Serious foodies around the world are wondering how #covid19 will change the fine dining experience. By now we all have heard about famous restaurants opening hamburger joints or focusing on take-out dishes.
Has COVID-19 killed the art of fine dining? This was the question of many as stories of restaurant closures or transformations made it to the news.
HOPE FOR THE FOODIE WORLD
Well, I’m happy to report that not all is hopeless in the culinary world, even with the pandemic still raging and severe restrictions in place in many countries. In the northern island of Hokkaido in Japan, tourism is alive and hotels and restaurants are operating as normally as realistic.
As of this writing, COVID-19 cases have been few and far between in Hokkaido so most of the island has been able to operate normally, albeit not at full capacity.
ABOUT MOLIERE MONTAIGNE
We ate at Moliere Montaigne, the newest venture of Michelin three star chef Hiroshi Nakamichi. It’s located at the beautiful Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono, a massive complex of sleek lines and sophisticated interiors.
The restaurant felt normal in spite of the fact that all the staff were wearing masks. The arrival process, too, entailed a slight detour. Instead of proceeding direct to our tables, we were escorted to a holding room. Here, we filled up health forms and got our temperatures checked.
As we all registered below 37 degrees, we proceeded to our reserved table in a room with a Scandinavian / Hokkaido vibe. Social distancing was definitely in place here, as several tables were deliberately kept empty.
FINE DINING AMIDST THE PANDEMIC
The masks were the only deviation from what was otherwise a completely normal fine dining experience worthy of Michelin stars. Moliere Montaigne, sister restaurant of the famous Moliere in Sapporo, has just opened with a chef from the mother ship at the helm. The amazing dining experience Chef Nakamichi is known for was intact.
The food was excellent as it has always been. Chef Nakamichi is known for using the best ingredients from around Hokkaido, but in a most original way. His cooking is neither quite Western nor Japanese, although the original Moliere in Sapporo is known as a French restaurant. After receiving three Michelin stars, I believe Chef Nakamichi’s cooking evolved superbly.
We began with an assortment of Instagram-worthy appetisers and then went on to two main courses — both so good that all conversation stopped at the table. To start we each had an entire shellfish covered in a crust of black squid.
The chef then sent us a dish charateristic of Nakamichi: grilled meat — this time juicy pork on bone — arrived, arranged tantalizingly on a bed of fresh tree branches.
He also made the famous cheese with berries dessert of Chef Nakamichi at the end of the evening. I’ve eaten this dessert at the Sapporo restaurant so many times. Seeing this again felt like a sign that normal times are not too far off.
If this is how the post-pandemic future of the world’s best restaurants will be like, I confirm that almost nothing will be lost in the experience — whether in taste or in service.