By Peter Sidell
On a visit to Toyohashi one day, I set out looking for somewhere to have lunch, but I didn't get far from the station before the options thinned out considerably. Then on a main road I found Aux Crieurs de Vin, which sounded like more fancy a place than I usually go to, and had little information outside to help me gauge the cost. But, it was open, and I was hungry: so rather than continue my quest I decided to take the chance and go inside. Well, you have to treat yourself sometimes, don't you?
It's a very elegant place, simple but stylish: a Frenchman (or Frenchwoman) might say chic. The walls are a warm ochre, there's plenty of wood paneling and a walk-in wooden wine cabinet, the tablecloths and napkins are soft and heavy, all making for a classy atmosphere.
I also enjoyed the soft Gallic background music, cool jazzy chanson: a rendering in French of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin's "Je t'aime (Moi non plus)", a man forlornly crooning "Je ne sais rien." There was no English either written or spoken, but the waiter was very friendly and chatty, explaining all the menu items when I couldn't read the kanji, and letting me change the drink on the lunch set.
And my lunch was just excellent, making me glad I'd come in. My grape juice was tart and deep with flavour, more like wine than juice; and my starter, a generously sized prawn mousse terrine, was equally tasty, with a delectably smooth texture, and served with very fresh salad and some warm, crispy fresh-baked bread.
For the main dish I had coq au vin, the tender meat accompanied by firm, fresh vegetables on creamy potato; and my dessert was sliced pear with caramel ice cream, a deliciously sweet and satisfying end to my meal. I needed to take a few minutes to let everything settle before heading back out to continue with my day.
The lunch menu starts at ¥1800 for an entree, main dish and coffee; for ¥2300 you also get a dessert, and for ¥3500 a second entree as well as dessert. (All these prices are before the addition of consumption tax.) The choices were actually quite limited: other than what I had, the entrees on offer were a cheese salad, Spanish ham serrano (which the internet tells me is sliced, dry-cured ham), or the soup of the day. The only other main dish was the fish of the day, while the other dessert choice was chocolate mousse.
So if you're visiting Toyohashi (or if you live there, in fact) and looking for a delicious, relaxed lunch in stylish surroundings, then it's worth paying a little above the odds and paying a call to Aux Crieurs de Vin.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.