It probably comes to no surprise that for our first Christmas dinner in Tokyo Mr. B and I chose to dine at one of Joël Robuchon’s restaurants housed in his magnificent chateau. Titled as “Chef of the Century” and the mastermind of French haute cuisine, Joël Robuchon is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the world, having been awarded more Michelin stars (currently total of 25!) than any other of his contemporaries.
Tokyo is absolutely pampered by Robuchon’s presence with three restaurants, a private salon, a bar, a café, three patisseries and a boulangerie spread around the city. His most spectacular venue is certainly Chateau de Joël Robuchon which compliments Yebisu Garden Place with its grandeur. Mr. B and I absolutely love Joël Robuchon’s food. He puts great effort in designing each dish, creating unique flavor combinations that will delight you, surprise you, and most certainly make you wish you had more. Having previously dined at L’Atelier in Las Vegas, we opted to try something new from the Chef’s repertoire and made reservation at his two starred La Table for our festive celebratory date night. Coincidentally, I was informed that the restaurant offered only special prix fix Christmas Menu De Noël from 22nd through 25th of December and it was expected to last two hours. We were pleasantly surprised and utterly intrigued. The restaurant is located on the first floor of the Chateau with an entrance from the west wing. Beautiful Christmas tree decorated the hallway. Walk into the salon through frosted double doors and find yourself immersed into the world of lavender. The color fills the elegant space with matching draperies and the huge crystal chandelier adorns the room; flower centerpieces serve as beautiful accents to the interior while black tablecloths and black leather chairs and banquettes add boldness to the décor. The atmosphere is elegant yet casual and relaxed without extra ceremony and fuss. As the servers frantically waltz around the room, you hear vibrant conversations, clacking of silverware and endless camera shutter sounds – probably the biggest compliment to a chef nowadays. I was relieved, taking photos for the blog definitely would not look awkward! As we were seated the waiter brought our menus and took orders for the drinks. Afterwards we were served an extra virgin olive oil to enjoy with a freshly baked piece of baguette.
Right as we said Christmas cheers and savored our first glass of wine our feast started rolling out. Menu De Noël consisted of six beautifully executed, thoughtfully orchestrated and well-portioned courses.
Le Homard I was literally smitten by the presentation of our first course – a bit whimsical and vibrant. A succulent piece of chilled lobster was layered on top of shredded bed of lobster meat. The combination was placed in a pink “sea” of fennel cream and beet infused shellfish gelée, while decadent Osetra caviar and a piece of gold crowned the dish. The interesting fact: when tasted individually, the components of the dish were uninspiring. However, when eaten in one bite they created a delicious harmony full of flavor. I savored every bite.
La Galantine De Lapin Rabbit galantine (deboned stuffed meat) was generously stuffed with green olives, green beans and quale eggs. The duck liver mousse served on the side was “enclosed” in a paper thin layer of raspberry gelée to form a classic mélange of flavors – a perfect balance of savory creaminess of liver mousse and fruity sweetness of the jelly. Topped with a piece of gold it created an image of a jewel resting on a plate. I spread the foie on top of a piece of galantine which yielded into a bite with even more complex flavor profile. I am afraid I was a bit underwhelmed by the third component of the dish – a green bean and arugula salad. Although its garnish of what tasted like a miniature cheese grid added a nice crunchy texture.
La Lotte The course that came next reminded me of an image of a galaxy. Mushroom coulis created a larger circle on the plate, sadly more of a visual element than edible one (it was too thin and dried out in a heartbeat). Inside, beautifully roasted round piece of monkfish was wrapped in a scrumptious fatty piece of bacon. Next to it laid a ball of croquette which was perfectly crunchy from the outside and cheesy and creamy from the inside. I could have eaten 5 more of those! Cubes of breaded monkfish liver scattered on the plate packed a lot of umami flavor and worked well with chickpeas which counterbalanced its briny taste. You know what I was excited most about though? That heavenly dollop of mashed potatoes! The mashed potatoes are a signature Joël Robuchon side dish. They are amazingly smooth and buttery with incredibly velvety texture. Ah-mazing!
Le Boeuf As our last savory course was served on the table a whiff of incredibly appetizing aroma excited my senses. We received a perfectly roasted piece of roasted beef served alongside the most interesting vegetable combination: salsify root and braised celeriac in black truffle juice. I have never tasted either of them before, but the latter definitely hit the spot. It was smooth in texture, almost like a potato, with a hint of celery and nutty flavors. The meat was tender, juicy, and ever-so-flavorful. It was well-seasoned and was topped with a dollop of minced horseradish for an added flavor. Although Mr. B was a huge fan of this added element, the combination did not work for me and I chose to enjoy my beef with its unadulterated clean flavors instead. Last but not least, we both devoured the third component of the dish (which was not mentioned on the menu description) – a delectable mushroom quiche in a perfectly baked buttery pie crust. I wish I could recreate it at home. It was absolutely delicious and I saved it for last to enjoy.
At this point we were pleasantly full and ready for a dessert course. Overall, the courses were served with significant intervals, which frankly enabled us to enjoy every dish at a slow pace and then ponder upon it before moving on to the next one.
The first dessert, Le Pomelo, was a bright citrusy wonderland. A ball of yuzu sorbet lay on a bed of beautiful pink pomelo pebbles. A sweet tangerine cream was hiding underneath. The tart and sour flavors where balanced out by the sweetness of the cream, thus creating a refreshing combination and a great palate cleansing dessert.
Le Sphere de Sucre Do I even need to say anything? Seeing this spectacular Christmas-themed piece of art made my heart go all a flutter. It was definitely a crown of the menu. The dazzlingly crimson brown sugar pearl was filled with delightful rosé champagne jelly, delicate and smooth mascarpone mousse and flavorful strawberry sorbet. It was further garnished with slices of fresh strawberries, mint and dots of raspberry sauce. I savored it slowly to prolong my indulgence as long as I could. It was a complex, highly flavored and very imaginative dessert.
We finished the dinner with a cup of coffee (that kept me up till 4 am next morning!) and a plate of cute petit fours. A bite of mini Mont Blanc was particularly memorable and I will definitely be back to patisserie La Boutique de Joël Robuchon to taste the full version of this luscious dessert. Every time Joël Robuchon transforms dinner into the ultimate fine-dining sensory experience and spending the Christmas night under his culinary spell was a great pleasure. Merci Monsieur Robuchon for a truly magical night! Mr. B and I cannot wait to be back to the chateau for a more deluxe experience at his world-famous three-starred restaurant.
LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon
Address: Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-1, Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0062
Phone: 03-5424-1338 (Hours 10:00 to 22:00)