Tokyo: The Michelin Stars

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Michelin stars don’t always mean a fancy experience. The buttery (often aged-for-tenderness) fish we enjoyed at Sushi Saito—which has three Michelin stars—was served up in quick succession in an austere room. You could be paying the check in less than an hour. But the two-star Édition Koji Shimomura and one-star à nu retrouvez-vous deliver the traditional white-linen experience. Both Chef Koji Shimomura and Chef Shohei Shimono, respectively, trained in high-end French restaurants, and each brings a personal approach to the cuisine by using Japanese ingredients and honoring local taste preferences, but—as you’ll find—their interpretations are distinctly unique.

The beginning and the end at Édition Koji Shimomura: an amuse bouche of tomato and cheese crackers, and dessert of chocolate ganache with olive oil and sea salt (and black olive)—an intriguing sweet and salty contrast.

Sea urchin in glassware that mimics its shell in nature; this was outstanding—a wonderful pairing with beet gelatin and carrot purée.

Chicken pâté with beet jelly, fig, edamame, caperberry, peppercorn, persimmon, celery root purée, hazelnut powder, and mandarin olive oil. Chef Shimomura specializes in finding creative alternatives to the omnipresent butter and cream in French dishes, which Japanese diners can sometimes find too heavy. Pâté is not typically one of my go-to dishes, but the lightness (he says from not packing the pâté in salt) and the combination of flavors made this one of my favorites here.

Foie gras (or, alternatively, scallops) with Japanese mushrooms and an excellent spike of chorizo in artichoke purée (in lieu of cream sauce) was fantastic.

(Top) Chef Shimomura’s signature dish of John Dory wrapped in crispy kadaif (traditional Arab cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup and then finely shredded) over broccoli sauce and lemon jam. (Bottom) For my sister-in-law and brother who have eaten the John Dory before, blowfish with shrimp, mussels, fennel, and tomato jam.

(Pictured at top) The final savory dish was venison two ways with radishes, beets, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Later in the week we made our way to à nu retrouvez-vous, where the food is decidedly more classic French and uses some elements of offal, or organ meats.

(Top left) One of the best starters I’ve had in a while: tempura Hen of the Woods mushrooms with a spice mix you apply and shake in a bag. (Bottom) Hokkaido crab, white truffle, cauliflower, fennel oil, and vinegar foam on a “seabed” (it’s confirmed: the Japanese excel at presentation). (Top right) A chilled dish of abalone, crisp vegetables, caviar, and prosciutto gelée.

Beyond comfort food: oyster in a mushroom broth with spelt, bacon foam, and shaved Italian white truffles. This was probably one of the few dishes that recalled our meal at Taillevent, where Chef Shimono trained, showing how far he’s come in developing his own style.

(Top) Here comes the offal. Deep fried shirako—milt, or sperm sacs, of cod—with daikon radish and red vinegar, garnished with chives and cheese. The shirako itself wasn’t bad, but I found the daikon and vinegar flavor quite strong. (Center) Pheasant soup that contains offal, including bones, in its purée. This was a bit gamey for my taste. (Bottom) Monkfish with spinach in a tomato-caper sauce.

(Left) I thought it was interesting how both chefs had a similar presentation for their final savory dish. Though instead of venison, Chef Shimono serves baby wild boar two ways with stewed cabbage, gobo (burdock root), cauliflower, and daikon. (Right) Warm seasonal chestnut with ice cream.

Other Tokyo posts:
Tokyo: The Sushi Experience
Tokyo: The Modern Classic
Tokyo: The Casual

Jan. 15 2013 |
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