Whenever I have an idle moment I fantasize about confit de canard—the crisp savory skin, the dark flesh so tender it pulls from the bone with the slightest tug of the fork, and bones looking so tasty you want to crack them open with your molars and suck out the marrow. Whenever I need to satisfy this duck-flesh fantasy, I come to Brasserie Gus.
Once roughly the size of a subway car, Brasserie Gus (pronounced “goo”) expanded some years ago by taking over the neighboring subway car-sized space to accommodate more customers who know a great deal when they find it. When Brasserie Gus first opened, the very reasonable prix-fixe dinner course was ¥2800. Now, more than ten years later, it costs only 50 yen more.
Chef Arai looks like he ought to be unloading a beer truck rather than turning out classic dishes of French country cooking. He’s a stalwart, friendly fellow with the sensibilities of a craftsman, producing in his still tiny kitchen meals he could easily charge twice as much for. For ¥2,850 you choose from among 9 starter “entrees,“ 11 main dish “plats,“ and 9 desserts.
And keep in mind, Arai doesn’t skimp on portions.
This is food you want to tuck into with your sleeves rolled up—robust, clear flavors balanced with care. As starters, for example, a generous cut of pork Terrine Maison with mustard and lightly dressed seasonal greens, or a cool, silky ratatouille, or slices of marinated salmon dusted with fresh dill.
My main dish, the duck confit, paired with a dash of tangy mustard sauce, rested on a bed of mashed potato and mild cabbage to offset the canard’s salty richness. Another “plat,” slices of succulent roast lamb, was crusted with herbs and drizzled with a parsley sauce. Each main dish is garnished with a small ensemble of mashed or scalloped potato, a floret of broccoli, a baby carrot, shimeji mushrooms, and bit of turnip or pumpkin. There is plenty of sliced baguette to mop up the sauces.
The long narrow dining room is a cheerful place with red-checked tablecloths, posters of Paris on white walls, knick knacks on red shelves, and French jazz on the stereo. It has the casual charm of a working-class establishment. All that’s missing is the smell of Gauloise cigarette smoke.
The wine list is modest, but well chosen. Good bottles, both white and red, start at ¥2800. A bottle of the excellent Haut Medoc Chateau Beaumont goes for ¥4900.
The lunch special is a steal at 1,050 yen.
Brasserie Gus: 82 Yarai-cho, Shinjuku-ku
Open Monday–Saturday lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.