Balai Isabel

Looking for a trophy bride

Today I had lunch with my friend Y at Viron, my favorite Parisian-style brasserie in Tokyo, in Shibuya, that uses only ingredients from France for their food: French flour, Echire butter, French sea salt, spices, etc.

The decor is very French as well, with banquette chairs and a proper bar — the kind you see if you walk into a brasserie in Provence. It’s been around for years and it’s one of my favorite places for a casual lunch, although I hadn’t been there in a very long time.
I actually wanted to eat at Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon again today as I’d fallen in love with their foie gras with risotto last week, and I was hoping that they still had it on their menu today; however we couldn’t get the time we wanted on the spur-of-the-moment so we ended up at Viron instead.

I was so glad we ate at Viron instead, though, as lunch today was simply delicious. Viron in Shibuya is usually good, although I have had some lunches there that were just okay. But then again, at their price points — a three-course lunch is about 4000 yen — you don’t exactly expect perfection every single time.
If I was paying 40,000 yen for lunch instead of 4000 yen, I think I would call the waiter’s attention to even a single overcooked noodle. But as Viron’s lunch set is in the more reasonable price range, I’m fine if it’s good most of the time and just okay some of the time.
And today it was excellent. I was pretty much in the mood to eat so I ordered a Ceasar’s salad as a starter, a mixed grill with couscous for a main, and my all-time favorite spiced ice cream sundae for dessert. The latter is pretty unique to Viron and they do it so well, with a combination of ginger, cinnamon and other spices, made into an ice cream and a sauce for the ice cream, which they mix with jersey cream. I just love it.
The starter was actually pretty forgettable as the salad dressing — which I ordered with very high expectations — was bland and on the meager side. In fact, I had to ask for an extra plate of dressing as otherwise it felt like I was just eating lettuce.
However, the main course of a mixed grill with couscous more than made up for any imperfections today. We had a perfectly seasoned and grilled chicken with bits of charred skin here and there, that arrived still hot and crispy to the touch; and very tender pieces of lamb shank that fell apart with a spoon.
These were placed on top of a very nice plate of couscous and grilled vegetables, and a small platter of hot sauce was served with it. Absolutely delicious — so much so that for a moment I just wanted to keep quiet and focus on the taste of the dish.
The spice sundae that came afterwards is something I always order at Viron, even if it’s always a difficult toss-up between this and the chocolate profiteroles; and I was very glad that it was still exactly as I remembered it: a rich old-fashioned sundae glass of goodness, with spicy ice cream and corn flakes, laced with a complicated sauce of aromatic spices that blended very well with the pureness of the Jersey cream.

However, the other interesting aspect of lunch was the conversation. Y operates a matchmaking service that seeks to introduce respectable Japanese women of a certain caliber to equally respectable Japanese men of a certain caliber.
If you think this set-up sounds strange, I have to explain that men and women in Japan just don’t have the opportunities to meet each other that men and women in other cultures/ societies/ countries have.
A typical Japanese will only be able to meet a potential partner via school or work; and if he or she still hasn’t been able to do so, then the services of a matchmaking service probably needs to be enlisted.
As Y said today: “Unlike in other countries, marriage here is pretty cut and dried. There’s not too much “dating” involved. We advise people to meet up with a potential partner and decide (or not) on marriage within three months — or else they should move on to the next person.”

While this is nothing very new to me, having lived in Japan for so long, the shocker was Y’s current and very special case: a very wealthy and semi-retired gentleman from another country, seeking a second wife in Japan. The prospective lady needs to be in her early 30s at the latest, she needs to look like a model with the corresponding vital statistics, she needs to be tall, and she doesn’t need to speak English.
I asked: “Does the guy speak Japanese?”
Apparently not. But the language barrier is not something he’s bothered about. Basically she doesn’t need to speak. She just needs to look the part of beautiful young bride and she’s assured a lifetime of comfort and a palatial existence. Other nationalities need not apply either, as the gentleman is only looking for a Japanese bride.
I then said: “So he wants a trophy wife.” He really does. He’s not interested in brains or charm, although charm is a plus. Apparently he turned down a couple of perfectly respectable prospects because they were either on the chubby side or not strikingly pretty enough for him.

Y nodded. Curiosity then got the better of me. I asked: “How does he look?” If he’s so much of a stickler for the looks department, then he’d better look like George Clooney himself, as far as I’m concerned. Apparently not.
“Good luck to him, then,” I said to Y. I don’t want to say more than this lest I end up offending some people. But I can predict that a lot of young women with their own lives and careers are not going to be interested in a guy twice their age who is only looking at someone as a vital statistic.
I’ll bet good money that he’s still going to be single and looking the next time I have lunch in Viron — and that won’t be again for a long time.



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