By JJ Walsh
On a visit to Matsumoto one time, I visited the town's excellent art museum late in the morning, lingered longer than I'd expected over the exhibition, and emerged very ready for lunch. Just a quick walk down the main road I found Le Blanc: from the outside it didn't look too promising, but I was hungry and they were open, so in I went, for what turned out to be a very enjoyable lunch.
I guess they're trying to mimic a restaurant in a provincial French town: there are tasteful little paintings on the walls, gentle classical music playing, knick-knacks along one wall - a castle, Mont-Saint-Michel, some musical cats. The clientele here appear to enjoy their dining unhurried; lunch can have as many as seven courses, yet they were still welcoming new customers after 2:00pm.
Of the lunch options I went with the ¥1300 fish lunch, and on request I was allowed to change my drink from the choices proscribed by the menu. The apple juice I chose was pressed, very fruity and flavourful, clearly not from a box from the supermarket. The starter was a pleasantly light consomme soup, then to accompany the main dish there was a green salad with two kinds of bread, one crunchy and one softer, with deliciously creamy butter. The fish was also very good, faultlessly braised, tender and tasty, if a little on the light side for a big hungry foreigner, served in a light creamy sauce with fresh vegetables.
According to the all-Japanese menu, other lunches start at ¥1100; for ¥1300 there are sets with a main course of meat or fish, while the 'Ladies lunch' costs ¥1620. If you want to treat yourselves to something fancier, then for ¥3700 you can have the 'Chef's lunch' - expensive because he has to make himself another one, I suppose - or ¥5000 will buy you a full seven-course feast with either sirloin or beef filet. Dinner sets range up to ¥8500, while the a la carte menu includes light snacks such as anchovy toast (¥400), a (probably quite small) blue cheese dish for ¥580, and daily meat and fish dishes for ¥1600 and ¥1400 respectively. They also have a good selection of wine, mostly French, starting at ¥550 a glass.
On the way out, you'll see a selection of local pressed juices for sale, with a choice of peach, apple, grape and tomato, a nice taste of Matsumoto to take home with you.
The restaurant is on the south side of Agata-no-mori Dori, close to the swanky Performing Arts Center. about twenty minutes' walk east of Matsumoto station, or ten minutes on the bus.
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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.