Five years of being together and three years of marriage… we thought the date was worthy of a luxurious dinner in the culinary temple of French haute cuisine – three Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon Restaurant. The magnificent chateau stands like a statement piece in-between skyscrapers of Ebisu and oozes elegance and glamour inside and out. Once inside, a French speaking host escorts you up a marble staircase to the main dining hall which strikes with its royal opulence and formality – crystal chandeliers, mirrors gilded with Swarovski gems, champaign gold draped curtains and black tablecloths. The place hums along almost like an enchanted castle, where drinks magically refill, silverware appear, and plates are cleared at just the right time. The atmosphere is formal but certainly not stuffy. “There is no such thing as the perfect meal. You can always do better.” – Joel Robuchon has always strived for perfection which brought him enormous success, numerous accolades, Michelin stars and the title of the Chef of the Century. Our decision was firmly set in advance, tonight we wanted to try only crème de la crème of Robuchon’s cuisine – multi-course, somewhat over-the-top Spring Menu Degustation. Our waiter informed us that it was inspired by a traditional Japanese kaiseki dinner emphasizing the beauty of ingredients and highlighting natural flavors with a sophisticated French twist. The elaborate feast started moments after we made ourselves comfortable in plush, velvet armchairs. The epic bread cart was wheeled out by our table. Fresh and intricately made loaves, buns, and baguettes of all shapes and sizes baked in-house made my head spin a little. The waiter also shaved perfect, circular slivers of butter, and served it to us along with some extra virgin olive oil to enjoy with our delicious bread selections. This enticement was recurrent throughout the night, when a friendly and attentive waiter would make sure to roll the cart back to the table every time we’d empty our bread plate. Temptation was real and making a choice seemed almost impossible, especially considering we had multi-course dinner ahead of us. But hey, YOLO! It was not the time or place to worry about the waistline. I ended up sampling classic baguette, tomato and olive bread, seaweed bread, squid ink bun, cheese and ham croissants, and delightful buttery roll. They were all incredibly enjoyable. To whet our appetite even further a plate of amuse-bouche arrived, courtesy of the restaurant: freshly toasted waffles with langoustines and cheese were flavorful and soul-warming bites and set the tone for an amazing dinner ahead of us. Our appetizer was a masterpiece to look at (although this comment might as well apply to all courses): simple Hokkaido crab salad topped with a layer of caviar and served with crustacean jelly, cauliflower and parsley cream. The mélange of sweet and umami flavors was just beautiful. I made sure to savor every bite slowly to prolong the pleasure of all the amazing flavors from these top-notch ingredients. The following courses were served in series of three dishes plated together and presented in the most refined and elegant way, just like a traditional kaiseki dinner. First course included a selection of cold dishes. Tasty cannelloni stuffed with king crab and avocado was expertly paired with citrus and vanilla sauces that were artfully dabbed onto the dish. Flavors were well-balanced with a hint of spice and very smooth texture. Beetroot and apple tartare topped with green mustard sorbet. The latter was a revelation and I simply couldn’t have enough of its super refreshing pungent flavor. Candied cherry tomato stuffed with gazpacho (!) and served on tomato jelly with extra virgin olive oil. We were instructed to eat this dish in one bite. Wow! The symphony of flavors set fireworks in my palate and had my taste buds dance excitedly. What a combination of sweet and zesty flavors. This one was definitely one of the winners of the night and was categorized by J as one of the best courses he has ever eaten. Thankfully the meals were well-paced and we had enough time to ponder upon the flavors we just devoured as well as nibble on that delightful bread. As a second course we received a duo of vegetable dishes. Organic spelt wheat cooked like a risotto with incredibly flavorful the true morels (as I later learned, a type of mushrooms). I was impressed how closely the spelt wheat resembled risotto and how beautifully it was cooked. It was delicious savory dish. Green peas were served with almond velouté and onion coulis. I particularly loved the use of fresh peas which were so sweet and tasty.
Third course was a feast for senses. Not only was it beautifully presented, but as soon as it was served I was smitten by the intoxicating aroma of fresh curry and coffee! Deep fried artichokes were paired with a chickpea and turmeric emulsion, or foamy cappuccino as they also called it. What brought the dish together was the presence of fragrant spices (turmeric), and the emulsion had such a nice velvety texture. We also tried ravioli stuffed with Dublin Bay prawn and sprinkled with grated truffles. It was accompanied by one of the most delectable cooked cabbage I have ever tried! The ravioli was a bit of a lackluster though, it felt too chunky and the prawn was a bit overdone. As a third component of the dish we devoured creamy sea urchin bedded on Robuchon’s signature oh-so-amazing mashed potatoes. Only this time it had a bit of a twist to it having been scented with ground coffee! Sadly it seemed like uni was overpowered by the rich and buttery mashed potatoes, although J disagreed. At this point we were already rolling our eyes and patting our food babies. However, the dinner was just starting! In about 15 minutes a succession of another three courses arrived. Pan-seared sea bass garnished with baby spinach was served in a scrumptious savory wine sauce which had a hint of ginger. The fish was cooked beautifully with crispy skin and flaky juicy flesh. Asparagus cooked two ways – sautéed and boiled – was accompanied with garlic miso sauce. While asparagus was cooked to perfection I found the sauce to be too bitter for me, although J devoured it with great pleasure. Last but not least, it was time for the main course which was definitely a pinnacle of our epicurean experience. At first, a mini stove with copper pan was rolled to our table and let hit up for a bit. Afterwards we were presented with a wooden box in which a roll of roasted beef and foie gras was contained with herbs and some sort of smoking ash (?)to enrich the meat with flavor. It was then cut into thick slices and seared on the pan – literally one second. It took them more time to set it all up then actually use it. I guess it is all part of the show. It was certainly a spectacular dish with beautifully cooked beef which paired so well with scrumptious foie gras, while the acidity from the wine sauce completed the bite with necessary depth of flavor. Soufflé potatoes on a side were equally delightful. The course truly demonstrated a lot of French finesse and sophistication. They also served us house-made potato chips which seemed a bit redundant at that point. Thus, the parade of savory courses came to an end. Dress felt significantly tighter. Although we were still secretly eyeing the epic dessert carts. But first, cheese! We had a visually mind-blowing selection of imported cheeses from France. I opted for hard cheeses with subtle flavor, while J chose for strong (or what how I like to refer to them – stinky) cheeses. Honestly, I was not thrilled by any of these unlike the cheese selection we had at Dominique Buchet Tokyo. Or maybe I was just too eager to move to the sweet stuff?! First up, a trio of three desserts. Raspberry mousse, lychee and pear sorbet, champagne geleé – it was light as air yet packed so much flavor it kept me coming for seconds. Millefeuille of mango with a passion fruit mousseline and a slightly salted caramel was equally delightful as much as it was stunning to look at. Lastly, passion fruit, rum granite and coconut foam packed a punch from citrus flavor and had nice texture from the shaved coconuts. The entire dessert was an intricate mixture of smooth and crunchy, along with the combination of sweet and sour. Next up, piece de resistance #1 was promptly rolled up to the table – the dessert cart of cakes and ice-cream. The sugar feast continued with piece de resistance #2 – the dessert cart of petite fours. I think I enjoyed petite fours more than the cakes. However overall, while everything was tasty, the selection off the carts didn’t wow me in comparison to the savory courses or main desserts. But then, I might have been just *a little* too full to adequately assess anything at that point. We were pleasantly surprised by the staff who presented us a congratulatory sweet piece from the restaurant. They even took our photo, printed and framed it for us to take home. On the way out, they also gave us an Easter cake as a farewell gift.
The night was simply impeccable. It might have been one of the most sumptuous, elegant and delectable dinners I have ever experienced with the menu designed to sate even the most decadent of diners. It was certainly worth the splurge and will remain as one of the most memorable epicurean adventures in Tokyo. Happy Anniversary to us! Here’s to many, many more years together. :)
Address: Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-1, Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0062
Phone: 03-5424-1347 (Hours 10:00 to 22:00), advanced reservation needed.
Which has been your most memorable fine dining experience? What is your favorite French food?