Yesterday in Tokyo, living a Travelife, I met up with my friend Y for a long and lazy Friday lunch at a Michelin two-star restaurant in fashionable Omotesando, which I'd never been to before.
It's been raining terribly here and yesterday was the first fine day in a while, so I left the car at home and decided to walk to the station and actually get a train to the next stop as this restaurant is still in my neck of the woods.
In fact, if I hadn't been running late, I would have walked to the restaurant just to burn off some calories before a calorific lunch.
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WHAT A WONDERFUL FIND
I let Y choose the restaurant as she knows my preferences for very good food on the fancy side of things.
This restaurant was excellent.
There are so many Michelin two-star restaurants in Tokyo these days that it's hard to keep track of all of them, but yesterday's restaurant was definitely at the top of the Michelin two-star category.
Before writing about it today, I thought long and hard about giving it publicity, as this will of course make it harder for me to book later on. But this chef and his staff deserve more recognition as the food is really good and the experience excellent, for the prices they charge.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
The restaurant is called L'Embellir, and it's in the district of Omotesando in Tokyo.
I liked it the moment I walked in, as its interiors were refined, contemporary and upscale, but not over the top. Then, even before we were even given a menu, two lovely and delicious plates of amuse bouche were each set in front of us so we could already enjoy a bite or two while deciding on the menu.
The restaurant only offers two set menus at lunch, and it is basically a matter of how much you want to eat. We chose the lesser of two courses simply because I have ten more days of good eating at Michelin-starred restaurants to get through, so I thought I would pace myself yesterday.
How I regretted it later, as everything was so good that I wanted to eat more.
THE RIGHT KIND OF INNOVATION
The style of this restaurant is French contemporary, rather than "innovative," although each dish is so creatively plated with a twist, that it's like a less hard-core version of Les Creations de Narisawa, just a few block down.
There's lots of creativity and a couple of surprises, but nothing you'll not recognise as food.
A MEDLEY OF WONDERFUL TASTES
|This looks like such a simple dessert.|
But it blew my mind away.
Many famous restaurants on the innovative side of things like to shock and awe and think about taste later. I don't mean to say that the taste is bad, but sometimes the taste is just okay and it's the presentation that's the wow factor.
These kinds of restaurants are interesting to visit every so often, but these don't really float my boat.
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In contrast, yesterday's meal was so good.
I found everything very well thought about in conceptualization, and almost perfect in the actual undertaking of the meal.
The "salad" -- or at least what passed for a salad -- was delicious and so beautifully presented, with lots of little side dishes to enjoy each course with, just like in a Michelin three-star restaurant in Europe.
And the fish was perhaps the best I've had in the last four weeks of eating in some of the best restaurants around the world.
Meanwhile, the dessert looked so simple, but it was simply out of this world. It was made of fruit, and I don't usually like fruit desserts at all. But it's a testament to the chef's creative genius that even now, as I write this, I'm dreaming of it.
The weakest link yesterday was the meat dish, which was a combination of beef cheeks and slices of filet on the side.
The filet cut, although good enough, paled in comparison to everything else served yesterday.
And for autumn flavour, the chef served this with mashed pumpkin topped with pieces of bone marrow inside a bone. This was very good.
|This bone marrow was the side dish|
to the beef
EXCELLENT VALUE FOR
A MICHELIN TWO-STAR IN TOKYO
The price, too, was excellent value for what this restaurant offered in Tokyo. It was truly a Michelin two-star lunch for something like US$70 per person, including a bottle of Chateldon in that price.
When it was time to go, the chef was waiting for us by the door, smiling and ever so congenial.
|Chef Kishimoto of L'Embellir.|
Officially now one of my favourite French restaurants
This is a plus factor for me, as sometimes chefs think they don't need to do this goodbye thing when they become famous. I eat in famous restaurants all over the world, and I find that the truly great chefs and great restaurants take the time to give each diner a warm reception or a warm farewell.
You have just plunked a small fortune for a meal, after all.
I was at another two-star restaurant the day before, a Japanese kaiseki, and the chef didn't even show himself at all and the waiters didn't even make up for it with the traditional niceties usual in a Japanese restaurant.
So the food was good but I didn't feel like returning after a pricey meal with such a cold goodbye.
It's not mandatory for chefs to greet customers, of course, but it sure makes a difference to the customer's feeling of satisfaction, even if they don't actually realize it.
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A NICE TOUCH AT THE END
And, in ever so competitive Tokyo, after paying US$70 for lunch, it's a nice touch to see the chef at the end.
At L'Embellir, we were even given these nice boxes of sweets at the end. Clearly, this chef is gunning for three stars and I really hope he gets it.
If this was his US$70 experience, I sure can't wait to see what his full-blown dinner experience is like.
Then I said goodbye to Y and walked back home through Omotesando Avenue, Tokyo's most beautiful street.
While looking at the new fashionable shops in my neck of the woods and trying to burn off some calories in the process, I couldn't stop marvelling at the wonderful meal I had just had, on just another beautiful day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.