live, so we hope to go back.


Rating: OK
Meal:  Dinner
Price:  3150 yen
Payment:  Cash only
Dishes: Liver pate and cream zucchini pasta
English Menu: No
Smoking: No

My first full day alone with my wife and kid safely landed in the US.  As dinner approached I resolved to start with my building and work my way outwards, looking for something I hadn't reviewed yet.  Unfortunately, the last restaurant in my building to review was not open tonight, so I kept going.  I stopped at the brand new italian pizza restaurant that literally opened up this week.  I decided to give them a bit more time to get their stuff in gear.  Around the corner was a dingy "irish" pub that occasionally has a sign out indicating Irish Stew in the offing.  I stopped in and tried it.  It wasn't horrific, but I realized I don't want to review places that I wouldn't normally expect someone to actually eat at.  So actual bars are out (izakayas are still potentially in).  So I kept walking in a sort of spiral and came across PJ's Cafe.

Liver pate
PJ's Cafe is the kind of place you would normally walk past in a hurry.  Not because of anything to do with the place itself, but rather the environs.  This is real "honch" territory, a true "wretched hive of scum and villainy" if there ever was one.  There are 10 million nasty little bars here that cater to the lowest denominator, and PJ's door is right in the middle of it all.  I've seen their menus out on the street in the evenings many times and thought "I should try that out some time" but it just hasn't happened.  Partially due to sticker shock at the prices.

Cream zucchini pasta
So I pried the door open and saw the stairs descending underground.  When I came out into the small, pleasant atmosphere below, the waitress' eyes got big and she had a conversation with the cook in the back (just the two of them) and they told me "Japanese only".  To which I replied and said no problem, I could deal.  They tried to turn me away again, but I was insistent that I could find something on the menu to eat.  After all, it was Italian food and mostly written in katakana, how difficult could it be?  They finally relented and sat me down.

The menu was just a titch more difficult to read than I had hoped, but I could make out "leba pesto" (which was liver pate it turns out) in the antipasto section and I could tell there were several pasta and pizza dishes, all of which were more than I would normally pay, but hey, this was for the review.  I had to ask if any of them used cream, and she pointed to a special on the board saying it was basil cream and I said yeah, that sounded fine.

The liver pate was pretty good, if a bit mild.   I like mine with bite.  But there was honey also, which was a first for me.  I drizzled some on the liver with cracker and it complemented the flavor nicely.  The pasta dish arrived and it was plenty of food (you never know with these places) and the pasta itself was nicely al dente.  The aroma and overall taste was very "green" like a leaf, not a particularly heavy pesto flavor, like they just blended up a bunch of basil leaves with the cream sauce.  It was good, but I could have done with more body to the sauce.   I likes my cheese.  The nice surprise was the inclusion of mushrooms (a japanese variety) and zucchini, which I love.  It helped make up for the lack of any meat with good texture.

Overall, I would give this place a Very Good, were it not for the exorbitant prices.  As such, I have to drop them down to an Ok.

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