Yesterday, at the Michelin two-star restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo, living a Travelife, we ordered the Apinac tasting menu. This tasting menu, named after the place where Pierre Gagnaire was born near Avignon in the South of France, is basically a 10-course meal consisting mostly of small and delectable dishes.
It’s almost like the Japanese kaiseki style of serving, if you think about it, as each tiny dish is exquisitely and individually crafted — truly a work of art and a labor of love.
|That’s the pastry chef on the left.
Pierre Gagnaire’s executive chef, Yosuke Akasaka, is on the right…
I haven’t been to France in a while, because of a never-ending Travelife; and even if I eat well and at some of the best restaurants in the world pretty regularly, I didn’t realize how much I missed truly good French food until yesterday.
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There are all kinds of good food; but now that I think about it, I haven’t had a proper French meal in a while. My last truly authentic French meal was at the Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon, also here in Tokyo, sometime in August. And since then, I’ve had lots of very good food, but most of these meals have not been French.
Pierre Gagnaire in Tokyo is located at the ANA InterContinental Hotel in Akasaka.
At Pierre Gagnaire yesterday, the meal we had followed the same elaborate pattern as most two- or three-star Michelin restaurants around the world. Our menu was created by Chef Yosuke Akasaka, who worked for a very long time at a string of Michelin-starred restaurants in France, including of course Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.
We began with a pre-appetizer of beautiful mouthfuls of food, arranged ever so beautifully on a plate.
Then, the restaurant manager Maxime Hotelier, a young man with lots of experience at top restaurants and hotels in France, and his staff, simultaneously brought in five small dishes and arranged these in front of us like an abstract painting. Everything was so picturesque and of course we didn’t know where to start eating.
|Pierre Gagnaire Tokyo restaurant manager Maxime Hotelier|
I asked: “Which should we eat first?”
The answer was simple, it turned out. One of the waiters said: “Start in the middle and work clockwise.”
This is exactly what we did. I especially liked the sizzling sanma fish with red pepper pulp and mizuna leaves, and the sauerkraut salad with pork and seaweed flakes.
|Sizzling sanma flakes|
|Sauerkraut salad with pork and seaweed flakes|
|Japanese crab with wild mushroom fricasee|
Then we had a proper starter of Japanese “taraba” crab meat mixed with a wild mushroom fricassee, autumn fruits and diced mangoes, and then flavored with bouillon of sauternes. It was very tasty indeed, and I liked this dish very much, even if we could not really discern the flavor of sauternes.
|That’s the bouillon being poured onto the crabs and mushroom…|
|Cubed duck roasted with cumin|
For the main dish of the Apinac tasting course, we were served cubes of Challan duck that were roasted with cumin and then served with slices of pan-fried foie gras and a marmalade of cabbage with black olives and amaranth leaves.
To tell you the truth, when I saw this on the menu, I didn’t exactly jump up and down with joy. The idea of cubes of duck meat so did not appeal to me, and I’m not exactly a fan of cumin either.
But very strangely, the combination worked and grew on me, so that at the end of it all, I was basically licking my lips in vain for a last taste of this duck with cumin.
Pierre Gagnaire everywhere is known for the grand desserts.
I remember the last time I was in Hong Kong and having a meal at Pierre Gagnaire, I’d passed up on dessert because my entire trip had just been one Michelin starred-restaurant after another — yes, it was a food trip — and my meal at Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong was the last one before flying. By then, I was feeling as heavy as my luggage and I was literally counting calories by the dozens.
But, then in Hong Kong living a Travelife, I was not allowed to pass up dessert by my host, who simply ordered the grand dessert for me. And, boy, was I glad I had it as it was so enjoyable.
Today, I did no such foolish thing as try to pass up dessert. Of course I was having it — even if it meant walking around Tokyo Tower a hundred times to burn the calories off. And the “collection” that arrived was just wonderful.
To start, we had a pre-dessert of various sweets arranged on a plate. Again, a pretty SOP procedure for the top Michelin starred restaurants.
Then the proper dessert followed: ice cream, a delectable chocolate dessert that the waiter threatened to take away when I oohed and aahed over it, and a very fruity blanc mange with slices of fruit.
|Chocolate being poured over an already very chocolate-y dessert.
Simply wonderful. We were still having tea and already I was thinking about my next trip to Tokyo — whenever that will be — and a possible opportunity to eat once more at Pierre Gagnaire.