Having a restaurant in your neighborhood that you consider your go-to local joint is worth more than all the stars in the little red book. Yes, those fancy places
are full of wonderful flavors, elegant wines and fabulous rendezvous potential, but smaller, local places can offer solace for the soul, a glass of very drinkable wine and surprisingly good food. And so it is with Saru.
Vinyl walls in bright yellow and white give Saru a cheeky street appeal. Inside, the pared down decor and blond wood keeps things simple. Two long communal tables and counter seating finish the look.
My husband declares his lack of balance disqualifies him from the counter, and so it is at the table we sit. The menu changes seasonally, and the blackboard specials change with market availability. The blackboard offers a choice of pasta topped with seasonal Japanese vegetable sauces. Appetizers too are seasonal, and hard as it is to give up winter’s onion soup and lotus pancakes, spring means that Hokkaido oysters are on the menu in all their fleshy deliciousness. One is enough for a light starter.
The owner declares his focus is on produce, and that certainly showed the night we dined there. Personal contacts with local producers ensure Saru has the freshest of the season’s best quality vegetables. The chefs are obviously well skilled and creative, the “tuna ham” salad a revelation in which the tuna is smoked as if it were prosciutto and then sliced into a salad of watercress.
My main of cherry smoked Aomori chicken arrived with a flourish of smoke and tasted divine, especially with its accompanying wasabi tapenade. Not all the entrees are smoked, and there is also a variety of seafood and vegetarian dishes available.
My husband went with the chef’s choice of four assorted charcuterie, which on this occasion included a generous slice of roast ham shoulder, venison pate, a crescent of camembert, and a wedge of Hokkaido rakish hard cheese. The verdict? A slow, manly nod that signifies satisfaction.
We finished our meal, as one must, with a fabulous dessert. I selected the Japanese dried fruit nougat, sweet and creamy with big bodied raisins studded throughout. My husband went for the mirin sake savarin with cinnamon, an unbelievably good marrying of eastern and western flavors.
The menu is full and varied and the wine list international (incidentally, Saru’s website also boasts that the menu is created to be “harmonious” with wine). The staff are attentive and very knowledgable about their produce, and all the floor staff speak English. Reservations are recommended.
Address: 3-49-1 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku,Tokyo
Open: Mon-Fri 12-2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat 12-2:30 p.m. and 5-11:30 p.m.; Sun and hols 12-10:30 p.m.