I reviewed Mardi Gras some months ago, but then they declined to give Metropolis, the magazine I write for, photos for the review. The restaurant, I guess, believes it’s appreciated enough already. But this is a place that you ought to know. So I decided to put this review up here with my own photo. Some of the dishes mentioned below are sure to have changed with the season. Get a reservation for later in the evening, so that when you finish you’ll be able to marvel at the night-life water trade business that spills out onto limousine-lined Namiki Dori.
Walk down Ginza’s Namiki dori past the luxe boutiques showcasing exclusive French and Italian couture and coruscating jewelry from guys named Fred and Harry, and you’ll come to another sort of exclusive luxury — hostess bars and clubs with a nonstop sidewalk dance of young women in kimono or low-cut gowns greeting or bidding affectionate farewells to businessmen with expensively cut suits and expense accounts. In the midst of this water trade extravaganza, there’s another party going on — downstairs in Mardi Gras. Not the raucous Fat Tuesday-type of party, but a celebration of good tastes.
Chef Toru Wachi is a man with far-ranging ideas. He cooked in France and Italy, then travelled extensively around the Mediterranean taking culinary notes. At Mardi Gras, his intimate little bistro, Wachi creates his own cuisine, rooted solidly in the French traditions of preparation and presentation, but with riffs from Spain, Italy, Provence, Morocco and Cuba.
Wachi blends influences as easily as Crescent City musicians blend rhythms. To bluesy background licks by Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, or other N’awlins musicians, Chef Wachi lays down some of the tastiest grooves in town.
Leading the antipasto roster, his tapas-like “pinchos“ are perfect with a glass of wine. This platter is a mix of a dozen hot and cold, bite-sized tidbits such as deep-fried brussel sprouts, marinated mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, pork bits with aspic and fresh herbs, or grilled sweet green peppers.
Another hit on the antipasto chart is the burrata mozzarella with nouveau olive oil. This luscious, creamy cheese from Puglia is drizzled with new olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. It couldn’t be simpler — or better.
Wachi likes bold, strong flavors, with a backbeat of subtle complexities like the Wild Boar and Chestnuts pictured above. He offers updated French bistro standards like boudin noir, andouilettes, blanquette de veau, and lapin ala provencale, plus Italian specialties like roasted pork loin with Sicilian salt. One of his classic numbers is the Moroccan-influenced “tagine d’agneau” — a slow-cooked, savory and sweet combination of lamb, vegetables, spices, and dried fruits.
Wachi is continually inventive, creating new dishes that surprise. His Tuscany Hamburg Steak is seared ball of tender, chopped meat with hints of garlic and rosemary. It stands, centered on a snowy white plate, like a mountain coated in a bright red sauce of tomato and red pepper with a green summit of scissor-cut slivers of flat-leaf Italian parsley.
Wachi offers a handful of desserts, such as fresh kiwi and mango sherbet, creme caramel, and the tart of the day. And something called Viva! Chocolata! — fresh white peach with chocolate sauce.
The wine list is excellent with some 20 whites and the same number of reds to choose from. A few bottles are in the 5000-yen range but most are more than 6000 yen. A selection of wines are available by the glass.
If you’re looking for adventure, order the tagine and a bottle of Morocco Casablanca Lager, “The Original Beer from Casablanca,”with the palm trees on the label.
Here’s looking at you, kid. Play it again, Toru.
8-6-19 Ginza B1, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03.5568.0222. Open Monday to Saturday. Dinner 6pm to midnight. (L.O. midnight). Closed Sundays. The narrow stairway leading down to Mardi Gras is next to the Otakou oden shop. Look for the small MG sign.