by Joy Fajardo
The maze of Yurakucho Station, compounded
by the underground labyrinth of a Marunouchi skyscraper, was
a journey that ended not with a horned beast but the cooling
whites and beiges of Asli, a geometrically sensible space
that rewards seekers with purifying fare.
Inspired by the slow life movement, this is a place of no
sudden movements. Generously thick marble blocks reach toward
the ceiling, while groups and couples dine behind curtains
in a booth-lined corridor. The main dining room is dominated
by a large square marble table with room for 16 to admire
the center basin filled with floating tea lights and orchid
When we arrived on a Saturday night, sharply dressed women
filled most of the tables around the perimeter. The kitchen,
set in the corner, was equally immaculate with its neatly
stacked columns of earthenware dishes. Despite an open kitchen
and an open dining space, the noise never exceeded a pleasant
Finally seated and a bit disoriented from our journey, we
decided upon a bottle of Cloudy Bay Chardonnay (¥6,800)
to unwind-but only after giving serious consideration
to the Veuve Clicquot-heavy list on the previous page.
At ¥3,800, we jumped at the chance to sample all Asli
had to offer with their prix fixe course. Interestingly, of
the 25 choices on the course menu, 16 featured "Date
chicken" while the rest were vegetarian fare. Much
to our relief, the assistant manager explained that Date (pronounced
daa-te) referred to an organically raised brand of chicken
from Miyagi Prefecture and not the dried fruit.
This combination of chicken and vegetables
is the mainstay of Asli-no beef or seafood dishes here.
Our Warm Plate, therefore, arrived as a handful of cooked
yet still crunchy vegetables drizzled with a sauce made of
parmesan, béchamel and anchovy. For the Cold Plate, we
chose the chicken shabu-shabu and eggplant with ginger sauce,
a pleasant balance of tastes and textures despite the temperature.
Chicken grilled over youganseki (volcanic rocks) was our Main
Dish, featuring gorgeously crisped and sliced breasts of chicken
served with pinches of Dijon mustard, yuzu, hot sauce and
a Japanese plum and wasabi mixture, allowing us to choose
the condiment for each and every juicy morsel. Before dessert,
we made the unfortunate decision to try a salad with barbecued
chicken and camembert (¥1,200) off the a la carte menu
and were met with camembert too weak to withstand the punch
of the barbecue sauce.
The deep-fried natural vegetables and mushrooms (¥1,400)
were a wiser choice with vegetables that were firm yet crisped
to our arteries' liking. The crowning indulgence was
a green tea tiramisu (included in the prix fixe). The heavenly
fluffy consistency of the coffee version was successfully
recreated in Asli's version, which was even topped
with powdered green tea.
Still new (our plates sat a bit too long at the table) but
adventurous (expect the entire menu to change every month),
Asli shows promise at three months old. It's hanging
on to its principles and seems to understand that what most
Tokyoites need after the daily grind is simply to slow down.
B1F New Tokyo Bldg, 3-3-1 Marunouchi,
Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5220-5588. Open 11:30am-3pm, 5-11pm. Nearest
Photos courtesy of Wondertable