Nice weather we’re having, for winter. Crisp and mild like autumn. The wiry olive tree by the door seems to like it. And that wooden basket of earth-caked carrots says, You could eat well here.
It’s early in the evening as you walk by Amets Spanish bar-restaurant. Say hello through the open door to one of the ever-smiling waitresses. Owner-chef Koichi Hattori comes out to take some air. He just took delivery of a box of Tasmanian beef. Something for tonight’s menu. No customers yet. A big gentle-faced fellow in a baggy navy shirt, he stands on the small deck, looking up and down the street.
It’s still rare to see earthy carrots in this town. You say they look good, and he reaches into the basket and gives you one. Then he disappears into the restaurant and comes out with a plastic shopping bag and puts another two in it. Eat them raw he says. They are from Togane in Chiba. They are very organic, he says. At home you bite one with a little salt. It disappears quickly.
He’s also got deer, rabbit and others. People here don’t really get rabbit, he says. They think: pets.
Amets is Basque for dream. Hattori’s dream manifests as slow-simmered cheeks of Iberico pork, a rucola-mix salad topped with grilled goat cheese and balsamico, or a salad of prawn, jamon and organic lettuce. There’s octopus stewed in tomato and wine, and wild boar with fava beans and chestnuts. He likes game. Before opening Amets, he lived and cooked in the Basque region for over 4 years, plus a year in Catalonia. An old man who hunted would give him birds. On the menu is pigeon rice, and quail. He’s also got deer, rabbit and others. People here don’t really get rabbit, he says. They think: pets.
It’s barely one minute’s walk from Tawaramachi station, though hidden up the sidestreet beside Ishii Fruits. He chose this location because a friend was closing up his French restaurant on the same premises. Plus it’s his home, this neighbourhood, he grew up here. The room is small and with warm red walls that ring with chatter. It feels contemporary, maybe because Hattori is young. He was in Spain when molecular gastronomy was peaking. He knows about that stuff. But his favourite things to cook are classic Spanish-homestyle stews.
Amets is at 1-1-12 Nishi Asakusa, tel 03-3841-3022. Closed Mon.