Le Bar à Vin 52 – A taste of Europe in Azabu Juban

By on February 11, 2014

The other day, as my wife and I were walking back to our Azabu Juban apartment,  I noticed a sign on the second floor of Seijo Ishii 成城石井, a newly opened grocery store, across Starbucks.  The sign in French reads, “Le Bar à Vin 52,” (Wine Bar 52) which, according to the manager, stands for “Wine Bar” and “52 weeks of high quality wines.”

Keen to check out a new place in the neighbourhood, we went up to the bar for degustation and some food.The dimly-lit place has a low-key, casual atmosphere with a few wooden tables and chairs. On the corner was a well-stocked bar with selected wines mostly from Spain, France and Italy, although there are a few from South America too.  The price of a bottle ranges anywhere between 2,800 yen and 3,800 yen, which is, in my opinion, fairly decent by Tokyo standards.  They also have a good selection of fine champagnes with Dom Perignon as premium (16,800 yen).

“Honey, the menu is in Japanese. Shall we go to another place?, ” asked my annoyed wife. “Let’s be adventurous today. We’re already here, we might as well have something we haven’t tried yet,” I answered.

We started our degustation with two to three rounds of house wine (500 yen by the glass),  followed by a bottle of  our choice, Saint-Emillon (2,800 yen).  One more reason the wine here tastes so good is when you have Sicilian olives for appetizers. Its buttery texture and distinct taste truly brings out the flavour in wine.

We gave the House’s delicious salad, named after the place, five stars. It is a mix of crispy baby lettuce, croutons, prosciutto, olives, topped with a generous amount of parmigiano reggiano, drizzled in balsamic.  The contrast of rich and light flavours came out so well although the smell of cheese was rather strong for  a hypersensitive nose as mine.

The Wagyu steak (1,680 yen) cooked medium rare, was a winner.   The meat was tender and  juicy with just the right amount of seasoning.

Then came our last order, Blinis,  the French version of mini pancakes  usually served as sliders with caviar, sour creme and smoked salmon topping. It is one of the house’s tantalising specialties (2,000 yen).   Blinis may be small yet very filling after having the salad and steak.  If you wish to appreciate this better, order it in the beginning.

By the end of our meal, we were so happy and full, there was hardly any room left for tempting desserts.

Finally, we have discovered a place where you can pop in for a glass of wine and European bites at noon and a place to enjoy drinks after dinner.

Le Bar a Vin salad
Crispy baby lettuce, prosciutto, olives, a generous topping of parmigiano reggiano drizzled with balsamic

Bistro-style Wagyu (Japanese beef) Sirloin steak (1,680 yen)