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Grill Mantenboshi (グリル満天星), Shinjuku branch

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Grill Mantenboshi (グリル満天星), Shinjuku branch

E Eto | Mar 3, 2008 01:22 PM

For a final meal in Japan before heading off to Narita, I needed to pay a visit to a yoshoku place since I've been on a real yoshoku kick for the past few years. Not having an opportunity to have yoshoku besides curry, I decided that the final meal should be something a little extravagent. However, trapped as we were around Shinjuku station, I realized that this isn't the neighborhood that made yoshoku cuisine famous. That was on the other side(s) of the city. My two main options were Acacia (アカシア), or the satellite of Grill Mantenboshi in the Isetan Kaikan building. I was actually torn between these two, but I finally went with the brand name. Grill Mantenboshi is pretty synonymous with yoshoku cuisine, and the main chef at the honten (original shop) has become quite a celebrity chef. Actually, so has the chef from Acacia, come to think of it.

The lunch menu at the Shinjuku Mantenboshi can be confusing. Besides the regular menu, there are a few insert pages with different lunch sets. I ordered the special with curry omu-rice with the beef stew (2100Y), and my dining companion got the slightly more extravagent 2900Y menu with madai muniere and hayashi rice. I find these to be slightly odd pairings for a lunch menu, since it's heavy and more heavy food, but I was in the mood to try several items, so it worked in my favor. The meal started off well enough with the corn potage soup that came with the lunch set: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3219/2...
This was as perfect a version of this soup as I've encountered. It was smooth, creamy, yet light, and packed with flavor.
The more extravagent lunch set also included a marinated seafood salad: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3284/2...
The seafood was coated with a flavorful dressing made from grated onion and possibly miso, made a little tart with vinegar or lemon juice. Some might consider it overdressed, but I thought it was also in fine form. Besides shrimp, there were pieces of scallops, and something else I'm forgetting.

The curry omu-rice and beef stew set came as a large combination platter: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3254/2...
From my previous experience at another yoshoku powerhouse at Kyobashi dom Pierre (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352892) I had quite high expectations for the curry. This was probably the biggest letdown of the meal. I think the curry was fine on its own, though unspectacular, but the rice inside the omelette was fried with curry spices before being wrapped in the egg. This was a mistake, since it detracted from the curry sauce, and it resulted in an opverspiced rice with a powdery texture. The beef stew, on the other hand, made up for the errant curry dish. You could taste the red wine that went in the braise, and as I tasted the mixture of demi glace and the tenderness of the perfectly stewed meat, I had already forgotten about the disappointed that I was feeling towards the curry. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3051/2...

The madai and hayashi rice set: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3292/2...
The madai muniere was also a well executed dish. The flavor of the white wine in the muniere sauce seemed a little too strong, and probably could have used a little more time reducing, but the fish was perfectly cooked and made up for any wrongdoings. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3227/2...
The star of the meal, however, was the hayashi rice (hashed beef). http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3108/2...
Like the beef stew, the hayashi rice had a hint of red wine and that deep flavor of the demi glace was apparent. Whatever they did to this beef hayashi, I have to say, it was the best version I've ever tasted. I have a feeling it has more to do with the demi glace than anything else. The beef was thinly sliced, and there were slices of onion and small chunks of carrots rounding it out. If nothing else, I will return just for the hayashi rice.

Then came the dessert: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3124/2...
It was a very nice set with a matcha cake, raspberry sorbet (homemade, I believe), and fresh fruit. Not much more to say about this.

While some parts of this meal didn't live up to my expectations, I was taken to a new level of appreciation of how good hayashi rice can be. I also wondered whether this satellite of the main restaurant pales in comparison to its Azabu-Juban original. I'll have to test that theory at another time. Lesson learned on this visit: go with the beef dishes.

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