Tuesday, August 28, 2018

La Cime (Osaka, JAPAN) ★★★★☆

La Cime burst onto Osaka's dining scene back in March 2010, a quiet 25-seater in bustling Hommachi district. Chef-owner Yusuke Takada (高田裕介) studied at the Tsuji Culinary Institute and later honed his skills in France where he worked at two Michelin starred Le Taillevent and Le Meurice. Working under world renowned chef Yannick Alleno at Le Meurice proved to be an eye-opening experience for him, an experience which would influence his style of cooking forever. A style that marries French fine dining with the precision of Japanese cooking techniques.

Like most upscale restaurants in Japan, La Cime has a strict children's policy that forbids children under 10 from entering their dining room. That would have been a major show stopper for us but after a nice chat with their service team, they were very accommodating in letting us use their private room this afternoon. 

I was really excited to have my reservation accepted as I could finally get to meet Chef Takada in person but as it turned out, he was already on his way to Hong Kong for a four-hand dinner at Arbor! Looked like I've just narrowly missed him.....

We were first greeted with a trio of small nibbles as our first amuse bouche. Firstly, it was one of chef Takada's signature entrées, his Boudin Dog. Underneath the bamboo charcoal dough was black pudding, an inspiration from the French sausage. This was very light and fluffy with rich flavors coming from the minced meat.

Then, there was the sesame cracker.

They were accompanied by a small crab tartlet with shredded radish on top.

It was followed by a further amuse bouche, a beautifully presented dish with sea urchin and baby clams sitting on a bed of potato purée.

The amuse bouche helped to set the tone for the first course of the surprise menu, another beautifully decorated dish featuring cucumber, green pepper and mackerel.

But the heart and soul of the dish was the housemade "grass" sauce which our server described as a tangy and thick sauce made with a Japanese plant which had very similar flavors as spinach. This sauce really played its role of catalyst superbly, providing some nice grassy notes to the mackerel, diced cucumber, green pepper and edible flowers. A very satisfying dish that really helped to fire up our appetite.

The second dish was lightly seared bonito with crispy beetroot and red onion flavored cheese. This wasn't bad but I thought they could have done a little better job with the bonito. Probably the least successful dish from the meal.

Things got back on the right track in a big way with a lovely deep-fried conger eel served with diced eggplant and leeks. The tasty thin batter was absolutely perfect for the wonderful melt-in-the-mouth conger eel.

Next up was our third fish dish in a roll, pan-fried red snapper served with different kinds of beans and pine nuts.

The little bit of orange peel provided some nice acidity to the fish while the dab of herb purée added distinctive earthy notes to the mix.

Local ingredients play a very important part in Chef Takada's contemporary cuisine and for our meat course, we got the chance to experience a dish prepared with Black Satsuma chicken (黑薩摩雞) from the talented chef's home province, the Kagoshima prefecture.

The chicken breast and leg were both perfectly cooked leaving just a tiny bit of pink in the middle. This was well seasoned and finished brilliantly with a flavorful paprika sauce (red) and creamy garlic foam (white). One interesting part about this dish was the sour dough purée on the side. It felt like having bread with roasted chicken.

Our pre-dessert was a grapefruit themed one. The sorbet was made with grapefruit skin and it was served on top of some grapefruit jelly and compote. Not surprisingly, some nice acidity as well as bitterness (from the skin) were in play.

Our lone dessert was orange and mango paired with orange peel in a light orange caramel sauce. When I said light, it meant really light (Could hardly taste the caramel in there). It was accompanied by a cheesecake in the form of a cream cheese puff.

Mignardises were actually more interesting than the dessert itself. Here we have white chocolate with fruit juice filling, Japanese mochi filled with coffee ice-cream and last but not least, compressed carrot with passion fruit (seeds?) in the middle.

After all these incredible dishes, I could definitely use a cup of tea for better digestion.

It was a pretty satisfying meal right from the start. The dishes were all well executed and service was flawless. My only complaint was perhaps the run of three straight fish dishes which I thought would be better off if they had something like shrimp or scallop sandwiched in between.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: ¥¥¥¥
Address: 3-2-15, Kawaramachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, 541-0048 Japan
Closest Metro Station: Hommachi 
Tel: +81 (0)6 6222-2010
Website: www.la-cime.com
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 17th (2018)

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