Wednesday, November 9, 2016

L’Effervescence (Tokyo, JAPAN) ★★★★☆

When I first got my ticket to Tokyo two weeks ago, the first thing I did without even booking my hotel was a visit to L’Effervescence's website. We are talking about one of the toughest table to get in Tokyo these days and one that's very high on my to-do list (if not on top). To my pleasant surprise, they still have a time slot open during my 6-day stay in Tokyo and without hesitation, I jumped all over it.

Tucked away in a small alley next to Choukokuji Temple (長谷寺) in Minato-ku, L’Effervescence is a Michelin 2-star restaurant serving innovative French cuisine by owner-chef Shinobu Namae who honed his skills by learning from some of the best in the business including Michel Bras and Heston Blumenthal. Chef Namae's ability to mix European cooking techniques with premium Japanese ingredients has earned him countless national and international accolades. Apart from the two Michelin stars, he also capped off a very successful 2016 by earning a place in both the Asia's Best 50 (16th) and World's Best 50 (95th) restaurant awards.

At lunch, the restaurant offers 3 different set menus, "Through the pathway" (7,000yen), a 4-course set consisting of the chef's most recent hits, "Where the ocean meets the land" (7,000yen), another 4-course set which showcases a mix of seafood and meat courses and last but not least, "A promenade" (10,000yen), a 5-course tasting menu showing off the chef's seasonal creations. "A promenade" was the one we ordered this afternoon.

I love this garden view. Wonder if there's anything the chef grows in the garden that he puts into his food preparation.

Before we were presented with today's menu, first a toast with a bit of Japanese sake and French red wine together. This was a first for me! Thought it's common to have a toast right before a kaiseki meal but first timer for a French meal.

As soon as we finished our toast, our amuse bouche called Awakening was waiting to be served. The first nibble came in a little shot glass with kawahagi (Japanese white fish) tartare and porcini mushroom jelly topped by some sort of chai foam. That was accompanied by some honey and apple flavored liquid nitrogen sorbet and lemon zest. Perfect palate calibrator to start the meal.

Our first course was barracuda fish with pumpkin, dried carrot, green yuzu vinaigrette and neptune spice.

I thought the different colors of dried carrot had really stolen the show here. The texture was pretty interesting and a lot of fun. 

Next up was chef Namae's signature dish, 4-hour cooked Tokyo turnip.

I have had a lot of Japanese turnips in my life but never thought it could be so delicious and juicy. The little bits of basque ham and brioche added something distinctly different in taste and texture to the dish and I like the parsley emulsion for the extra kick.

Chilled edamame soup was served with wild boar jelly, spiny lobster, sea urchin and lemon balm. This looked really good on paper with the refreshing edamame soup nicely matched with the sweetness of spiny lobster and creaminess of sea urchin. I had high expectations for the wild boar jelly too, thinking its strong flavor might just help to bring this dish to another level but I was wrong. To my surprise, the wild boar jelly was actually pretty mild so I was a little disappointed that it did very little, if any, to impact this dish except for throwing in the slightly different texture.

You know what I did enjoy a lot in this soup? The lemon balm. It was a surprisingly wonderful addition to the soup with its mild lemony scent that for a moment, got me thinking mint (leaf).

Meat has yet to feature in this lunch so we were both looking forward to this next dish, which was inspired by the beautiful autumn scenery in Tokyo. This was a tastefully decorated dish with char-grilled pigeon breast, asari clam jus, taro, leek, and chicory playing the role of a fallen leaf.

The aromatic pigeon breast, I thought, was beautifully charred with minimal seasoning while the taro and leek added a lovely freshness that complemented the smokey pigeon pretty nicely.

I've had my fair share of matcha tiramisu over the years but grapes tiramisu? This has to be my first time. Here we have a soft goat milk tiramisu served Kyoho grape, purple sweet potato, marigold leaf and flower as well as sorbet made with Macvin du Jura. The purple dots sprinkled on top the tiramisu was made with the skins of the Kyoho grapes giving it this bitter and sweet flavor. Overall, a perfectly designed and executed dessert.

Immediately following dessert was a glass of homemade peanut milk while we waited for our matcha. This was so good I wish the glass was full!

One of the restaurant managers brought over a trolley and made us some hot green tea right by our table.

That was really nice.

A Japanese inspired petite four wrapped up this highly anticipated meal and finally, I got to cross this one off my list.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: ¥¥¥¥
Address: 2-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan
Closest Metro Station: Omotesando
Tel: +81 3-5766-9500
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 95th (2016)
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 16th (2016)

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