Some restaurants in Tokyo require a reservation be made three months in advance.  Others won’t accept reservations until a week before the requested seating.  This year, just to be on the safe side, I forwarded the concierge at The Peninsula my list three months prior to my trip.  When he sent me my finalized schedule about a week before departure, I noted that he had managed to get me a table at all but one of my choices: Quintessence.  Despite the fact that he had called in my reservation request a month in advance as per instructions, I was nevertheless third on the waiting list.  Well, I hate to wait – especially when it comes to eating – so I selected an alternate and didn’t give it another thought…until last week when the concierge informed me that Quintessence had called.  There had been some late cancellations and, as a result, I was in for lunch.

I planned on taking the subway there (really, I did) but got sidetracked uploading photos (What else?) but still managed to leave 45 minutes early.  It was pouring rain (You know that phony-looking movie rain?  Well here in Tokyo it’s for real.) and I caught a cab.  The driver asked me if I wanted to get there quickly.  I told him, uh, sure – at which point he proceeded to merge into traffic, advancing at a snail’s pace, eating up a full thirty minutes of that initial forty-five in bumper to bumper queue.  And then, with fifteen minutes to spare, he paid a toll, got on the expressway, and got me there with ten minutes to spare.  Well, almost there.  He pointed to the place and motored off.  File this fact away for later reference.

I was early and decided to check out a nearby chocolate shop, then walked back to the place he pointed out.  I stepped into the vestibule, stepped up to the glass sliding door and…nothing.  I glanced over at the intercom, then back over at the legend that listed Quintessence as 101.  I tried 101.  Nothing.  101 *.  Nope.  101 #.  Nu unh.  Growing increasingly frustrated, I tried *.  Then #.  Then variations of incomprehensible Japanese characters.  Still nothing.  I was about ready to scale the outside of the building when a guy walked out of the elevator.  Of course, the door slid open for him.  But rather than slipping through and potentially wasting more time looking for the place, I simply asked him: “Quintessence wa doko desu ka?”  As it turned out, it wasn’t even in the building (despite the fact that it was listed as 101).  It was next door.

Just follow the simple instructions. Duh!

By the time I arrived next door, Akemi was already waiting in the vestibule.  They took my coat, then motioned me toward the dining room.  I started forward, then had one of the waiters hold up his hands.  Whoa there, buddy.  I went to sit down.  He muttered something and beckoned me.  I straightened and stepped forward, realized he was ushering me toward the bathroom, told him I was okay, made to head into the dining room, and had him motion me back to the sitting area.  I took a seat.  At which point another server came in and motioned me inside.  This time, I waited for Akemi to go first.  She experienced no trouble so I followed.

We were seated in one of the nifty, glass-walled private dining rooms and presented with the menu.  I flipped it open to reveal a clean white page.  Carte blanche!   The menu is entirely dependent on the day’s fresh produce and the chef’s inspiration.  I was intrigued.  And still somewhat wet.  For her part, Akemi had the foresight to bring along an umbrella – but still complained about the job the weather had done on her hair.

I told her not to worry, that her hair looked great. She wasn't buying it.

Apologies in advance for the proceeding breakdown of our meal.  The French-speaking staff member didn’t really do any of the serving and the staff member who presumably spoke English engaged Akemi throughout with elaborate explanations of the meal in Japanese that she conveyed in significantly more concise translations like “sweet potato” and “with vanilla”.

Sweet potato cake up front and a cappuccino of sweet potato. With vanilla. I found both inventive and wonderful although Akemi wasn't won over even though it was SWEET POTATO! Come on!
This one I know because the Michelin guide lists it as a specialty here: Goat's milk Bavarian cream with salt, olive oil, and sliced macadamia. Mine was magnificent. Akemi found hers a little shoppai (salty). We traded and I thought hers quite good as well although, admittedly, a little more shoppai than mine.
Let's call this one a delicious cake of sorts topped with scallops-but-not-really. The dish was flavored with salt on one side, then sugar on the other, building from salty to sweet (or sweet or salty if you prefer).
The fish of the day. A very good dish but it was the only one that failed to wow me.
Another specialty of the house: the enzyme-fed pork. This one wows on the basis of the preparation method alone. From I gathered of the translation, it contains collagen. The meat is roasted for a minute, then allowed to rest for five, roasted for another minute, then allowed to rest for five. The process is repeated some twenty times, and then the meat is slow-roasted for some three hours before serving.
Dessert! Olive oil and balsamic? Don't let your eyes deceive you. The green is pistachio, the brown dot espresso. Beneath it, a delicious coconut cream. Loved, loved, loved it! Akemi found it chotto nigai (a little bitter).
House special dessert: made-to-order meringue ice cream that is lightly sprayed with sea water to give it a brilliant sweet and savory flavor. This time Akemi and I agreed. We were both blown away.
The brilliant mind behind those inventive dishes: Chef Shuzo Kishida.

After dinner, we took a cab over to Roppongi Hills where we took in a double exhibition at the Mori Museum.  The first was a jewelry exhibition by Van Cleef & Arpels titled “The Spirit of Beauty”.   The second was an exhibition that explored life, death, and the human body through a collection of medical artifacts, art, and the anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.  We had to motor through the latter as Akemi was creeped out by many of the unsettling pieces, but she wasn’t as bothered by the diamonds and sapphires of the other exhibition.

This display was outisde the Hermes boutique. I'm...not sure.

After visiting the Pet Station dog grooming shop (no pugs or frenchies), we went to Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie for my favoritest of favorite desserts: The Bamboo (matcha opera cake).  We each had one and shared the plat de degustation.

The degustation platter. There's my fave, the Bamboo (matcha opera cake) in the foreground.
Akemi is ready to turn in for the night. Not so fast! We've still got dinner reservations!

Hours later, Akemi and I met up again for dinner even though both of us were still kind of stuffed from lunch (and, I’ve got tell ya, I wasn’t that hungry heading out to lunch either).  Our destination on this night: Monnalisa Marunouchi located on the 36th floor of Marunouchi Building.  And, in case you were wondering – Yeah, one hell of a view.

Alas, no menu this time either and I had to rely on Akemi’s translations yet again.

The second Akemi sat down she reached into her purse and pulled out this little baby. I hadn't a clue what it was. Any guesses? That's right. It's a purse holder. You just hook it to the table and hang your purse off it.
To start - an amuse of grilled cheese brioche with black olive and pork. A taste sensation! I couldn't believe the amount of flavor packed into that savory morsel.
A refreshing tomato gelee.
Scallops in champagne sauce with black truffle. Probably my favorite dish of the night. Every part of this dish just came together nicely.
Hmmm. What was this again? Oh, yeah. Crab-stuffed cabbage with caviar. My least favorite dish. The flavor of the cabbage overpowered the swet subtlety of the crab.

Above – Yep, yet again, shirako – served crispy this time.  Holy smokes!  I’ve eaten more sperm in these past ten days than…(insert rest of joke here).

Hirame with fettucine in sea urchin sauce. The fish was perfect and the fettucine and its accompaniments simply sublime.
For Akemi: Pork with gnocci. Akemi loved the gnocci, thought the pork was very good -but preferred the version she'd had for lunch at Quintessence.
This is the look I threw our waiter when he asked us whether we'd like dessert. You kidding?
Passionfruit gratinee with orange ice cream and almond tuile.
Hanging out with Owner/Chef Toru Kawano.
Akemi gifted me these adorable little macarons. They're just too damn cute to eat. I think I'll start with the ears.

Okay, I think I’ve finally hit the wall.  I haven’t been hungry for a day and a half.  I figure that by the time I get back to Vancouver, I won’t have to eat for at least three weeks.

29 thoughts on “December 4, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day #10 – Quintessence, Monnalisa Marunouchi, I hit the wall – and I’ve still got 11 restaurants to go!

  1. Please tell Akemi that her hair looked beautiful! Torrential rain must agree with her.

    I have to agree with Carl, where is the Chili’s 😀 ? I’m not adventurous enough to eat much of those beautiful dishes. I would have to stick with the noodles and various desserts.

    Thank you for sharing your grand culinary adventures but I’m stymied about how you can eat so much! I’m also impressed!!!!

    Another prayer for health coming your way!

    He liked the coat! Christmas is right around the corner.


  2. Hi Joe,

    I’ve had to catch up with a “Joe Mallozzi-Tokyo-Foodie-Marathon” today – I’ve been out of town. Thank you for all the glorious details. After reading all your entries, you’ve finally “hit the wall”. I would have crashed and burned long before this. But all the food looks so fantastic. Hope you survive the rest of the trip. I supposed there is never too much sperm or fugu – but be careful – and enjoy the rest of your adventure.

  3. Hi Joe, it took you this long to hit the wall? Now what? Do you keep going? Most of what you’ve shown us looks fantastic, but I’m still on the “no me jodas” thing with the sperm. Bet you’re missing your doggies, hey?

    @ALL FLORIDA PEOPLE: The Orlando thing has been cancelled again. We will try for next year! Too much going on this month for most of us, so wanted to let you know just in case Sheryl doesn’t.

  4. I was wondering if you would ever get the full spot, thats really why that button came off the coat, hmm, expansion..(insert laughter). Enjoying the photos, and your good time. thanks.
    see, not even using smileys, saving some of the pain of uploading for you.

  5. Ok, so now I read yesterday’s comments and see that Sheryl and Kabra had already let you know 😉 Duh. Have a good night (day?) everybody!

  6. Joe are you wearing elastic pants with a fake belt sewn on? The food looks heavenly. Maybe if you skip a meal you’ll be ready to go again. At least your not sick, just stuffed to the gills. Must be all that fish.

  7. Treadmill time. Gotta burn off those calories so that you get hungry again. Of course, if one is really hungry, even dreck tends to taste good. So to do a proper taste testing I suppose being sated before starting the meal makes sense. Looking forward to the remaining reviews, and happy you managed to make it into one of your primary choices. Do hope you’re enjoying yourself. With the midseason cliffhanger airing tomorrow, you’ll be coming back to all sorts of questions, comments, and rants concerning the progress of Universe. Oh, and that outfit would look great on Gero, not Carl. Might want to see if they have it in his size.

  8. Don’t forget to work out!!!!!! 😉 :p

    I have finally got back into my exercise schedule. I’m becoming addicted to working out again. My body is in pain but it’s a good pain. 🙂

    Got a pretty big placement test for high school. Been studying the whole week. Sometimes I study till like 10. Lol Bout to poop my pants. Really have to pray for this one!!! Still, the grade of the test is not the only thing they look at, so even if I only do average, I might still get in.

    Anyways that was random.

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  9. Hey Joe,

    My mind could never create the wonders you have eaten. It is so amazing. Each so unique and beautiful. All works of art.

    Thank you for the wonderful show-n-tell. *hugs*

    Best to you Joe,
    Cheryl 🙂

  10. Those macarons are adorable – I’ll have to try piping out figures, only ever made the traditional French shape. I’m
    in a Christmas mood, so I’m thinking snowmen and reindeer – thoughts, anyone?

    Food pictures exquisite, can’t wait for the last Universe episode before hiatus….

    Have continuing fun on your trip!

  11. Coucou Joseph!!

    Huumm miammmm!, vous vous êtes encore régalé!
    Alalala c’est super, car depuis que vous êtes parti à Tokyo, il ‘y a pleins de photos de vous et moi j’adore ça 😛

    Il n’ya pas besoin d’avoir faim pour manger de si bonnes choses, moi j’ai presque jamais faim, mais je mange qu’en même juste pour le plaisir 🙂 ….Au contraire je pense que vous allez avoir tout le temps faim à Vancouver car vous aurez perdu l’habitude de manger autant de bonne vhose et votre estomac va vous le faire savoir 😉

    Bonne Journée!
    Gros bisou!



    Sorry but we need to RESCHEDULE our ORLANDO Lunch this Saturday Dec.5. December is just a hard time of year. There’s just too much going on, healthwise, workwise, holidaywise, petwise…

    After the holidays when things settle down and Orlando is a less hectic, would be a better time. Don’t you think?

    I apologize for any inconvenience.
    Thank you.

  13. Above – Yep, yet again, shirako – served crispy this time. Holy smokes! I’ve eaten more sperm in these past ten days than…Jenna Jameson? =)

    Careful Joe, don’t want to get “the gout”!

    Thank you for the virtual tour, yet again. While I do have relatives in Japan (through marriage), I sincerely doubt I’ll ever visit.

  14. Okay, I’m a day late with the remark on Hirosaku …. yum. When I was stationed in Yokosuka, during one of my parents’ many visits, dad decided we were going down to Miyajima. That’s an island near Hiroshima, the one with the majorly recognizable torii gate. We could wander the town in our yukata in the evening, being a resort area, no one minded. We stayed in a traditional ryokan, apparently famous also. Another situation where I wish I’d taken notes. We did dine on our room one evening. Mind you, this is one of those wonderful spacious rooms with tatami floor and lovely screens, where the bedding isn’t rolled out until you are ready to sleep. There was a low table with cushions in the middle of the room. The servers were women in beautiful kimono who brought dish after tiny dish, each one a lovely bit of culinary art. Most of the meal has faded into that general memory, except that’s when I learned what chawanmushi was, and learned to enjoy whelks. They were very pretty whelks! Tasty too.

  15. Two things…

    1. You posted that picture of the display outside the Hermes boutique, and it reminds me of what I saw at the post office yesterday. Right where they traditionally have their Christmas tree, there were shipping boxes on the floor, some with life-sized bady dolls in them, and one doll lying on the floor with its head wrapped in bubble wrap. No one was around the boxes and dolls – they were just… there. I literally gasped – first thinking it was a real baby…then thinking it was the most macabre Christmas display I’ve ever seen!

    In reality, a girl was packaging up the dolls to ship off, but had left to get more packing materials. I must admit to being a little disappointed that it wasn’t some twisted display put on by the USPS. 😛

    2. I think – influenced by this – I had a very sick dream last night. I dreamt that 10 people – all unrelated and from different walks of life – hung themselves…all at once. The bodies, still hanging, were brought to the morgue (where, it seems, I was visiting…or working). There they were left hanging in a row – high off the ground. Well…I wanted to get a picture of them, but was told by the medical examiner to wait…for the party.

    I came back a little later, and in front of the hanging bodies was a banquet table, with all the doctors and medical examiners and assistants eating and having a great time. It was Halloween, so they had dressed all the dead hanged people up in super hero costumes – the one I remember most vividly was Robin’s costume, which was exactly like the one from the cheesy tv show. I also remember Wonder Woman (funny the ones I remember are all DC characters – and I only read Marvel!).

    Well, I still wanted to take my picture, but people kept walking in front of me, blocking my view despite my asking them nicely to get out of the shot. (Frustrating!) JUST when I had a clear shot, a bunch of people (mostly kids) came in and started setting up a buffet dessert table, walking under the bodies to get into another room. I followed them, and got really mad at a bratty little kid who was eating all the desserts before the other people had been ushered into the dessert room…and right in the middle of my ‘we’re not allowed to eat the desserts yet’ rant, I woke up.

    Never found out if I ever got my picture of the dead people hanging in super hero costumes, but I’m pretty sure I wrapped that bratty kid’s head in bubble wrap! 😀

    (I attribute the very disturbing dream to a bad night’s sleep due to yet another nosebleed – I’m now worried that it’s related to my blood pressure or something more serious than just ‘dry air’. I slept like crap last night. 😛 )

    Still…I had to share that – it was just too strange not to!


  16. JimFromJersey wrote: “…eaten more sperm in these past ten days than…Jenna Jameson? =) “



  17. Aha! I think I shall put one of the Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie locations (probably Shinjuku Isetan) on my itinerary later this month. I do for sure want to try that macha opera cake. I actually recall you mentioning it earlier this year and forgot to make a mental note then.

    I have one of those purse hangers, as well. Works wonders in any number of counter-only places in Japan.

  18. Hi Mr M!

    Thanks for the snaps.

    I too would have “hit the wall”, but about a week ago!!

    Enjoy your trip!

    Best from Ireland


  19. JimFromJersey: naughty but funny. Can’t wait to read what the others will fill in the blank with.


  20. That meringue ice cream pic looks like some kind of Alien lifeform or something lol.

    Anyways Episode 10 of SGU today, Syfy sure took their sweet time showing..

  21. still no luck finding cucumber pepsi or green tea coke? it’s must be rarer than hen’s teeth.
    i still like looking at the desserts you post. what does bamboo (matcha opera cake) taste like anyway? lettuce? celery?

  22. I kept looking at the hook for the table and could not figure out what it was. I kept reading then went “ooohh I get it”. I was about to say that it is something that Daniel Jackson will have to research.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.