Friday, April 19, 2013

Memories of an amazing dinner by Chef Daniel Boulud at the Park Hyatt Tokyo


Today’s blog entry was supposed to be about something else.

But I’d returned from a very enjoyable dinner at the home of a senior diplomat of a Western embassy last night.

And, perhaps it was because of the delicious home-cooked dinner that his wife had so kindly made; but there I was awake at 3 AM and completely unable to sleep.

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So I was up at 3 AM doing research and planning my upcoming trips to France, Spain, South Africa and Tanzania.

Very excited for all my trips, by the way. In Paris, I'm going to meet and talk to some famous chefs, while Spain is going to be a big road trip. South Africa -- still deciding on which area to visit, but I know I'm going for sure.

Meanwhile in Tanzania, we're going on some of the most amazing safari experiences in the world. More on all of these later.

DISCOVERING THE JOYS OF TWITTER

I was also on Twitter, while I was planning all these trips, putting out random thoughts here and there.

This was when a Tweet from the great New York-based Chef Daniel Boulud appeared on my Twitter home page.

So I tweeted back something like: “I still remember a fantastic dinner you created at the Park Hyatt Tokyo many years ago.”

And this began a semi-conversation between myself, the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Daniel Boulud over the last few hours about this pretty landmark event in the 1990s. We reminisced about the wonderful times of the 1990s, and Chef Daniel's visit to Tokyo.

THE INTERNET HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING

Good food, fine dining, celebrity chefs and fantastic gourmet events are pretty much the norm these days, and accessible to everyone via the media and the Internet.



The Internet and the popularity of world’s best lists and rankings in the last decade have pretty much made going to the world’s best restaurants a sport among many people with time, interest and cash.

But there was a time when fine food was basically the domain of people who truly loved food, without the glamour of rankings or the easy access of the Internet.

A GLITTERING EVENING



It was at this time that Daniel Boulud came to Tokyo and created a most amazing multi-course dinner at the Park Hyatt Tokyo for a ballroom of Japan’s elite.

What a glittering evening this was, and what an amazing dinner he’d created.

I still have a photo of myself with Daniel Boulud from this evening. This evening was also amazing in another way.

THE PERFECT COMBINATION

To the left of this corridor
was one of my favorite places for dinner.
Tables for two in a very quiet atmosphere
that always reminded me of being on the Orient-Express.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo was then the most talked about hotel in the world because it singlehandedly changed the hotel landscape with its revolutionary design and way of doing things. It was the world’s first ultra-modern, ultra-stylish hotel – and it was also the world’s first Park Hyatt.

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So many milestones in my life have been celebrated at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Chef Daniel was (and still is, of course) one of the world’s great chefs, so it was a landmark pairing of a great hotel and a great chef for a fabulous dinner in the ballroom.

Photo with Chef Daniel.
I initially thought this was a photo from that Park Hyatt Tokyo dinner.
Then I realized this was taken during a visit to his New York restaurant
about 10 or 11 years ago.

THE HYATT DREAM TEAM

The Park Hyatt Tokyo has many memories for me as I saw it from its inception.

This amazing hotel was opened by the legendary Hyatt dream team of David Udell and Ernesto de Lima -- two gentlemen I know well, but with whom I'm pretty bad at keeping in touch with. Perhaps I'll send them both an email this weekend... 

Anyway, I still remember vividly two conversations I had with them while the hotel was still under construction.

THE MOST FAMOUS RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD



One late afternoon, I’d donned a hard hat and rubber boots, and AGM Ernesto de Lima (who was #2 in this Hyatt Dream Team) and I sat on a counter in the very empty and messy New York Grill.

He’d described his plans for the restaurant in detail and he’d said to me then: “One day, this is going to be the most famous restaurant in the world.

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It certainly became that. Everyone who was anyone in the world went to New York Grill for dinner when they came to Tokyo.

For a time, it was the most fashionable, exciting and chic restaurant in the world. For a very long time, there really was nothing like it.

MIXING OIL AND WATER



Then David Udell, who is now the big boss of Hyatt worldwide but who was then GM, said to me: “Some people are saying that putting a hotel like Park Hyatt in a place like Shinjuku is like trying to mix oil and water. But we’re going to make oil and water mix.”

How true that was. I could not imagine why a luxury hotel was going up in this far-off and nondescript area of Shinjuku.

But when the hotel opened, everyone trooped here from all corners of Tokyo and also from all corners of the globe, and the question of the Shinjuku location became a non-issue.

The hotel and its restaurants were packed every single day, and being able to get a table at short notice was a big bragging right among people in Tokyo.

MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THESE

How nice how so many memories of Tokyo in the 1990s just came back to me from a simple Tweet by Chef Daniel.

And how serendipitous that I’m headed for Tokyo this afternoon, on another journey in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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