The other night in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, I had dinner with an old foodie friend who left the choice of restaurant to me.
In a previous lifetime, we used to travel together to Paris twice a year just to try new restaurants in Paris and revisit old favourites, taking turns at choosing restaurants each night.
REMEMBERING OUR MEALS AT
THE TOP RESTAURANTS IN PARIS
Over dinner at Les Chanterelles in Tokyo, a Michelin one-star restaurant, we reminisced about some of our favourite meals over the years, interestingly all my choices.
These included a mind-blowing degustation dinner at Guy Savoy in Paris and another nice dinner at Le Meurice when celebrity chef Yannick Alleno was still cooking there.
Also, it's not as highly rated as the other Michelin-starred restaurants of its category, but I really enjoyed our meals at the Ritz Paris before its renovation, when its formal restaurant was still the very same one that Princess Diana shed a few tears in before getting into that ill-fated Mercedes Benz that ran headlong into a wall in the tunnel of the Pont de l'Alma.
A NICE CASUAL RESTAURANT IN TOKYO
Well, the other night, I felt like eating in a casual restaurant in Tokyo that served good food rather than formal food or experimental food, and I wanted to try someplace new as well.
So I looked at the Michelin Guide 2016 and -- what do you know -- one of the French restaurants on its list of one-star restaurants in Tokyo was actually within some walking distance from my home.
A MICHELIN ONE-STAR RESTAURANT
Of course I booked this. I booked this thinking it would be nice to have a Michelin-starred casual restaurant as my kitchen in Tokyo.
I say "some walking distance" as it's not that near, but walking briskly on a cold winter evening, it took me 30 minutes to get there from my home and parking is virtually non-existent in that area of Shibuya so I decided to leave my car at home.
THE MONOCLE STORE
This walk, very pleasant, took me through my neighbourhood shopping street, down the hill from my home, which has lately become very cool since the lifestyle shop Monocle and a handful of great shops and restaurants opened on this street or near it.
This part of Shibuya is not the area that most tourists know. It's got the only 100% residential neighborhood in central Tokyo -- no tall buildings or commercial establishments, and most large houses and low-rise apartments -- but the commercial neighbourhood is just down the hill.
FUGLEN IN SHIBUYA
For instance, Tokyo's best coffee shop is a place called Fuglen, and it's the first overseas branch of a famous Scandinavian coffee shop with a barista who is supposed to be the top barista in the world.
There's always so many people at this shop and I never understood why until I happened to see a show about Fuglen on Japanese TV.
Fuglen has a special original concoction of coffee beans and a special way of roasting and pressing these, and coffee is served in a rather cool atmosphere with Scandinavian cakes.
TOKYO'S BEST TAPAS BAR:
AHIRU IN SHIBUYA
This neighbourhood is also home to Ahiru, labeled as Tokyo's coolest tapas bar. It's forever full and even in the winter there's a long line outside.
LES CHANTERELLES IN TOKYO
Meanwhile, Les Chanterelles is a contemporary restaurant located in a neighbourhood just off Yoyogi Park. I live on the other side of Yoyogi Park but it's a very nice walk over.
The chef and his wife, who acts as maitre'd, are very warm and hospitable, and that makes a big difference to me. At most of my favourite restaurants, the chefs take the time to say hello or goodbye to everyone even for a few seconds, and that certainly makes people feel like returning.
The reviews on Les Chanterelles in Japanese are mostly good, which is why I decided to try it. One Japanese restaurant reviewer actually said: "This is one restaurant I cannot not have in my life."
That sounded like a bit of an overstatement, but I was quite happy to be wowed over.
For a Michelin one-star meal at Les Chanterelles, we chose the middle-range course which had something like six courses, and dessert and coffee were extras.
The meal came up to just over US$100 per person with one glass of wine, and this is just a little pricey for a neighbourhood place.
TABLE SERVICE IN TOKYO
They also charged JYEN 1000 per person for table service, which is not very usual in Tokyo, although the table service was certainly way more attentive than in most other places.
Meanwhile, the dishes were mostly good, and the ones that weren't dishes to write home about were nothing to complain about either.
A DELICIOUS FISH CARPACCIO
AND A MADAGASCAR CHOCOLATE TART
The menu changes daily based on what the chef feels like doing, and that night, the best things for me were the fish carpaccio salad, which was an expertly combined array of flavours and colors, and the dessert composed of a Madagascar chocolate tart with a red wine sauce.
They served way too small a portion for me, but the taste was divine.
FOIE GRAS SOUP
AT LES CHANTERELLES IN TOKYO
There was also a foie gras dish in a soup topped with shaved truffles.
In my opinion, the truffles did nothing to the dish except to add on a couple of thousand yen to the bill, but the broth was tasty and the addition of gobo, a Japanese root crop, made for an interesting combination on just another nice meal in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.
PS: For my last dinner in Tokyo tonight, someone is taking me to dinner at one of my absolute favorite restaurants. Stay tuned for the outcome.