Tama Miyake |
Wolfgang Puck Café
It's been more than a year since Wolfgang Puck closed the doors at
Spago, his iconic Sunset Strip bistro, and a few months since the chefs at the
Tokyo branch revamped their menu to the point where all that remains of Puck is
his name on the door. It would seem the shine is off the quintessential celebrity
chef. But after a couple visits to the new Wolfgang Puck Café in Akasaka
and word that he plans to open dozens more around the country, we realized this
Austrian's star is burning as bright as ever.
Taking over a corner of
the Ark Hills building, the Café is part of a chain of casual dining spots
serving Puck's signature blend of Asian and European cuisine. It's also everything
you'd expect from the man who made his career in southern California in the early
'80spumpkin-painted walls, multicolored mosaics and Madonna belting out
Paradise in the background.
Eager to taste Puck's 21st-century creations, we made our first visit
within weeks of the grand opening and found a dining room overflowing with families
and visiting executives, but short on staff and experience. The situation improved
on our second visit, a relatively quiet evening spent among lone businessmen with
one eye on the 76ers game on the big screen over the bar and a handful of couples
and young families.
Puck's passion for mixing it up was evident the minute
we picked up the menuthe mile-long drinks list named every cocktail known
to man and even a few nods to Japan, including the tempting Ume Cosmopolitan (vodka,
cranberry, ¥900). Opting to save our taste buds for the food, we settled on
a light Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc (¥5,000/bottle) and turned our attention
to the rest of the menu.
Having tucked into Puck's gourmet pizza (¥2,000)
on the previous visit, we took a chance on the spicy salmon and shrimp dumplings
(¥1,000). The generous serving of six steamed dumplings, sitting in a yuzu
and butter broth, was light yet flavorful with meaty fillings and thin rice-paper
casings. It was also a perfect warm-up to the pepper-crusted ahi tuna (¥2,500),
which came artfully arranged around a mound of horseradish-flavored mashed potatoes
and steamed baby vegetables, with a tangy mustard sauce drizzled along the rim
of the plate.
Our Japan-sized stomachs were put to the test with the
arrival of our wiener schnitzel (¥2,400). Stretching over both sides of a
large dinner plate, the lightly breaded veal cutlet barely left room for the accompanying
potato salad and spinach. It was so hearty and tasty, however, that the plate
was wiped clean in a matter of minutes.
Feeling flush with accomplishment,
we soldiered on with a crËme brulee (¥700), another American-sized serving
that went down surprisingly well thanks to the crispy caramelized coating and
warm, creamy center.
Puck may have traded Spago in favor of an eponymous
café empire, but if his portion sizes are any indication the father
of fusion is poised to really hit it big.
11am-11pm (LO 10pm) daily. 1F Ark Mori Bldg, 1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku. Tel:
03-5575-2100. Menu in English and Japanese. Nearest stn: Tameikesanno, exit 13.
credit: Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck Café