By Katherine Bont and Kim Wejendorp, Sekka Dining chefs
ROUGHLY 9325 kilometres. That’s the distance between Kutchan and Nice, France, but step out of the snow and into cute little 12-seat bistro, Le Cochon (‘the pig’) and you could be in either. French wall hangings, water served out of Ricard bottles, beautifully hand-written menus and food that’s timelessly classic and at the same time, Japanese modern. It’s all thanks to former auto mechanic Kazuhiko Kojima, who decided one day car maintenance wasn’t quite for him. He put down his wrench, picked up a knife and hasn’t looked back since. After working extensively in Tokyo, he also travelled to Nice where despite being unable to speak French, he was taught a lot of the classic skills he now so deftly puts to use.
We first wandered in for lunch, which is an amazing value ¥900 for the pasta set or ¥1000 for the main set. Both come with a starter, bread and tea or coffee. We started off with a generous slice of pork terrine with nicely dressed and seasoned mixed leaves. We then moved on to the pasta, which changes daily depending on ingredients and whim. Today’s was a fantastic spaghetti with braised lamb ragout, a rich tomato lamb sauce clinging to the perfectly cooked pasta – very hard to share. We then shifted our attention to the main from the other set – a very clever tongue-in-cheek dish of braised pork cheek and tongue. With the cheek just falling apart at the approach of our fork and the tongue’s offal flavour cooked away, the addition of a few textbook vegetables made this a superb, witty dish.
After such a great meal we want just a smidgen of something sweet to round it off, and asking about dessert, we are rewarded with a blancmange with champagne sauce. Wow, again the classic style shows in a perfectly cooked and set pudding sweetened just so with the sauce. All this and a couple of drinks for under ¥4000 for two people – amazing! So amazing in fact we returned for dinner that very night, only to find the place full. With only twelve seats we shouldn’t have been surprised.
Another night we shall return, we said, and have many times since. Dinner is a mere ¥2800 for three courses. Recently we’ve had pate – rich, smooth and creamy with a rich prune jelly and pickled local vegetables. Fromage de tete – pigs head terrine, rustic and full of flavour. Pan roasted organic pork – sweet and juicy, and slow braised beef cheeks with a rich red wine sauce. The desserts alone make you want to revisit. Banana frangipani tart, dense, rich chocolate cake, mountain grape tart and a wildly flavoursome lavender and honey ice cream.
With food this good, and polished serviced delivered by Kazuhiko’s wife, Tomoko, is it any wonder we can’t stay away? Just a note, you need to book early – have we mentioned that there are only 12 seats? Bon appétit!
Bistrot le Cochon, just off Miyako St. in the heart of Kutchan. Lunch and dinner, closed Tuesdays.
For more great reviews and a whole lot more about food, check out Kat and Kim’s blog @ www.bigfoodsmallworld.blogspot.com