On my first morning in Tokyo, I awoke to find the sky overcast.  I put on my coat, left my sunglasses behind, and ventured downstairs where I asked the concierge if there was a chance it could get sunny at some point.  “Oh, no,”she replied, straight-faced.  “It won’t get sunny until January.”

So I headed out, coat on and sans sunglasses.  Later that afternoon, when the sun DID come out, I was carrying my coat around and seriously wishing I’d brought those sunglasses along – just in case.

Well, last night, I awoke to another cool, overcast day.  But this time, going on past experience, I left the coat at home and brought the sunglasses.

The sun never came out.  I carried around my sunglasses all day and wished I’d brought along my coat – just in case.

Fortunately, the walk to my lunch destination was brisk in both senses of the word, a mere chilly ten minutes from Peninsula to Ginza La Tour.

The fifth floor restaurant is the epitome of French elegance.
I was escorted into a small, private dining room.
  • The flatware and tableware are clearly a source of pride.
  • As I waited for my dining companion to show, the door to my private room was sealed off.
    To those of you suspiciously commenting on the fact that all of my dining companions have been young women, I introduce my lunch mate on this day, Stefan - a bigger foodie than yours truly.
    How big a foodie is Stefan? Well, for one, he carries around his own salt.
    And recommended this bottled water at about $20 a pop.

    A former New Yorker presently eating his way around the world, Stefan is a connoisseur of everything from cheese to wines, salts to breads.  I learned more in the few hours I spent with him than  months spent viewing Food Network.

    Assortment of seafood with caviar. The beautiful creations ranged from very good to utterly fantastic in the case of the one bite, about four o' clock, that was some sort of conch.
    Sauteed foie gras with Japanese grapes and Kyohou sauce. I liked this dish a lot to which Stefan replied "Of course, it's foie gras.". The plump, sweet grapes were wonderful, but Stefan noted they would never do well in North America becase they weren't seedless.
    A fine lobster souffle.
    The fish of the day. The menu instructed us to ask our waiter. We did and, while he was able to explain what it was, neither of us knew the Japanese translation for black winter fish.
    The palate cleanser and, if we heard correctly, carrot and orange sorbet. I say "if we heard correctly" because while we could taste the orange, there was no discernible "carotness" to the dish.
    Grilled sirloin of Japanese Maesawa beef. Apparently, this presentation is a bit of a pet peeve for Stefan. He asks the restaurant world: "Why do you want to cut my beef?". He points out that, by cutting the meat, it loses heat and moisture faster. Why not leave the cutting to the customer? Well, cut or not, the beef was excellent.
    The dessert. Stefan couldn't stop marveling over the spoon skills of whoever plated this dish.

    Sophistication was the keyword at lunch today, evident in everything from the decor to the service, but nowhere was it more evident than in the artistic presentation of the meal.  A very nice lunch, but I would love to see what they could do with dinner.

    After our meal, we took a stroll through Ginza…

    Monk - real or fake? How can you tell?
    We eventually ended up in Harajuku where the strolling was a little more chaotic.
    Nothing to see here but some guy waiting to cross. Yeah, that's right. Some guy.

    I returned to my hotel room to recharge and upload an early blog entry, and then it was off to Pierre Marcolini where I chatted with the gals there – including Moro and Keiko, a couple of my previous dining companions – and met up with my dinner mate on this night, the lovely Akemi.

    We caught a cab to Cuisine Michel Troisgros, located in Nishi-Shinjuku’s Hyatt Regency Hotel.

    Akemi raises a glass in toast.
    Amuse I: Tucked away within the cool, crispy sweetness of the exterior were some warm, acidulous tomatoes.
    Amuse 2: And a second round of delightful little contrasts of tastes and textures. Right off the bat, I was served notice that this would not be your typical meal.
    Scallops and porcini mushrooms "saltimbocca". The meatiness of the scallops and the mushrooms take center stage here with crisp accompaniments (yes, those are sage leaves) lending another delightful contrast.
    Pan-seared foie gras, spices, endives, and passion fruit. Yes, it's foie and, yes, I love it - but there are some foie gras dishes that stand head and shoulders above the others. The Faro version served with chestnut chutney was one. This version is another.
    "Autumn garden" langoustine. Okay, at this point, the pattern that started to develop early becomes very clear. Yes, the dishes are gorgeous and they do offer wonderful contrasts and compliments in tastes and textures, but underlying all that is the simplicity at work here.
    Chef's surprise #1 and, again, a dish that is collectively creative AND simple.
    Chef's surprise #2: And add fun to the mix. A black truffle tofu ravioli. When was the last time you had one of these? This one had us laughing out loud in delight.
    Akemi prepares to dig in.
    Venison with rucola butter, trompette mushrooms, and hazelnuts. What were we seeing about not cutting our meat? Here, it's presented tender, perfectly prepared, and gloriously un-cut.
    Served with Chef's surprise #3: A chestnut gratinee. Divine.

    Fourme d'Ambert cheese and pear. A dish that has been in the Troisgros family for generations.
    Chef's surprise #4: Orange meingue pie and homemade ice cream. I've never been one for lemon meringue, but I AM a huge fan of THIS version.
    And speaking of which - anyone will tell you I'm not a fan of mint. Especially served with chocolate. So, when this dessert was presented - the Mint Square (chocolate and mint base, topped with mint ice cream, and mint crystalized sugar square - those are tasty little edamame up front) - I was leery. But one bite and I was reliving that scene in Ratatouille where the critic takes the bite of the rataouille. Suddenly, I was transported back to my childhood and the house I grew up in, running my fingers through the patch of fragrant mint my parents used to grow in the backyard. The Japanese even have a word for it: Natsukashi!
    Chef's surprise #5, is it? I've lost count. An assortment of fun little mignardises.
    Once we'd moved on to tea, the man responsible for the memorable meal came out to say hello - Executive Chef and Director Lionel Beccat.
    Chiba Tadashi, Chef de Rang

    A spectacular meal, one of my favorites to date.  Michel Troisgros makes the case that fine-dining can be fun with wonderfully creative but uncomplicated dishes.  This one is going on my 2010 return-to list.

    Akemi thanks me with some surprise gifts!
    Suetomi!
    Hana Fusen!

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    sylvia
    sylvia

    Another wonderful and beautiful day of food. Good thing you had your suit coat/blazer.

    Did Stefan say why he carries his own salt?
    Many thanks for the delightful foodie and travelogue.

    SebiMeyer

    If you feel this question is too personal, please just disregard it: I have no idea how prices are in Japan, so I have to ask: How much does a meal like that, on any of the others, cost?

    Anais33

    Bonjour,

    Oh je n”ai pas encore mangé et vous me donnez très faim avec toutes ces photos^^!!

    Vous faites pleins de connaissance à Tokyo!!! …..c’est bien de manger français mais c’est encore mieux de le faire en France …..;-)

    Passez une bonne journée!
    Gros bisou!

    susan the tartan turtle

    I think that you should be looking for a second home in Tokyo.

    Food looks wink smile wink

    dasndanger
    dasndanger

    I think this is one of my favorites to date, as well! The venison (a favorite of mine) looks DEVINE! Also intrigued by the pear and cheese, and especially your giving in and eating mint! Mint AND chocolate! Any chef who can pull off that ‘surprise’, and not end up the subject of a 1500 word rant about having the audacity to so presumptuously taint your palate, must be a true culinary wizard. Now I wanna go to that restaurant! (Hey…can you at least send me a doggie bag??)

    Just some quick comments…

    1. Your lunch date. I dunno…afterall, you DID eat cod sperm… twisted

    2. Pink-haired guy. Why didn’t you get a snap of his face? I bet he was kinda hawt. grin

    3. Are those your sunglasses on the table? I hope you didn’t forget them…

    4. You eat a lot of foie gras…foie gras is rich in vitamin A…so, ya know…maybe you should be aware of hypervitaminosis A.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000350.htm

    Enjoy!! grin

    das

    AV eddy

    Hi Joe!

    A little off-topic, but thought you or visitors here might be interested.

    Neil Gaiman did a piece on Nat’l Public Radio about audiobooks. You can read or hear it at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120769925

    Travel well!

    eddy

    Shirt'n'Tie
    Shirt'n'Tie

    Hi Mr M!

    Have been offline due to PC probs. Hopefully normal service has been restored. Am catching up with the TERRIFIC entries from Japan! Wowsers. You seem to be having a blast!

    Any sign of the “Tippu! Tippu” girls?

    Also, great shot of the Hermes Macroons…They look yummy!

    Best to you from rainy wet Ireland.

    S’n’T

    PS Are you going back to that French Chateau Restaurant that you visited last year?

    Winst
    Winst

    Oh wow!…all of those dishes look so AMAZING!

    I am *so* hungry!
    (…and just a bit jealous.)

    Thank you very much for sharing all of these delicious
    looking meals with us.

    I hope that you’re having a great time over in Tokyo.

    Tammy Dixon
    Tammy Dixon

    Simply mindboggling! Thanks for the pictures/descriptions.

    May I inquire how you met all of these interesting people?

    T

    Airelle
    Airelle

    I agree with Das, the venison looks really good. I just figured it out, you can eat so much and so often since the portions are small, duh! (and yummy looking) and I love the cleansing of the palate, such a great idea. I hope your trip will have you buzzing for many weeks, so much to do, so little time. And really, thanks for sharing. Will Carl be wanting to go next time? Enjoy.

    Thornyrose
    Thornyrose

    here’s hoping some kamikaze goose doesn’t try to stall outyour plane when you return. You’re racking up quite the score on foie gras; enough so that I’m breaking down and making reservations for dinner at one of the few places around that serve it. As for the mint, can’t stand the stuff and have no childhood memories to make me fond of the stuff. Glad you enjoyed then. Thanks for sharing, and do let us know if you manage the right combination of sunglasses, jacket, goulashes, and other acroudements to survive the Tokyo weather.
    Just one last question. Do you ever feel a sense of irony on trying French or Italian cuisine in venues like Tokyo? Or is it more satisfying on such a trip to enjoy an international range of meals over your foodfest? Again, thanks for keeping up the posts, and do enjoy week two.

    wonderingbrit

    Hi Joe,

    While I may not have yet personally found something to catch my interest in SG:U – I’m loving the Japanese food tour!!
    So, C’mon…. Hit us with you’re Weird Purchases of the Day.
    I’m really looking forward to them and lets be honest – you’re the only guy on the planet who does them!

    Hope you’re have a superb time – and do get fatter for once LOL

    Margaret Clayton

    Luscious.

    Now I want lobster souffle for breakfast. And pears with cheese for lunch.

    Hmmm. I have pop tarts in the pantry. Sigh.

    As for a guy in pink hair and a kilt? So? I guess I’ve been to Burning Man once too often, a man in a kilt and a wig isn’t weird at all. The matching tartan leg warmers? Nice touch.

    Izzy
    Izzy

    Loved the pic of the guy standing on the sidewalk! The person being a guy explains the less than ladylike stance.

    dasNdanger
    dasNdanger

    Travel Day $6? Wait. Do you mean with all that food, you only spent $6?? (Whatever would you do without us checking up on you?? wink )

    das

    dasNdanger
    dasNdanger

    Joe…not sure you are familiar with author Robert Holdstock, or not, but for any who are, just thought I’d forward the sad news of his passing…

    http://www.multiverse.org/fora/showthread.php?t=12649

    http://robertholdstock.com/

    das

    ytimynona
    ytimynona

    Some of those dishes look delicious even to me, the pickiest eater in the world!!!
    The mint chocolate dessert especially caught my eye!!!

    How long do you spend at each restaurant, Joe? (I can imagine that lunch taking 3 hours for someone to truly appreciate!!!)

    Laz
    Laz

    I love edamame but that was a bit… weird… I enjoy it with salt, but don’t poison a plate of minty chocolately goodness with it just because it’s green!

    Randomness
    Randomness

    People were commenting on the *Youngness* of your diner companions? Wow.. thats pretty strange, it’s not as if who you eat with has anything to do with them.

    Besides some people can like older or younger than what they look grin

    Narelle from Aus

    For the Love of Beckett – A hard letter to write for your Dad. It’s good to know you guys are there to support him.

    Here’s our lantern we released on the night of the full moon.
    http://www.twitpic.com/rmlx0
    Koh Samui was deserted that night as everyone was off at the Full Moon party on the nearby island of Koh Tao.
    We sat on sad rock and just watched it until it disappeared from view. It’s a beautiful sight to look around the coast of the island and see lanterns lifting to the air everywhere.

    Mel
    Mel

    Ok, I seriously want to eat that first dessert! Wow! And the mint dessert as well! Yum. Thanks for sharing.

    Shiningwit
    Shiningwit

    Tonight’s dinner….sorry, blog, was delicious…………I mean awesomely informative…..and yummmy:)

    dasndanger
    dasndanger

    Joe – I just couldn’t stand it – tonight I picked up some Fourme d’Ambert cheese…and pears. grin

    We’re just kind of picking at fruit, cheese, and bread/crackers for dinner, watching Cadfael. The Fourme d’Ambert is delicious – I’ve had several different blues, but I think this is the first time for this one.

    Now…if only I could get a piece of that venison… smile

    das

    Tammy Dixon
    Tammy Dixon

    Narelle: The lantern, great idea. So sad.

    T

    Ponytail
    Ponytail

    They can cut my meat. I wouldn’t mind if they fed it to me too. It is amazing how many different and beautiful ways they think of to present the food. I am in awe.