Having told Michael M. a while ago that I never go out to eat Italian food, I've decided to broaden my horizons, aided by the prolific discussion of Italian restaurants in many of the Japanese food magazines recently.
On Saturday night, I went with two friends to T'ala K Ristorante, a tiny, oddly-named restaurant in a back alley off of the Gakugeidaigaku shopping street (you know you're near it when you find the bicycle parking lot). The article I had seen on it said it was reservations only, and sure enough when we got there for our 6pm table the blackboard outside said they were full with reservations for that evening. Then again, they only seat about 14; 6 at the counter, with two two-tops and one four-top in the back.
The menu has three options: a Y4,800 prix fixe where you get to pick the pasta and main; a Y3,800 omakase; and a Y5,800 omakase. We opted for the first, and started off with an amuse of a gorgonzola and apple "cream puff" and a pork rillete, followed by an appetizer of a cold grain salad that also included small scallops and was topped by octopus carpaccio. Both were very nice, with very simple flavors that balanced well. For pasta, I had a crab meat, fresh tomato and basil sauce over a thin fresh pasta, which was hampered by wimpy basil but was otherwise very good, while my friends both had a fish roe-topped spaghetti.
For mains, two of us had the roast chicken topped with a loosely poached egg, while the third had a steamed spiced pork dish. I was impressed by the chef's ability to cook everything to just the right point--the chicken was still a little pink at the bone, and the pork was also very tender.
The dessert was a flan-type pudding with a scoop of caramel ice cream, both of which were delicious.
All in all, the food was very good, although I'm not sure if I'd really call it Italian (the chef apparently used to work at a French place, which doesn't surprise me). There's the extra added bonus that the chef and waiter are very young, pretty Japanese guys (if that's your thing). I don't think it was coincidental that the counter was filled by young women.
My main qualm with the place is the wine list--there's no detail. "Cabernet Sauvignon Y5000" is not particularly helpful. Then again, it gives you the opportunity to make more chit-chat with the cute waiter.
T'Ala K Ristorante