J.H.V. French Food & Wine, Atago Hills

By Kelly Wetherille
May 16, 2014
Food & Drink

In my experience, French food in Tokyo tends to fall into one of two categories: excellent but shamefully overpriced, or mediocre (and often still overpriced). So I was pleasantly surprised when I first visited this cozy French restaurant on the second floor of Atago Green Hills Mori Tower. For such an upscale location, the menu is remarkably good value, and chef Ryosuke Matsuzaki is adept at creating delicious, beautifully presented dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Unlike many French places, J.H.V. does not rely on an overabundance of cream to give its dishes flavor, so there was no yucky, heavy feeling afterward either.

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There are three dinner courses to choose from, ranging in price from ¥3,900 to ¥7,500. The menu changes every few weeks depending on what ingredients are in season and readily available at market. But whenever you go, you’re sure to find a varied but well-honed selection of dishes, with something to suit just about everyone’s palate.

On our last visit some of the standout dishes included a mixed vegetable terrine accompanied by crab meat and topped with a raspberry vinaigrette sauce. The colors were so vibrant and it was arranged so artfully on the plate, that it almost seemed to beautiful to eat. A scallop and beetroot salad was also surprisingly complex, with the tender scallops perfectly contrasting the crisp beet slices and a tangy citrus sauce topped with chopped fresh herbs.

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J.H.V. is owned by a company that also imports wines, so there are some excellent varieties on offer to help you wash down your meal. The sommelier, Sakura Ito, is very knowledgeable and was able to recommend some excellent pairings, including a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Errazuriz in Chile, whose sweetness with a hint of spice was the perfect accompaniment for foie gras that was decadent with a truffle sauce but not overpowering. The two were so well suited to one another that neither food nor wine lasted long, and we mopped up the remaining sauce with chunks of baguette.

While truffles rarely disappoint, sometimes it’s difficult to impress diners with more simple dishes, but one of the highlights of my meal was a plate of over ten types of vegetables, cooked without seasoning so that their natural flavors really stood out. The combination was a beautiful mix of colors and textures, including starchy, leafy and succulent veggies that would please even the most hardcore meat lover. They had plenty of flavor on their own, but were served with herb olive oil and charcoal and red wine infused salt, which gave them an interesting edge.

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Our fish dish was the fleshiest piece of sea bass I’ve ever eaten, served in a white wine and butter reduction. Not even the slightest bit over or undercooked, I thought I could have eaten two of these and skipped the next course…until, that is, I saw it come out of the kitchen.

The beef was the most gorgeous deep pink color, and so flakey that my knife cut through it almost as easily as it would have a stick of butter. The sauce that complemented it was so good that I forgot to even stop and ask what it was, but it was wonderfully balanced by thin layers of potato gratin, which were browned until slightly crispy on top and around the edges.

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While we were starting to fill up at this point, we were sure to save room for dessert, which turned out to be an excellent decision. I ordered the tarte tatin, which was apple pie à la mode at its very best. There was no heavy crust, but instead just a flakey pastry bottom topped with sweet apple slices, bitter caramel and cool, creamy ice cream. It was heaven on a plate, and the perfect ending to a wonderful meal in a sophisticated yet inviting atmosphere. I’ll definitely be back.

The Deets

Address: 2F Atago Green Hills Mori Tower, 2-5-1 Atago, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3433-3343

Open: Mon-Sat, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.; closed Sun, hols and the third Sat of the month