Kyobashi domPierre (京橋ドンピエール), Tokyo
For at least the last few years, I’ve been trying to get to domPierre to get a taste of their famed curry. After the letdown of not being able to get there in other trips (see post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/265209), I made sure to pounce on it when the opportunity availed itself, and I found myself there after the noon lunch rush on a weekday afternoon.
I can’t remember where I read this, but Kyobashi domPierre opened in the early 70s as a French/Yoshoku restaurant (the French restaurant is on the 2nd floor, and the yoshoku restaurant is on the ground level). It’s pretty obvious that in either restaurant, that French techniques are utilized meticulously.
As soon as we sat down, I didn’t have to look at the menu, since I knew that I had to have the beef curry (one of the highly rated curries in Tokyo). My dining companion wasn’t quite sure what to order. Too many items looked to be good, but then we saw that there were a few items that couldn’t be order until after 1pm (I’m assuming these items require more time and care to make, so they don’t make it during the busiest hours). One was the special beef omu-raisu (rice omelette), which is priced at 2756 yen (about $25US). This piqued our interest, and we asked what was so special about it. Our waitress explained that the rice is mixed with their demi glace sauce, and the beef used in the omu-raisu is Matsuzaka-gyu. Well that was enough for us to go ahead with the order.
For whatever reason, the world seems to know about Japan’s famous Kobe beef, but in Japan, when you want to talk about the best quality beef, it’s all about Matsuzaka. (I was going to make some kind of sports analogy, but I’ll refrain). This was going to be one extravagant lunch. But one I’ve been waiting a few years for, so I didn’t care about extravagance.
My curry arrived first. It was a deep dark brown and looked very smooth, except for the chunks of beef and mushrooms huddled adjacent to the mound of rice. I had to take a spoonful of the curry. Wow. First, let me just say that the curry is subtle. It doesn’t hit you over the head. But as someone who’s been trying to make curry from scratch for the past several years, I try to find that perfect balance of richness, spice, and whatever that something else is. This curry had that. It was luscious (I don’t use that word very often), it wasn’t overly spicy, but most of all, it tasted like someone took a great deal of time to make. If you’ve made curry from scratch before, it takes a lot of effort to achieve a good texture, from lots of simmering (hours upon hours), and adjusting the spices accordingly. And then there’s the beef. Whenever I’ve made a long-simmered beef curry, by the time I’m ready to eat, the beef is falling apart into strings. The beef in this curry held its shape, but the texture was a phenomenal. “Like butter” is being literal. I wonder if they pressure cooked the beef separately to achieve this. DomPierre’s curry really lived up to its hype.
The beef omu-raisu was another phenomenon. Probably the same demi glace that added richness to the curry was used to fry the rice, along with some peas and mushrooms (I think). Then a generous amount of sliced Matsuzaka steaks are cooked to a medium rare and mixed with the rice, and placed inside of a perfectly cooked coating of egg. When the plate arrived, we were first wondering why there was no sauce (or heavens forbid, ketchup), but after the first spoonful, you realize that it’s completely unnecessary. It was already an ultra-rich dish. Think about it. White rice, egg, demi glace, and some of the best beef you can get in Japan. The spoonfuls without the beef provided a hit of deep, but subtle beef flavor, and then when you bit into the beef, it was ... gosh, how do I describe it? If you’ve even bit into a hunk of beef fat, the texture is similar, and the meat was firm and the flavors sweet and, well, beefy. I was in awe. My dining companion couldn’t handle all the richness, so I was the proud beneficiary of the last few spoonfuls to really savor. Was it worth $25? Hell yeah.