Two Michelin stars, no. 16 on S. Pellegrino’s 2016 list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, endless raves on TripAdvisor and Tablog… the list of accolades goes on. It seemed only fitting to choose L’Effervescence as a spot for celebrating my 31st birthday this weekend. The place is tucked away in the residential area of Azabu Jaban, although it was certainly not difficult to find. We were warmly welcomed and seated facing the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Japanese garden and its beautifully illuminated maple and bamboo trees. Minimalistic sleek décor, charcoal and black colors that fill the space and white table cloths add elegance and the sense of formality to the ambiance, although friendly and highly trained servers make you feel totally relaxed. L’Effervescence is helmed by the Chef Shinobu Namae who expertly marries French cooking techniques with Japanese traditions of handling premium local ingredients to create a truly remarkable modern cuisine.
Zac, the charismatic Maitre d’hotel with a charming French accent, instantly made us feel at home and took good care of us through the night passionately explaining each dish and the concept behind it. The restaurant offers only one tasting menu during dinnertime – An Unexpected & Beautiful Encounter – 12 courses or so of beautifully plated dishes that impress the eye and excite the taste buds. Poetic names of each dish are evocative and prompt to look at food as an edible art form, something to marvel and cherish with each bite. The dinner started with a welcome drink: a unique fusion of Japanese sake and white wine served in a decadent gold sake cup. As a complimentary light starter we were served two types of black olives – plain and the ones infused with cherry tree wood which gave it a subtle almond flavor. As it would fit the occasion (and the name of the restaurant!), we continued the night with a couple of glasses of champagne as well as the wine pairing for Mr. B.. Sadly we were told there is no drink menu and only offered an option of Champagne and full wine pairing, although I am certain there are other options including juice pairing which I wish I had known before. I never thought anything could substitute butter for me, but L’Effervescence made me seriously reconsider my position. A light spread of house-made sour-cream, silky tofu and olive oil paired with warm wheat bread was absolutely divine. Something that kept me coming for seconds. And thirds and many more throughout the night. Amouse bouche duo included refreshing liquid nitrogen gazpacho on the right, and quite multi-layered “shot” of horse mackerel, cucumber and sugar pea on the left. The latter maintained a beautiful balance of tastes and textures and excited our palate for the upcoming treats. Just like the apple pie #23 – it was inevitable to think of my childhood favorite McDonald’s pie as soon as I saw our appetizer. Number 23 corresponded to the number of recipes developed by the chef to this date, and it was accompanied with a personal message from him encouraging his diners, who are in constant pursuit of efficiency, to take time and appreciate handmade crafts created with passion and love. Not only did the pie carry a beautiful symbolic meaning, but it was absolutely delicious – rich, buttery and perfectly flakey with a flavorful filling of boar meat, cherry leaf and celeriac. I wish I could have had at least 10 more of these… Higher – incredibly fresh and lean bonito sashimi infused with seaweed for added saltiness was bedded on a shiso leaf and flower creating an impression of an island. On the side, turban shell and black garlic emulsion provided a delectable accompaniment to the fish. A Fixed Point – the signature dish of Namae-san which stays on the menu year-round. The preparation remains the same, but the conditions of the growing season impact its flavor, making it sweet in winter and spicier during the warmer months. This beautiful Tokyo turnip is cooked at very low temperature for four hours which allows maintaining its firmness, while also making the vegetable very succulent. It is then seared with butter to enhance it with color and flavor. The turnip was spicy and vibrant. It paired really well with a light parsley sauce dashed through with Basque ham for just the right hint of salt. Brioche crumbs created a nice contrasting texture. I genuinely salute the chef for taking such a seemingly simple ingredient and turning it into something spectacular. Sunny Spot – grilled tilefish came with a light but filling side of bamboo puree, sautéed Gassan-dake (type of seasonal bamboo shoots), Savoy cabbage, and a tasty twist of sancho leaf and fish scales. The fish was cooked so well, with moist flesh flaking apart perfectly. The beautiful char on its skin enriched the fish with scrumptious smoky flavor. Typically, vegetables on the side are not particularly noteworthy, although Namae-san somehow manages to elevate local seasonal produce to whole a new level and make them shine as bright as the protein. I will remember those bamboo shoots for a very long time. Mountain Breeze – conceptually sophisticated dish brings together sea and land on one plate. Deep fried firefly squid, which is a rare seasonal delicacy, was undoubtedly the highlight of the course, with a burst of subtle yet noticeable umami flavor in the palate. It was balanced by the bitterness from seasonal mountain vegetables, micro tomatoes and sour cream. The entire dish was brought together by a delectable light consommé flavored with clam and leek which further increased the depth of flavor of the ingredients. Comfort Zone – Before we moved onto our meat dish, we were served delightfully warm egg custard chawanmushi (very typical Japanese dish) with pheasant and shijimi consommé, plus a bit of salted pickled plum puree on the spoon. I wish we had more of the latter as it elevated the otherwise typical dish to a completely new level. Before the main meat course was served Zac brought out an impressible collection of knives and gave us a choice to choose our own. Begins from South – Pork sirloin roasted on open fire was beautifully garnished with colza flower, morel vegetables and mushroom puree, and further complimented with pungent Okinawa mugworth sauce. Sadly we found the meat a bit chewy, although it was still incredibly flavorful and quite juicy, so I enjoyed it nevertheless. East & West – we were given a choice between a cheese platter or a salad. While Mr. B immediately opted for cheese, Zac encouraged me to try their signature salad which consists of 43 ingredients! I won’t lie it was unusual to eat salad as a final savory course leading up to dessert, but this vibrant plate of fresh local produce awash with color hit the spot with its tart mikan vinegar dressing that made your palate go zing. Before moving to the elaborate desserts the thoughtful staff of L’Effervescence surprised me with a beautiful congratulatory platter! What a lovely treat! Green Mountain – was a play on traditional Mont Blanc was an absolute delight to savor with multiple components, flavors and textures forming a harmonious mélange. A broad bean cream and decadent wild mulberry preserve was paired with Tonka bean ice-cream. The texture was enhanced by those delightful mini-meringues which were liberally sprinkled on the plate. Nostalgia – consisted of loquat and seed manger, brown sugar ice cream and kuromame covered in amazake foam with an amazing almond flavor. The culminating denouement for this sumptuous meal was a platter of whimsical mignardises (including oh-so-lovely sesame macarons, pop-candy popsicles, airy white chocolate and mini yuzu choux) followed by a short tea ceremony. I was a bit mesmerized, hypnotized even, as I watched Zac whisk the verdant green powder into a mug of frothy matcha tea with precision and care. It was a quiet moment to ponder on the amazing flavors we savored and beautiful moments we experienced that night. At the end of the dinner Namae-san himself approached our table for a short chat. I was beyond excited and incredibly shy, so much so that I only managed to utter words of gratitude for an unforgettable dinner. I will have to save my myriads of questions for the next visit, when, hopefully, I am more courageous. Although Zac surprised me even further and offered to take me to the kitchen downstairs for a unique sneak peek of behind the scenes action. I met the incredible team which makes this culinary magic happen on a daily basis. I have been following L’Effervescence on Instagram for a while now and always had an impression that it was like a small family. After meeting them all my thought has only been reinforced. After having an opportunity to meet everyone that night I am convinced that effervescence refers to nothing else but the enthusiasm, love and vivacity that this group of talented chefs puts into their work every single day providing truly remarkable epicurean experience for their guests. What a beautiful and unexpected encounter it was indeed. Cannot wait to come back!
Address: Address: 2 Chome-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo 106-0031
Reservation is a must. I had to reserve a table two months in advance.
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post (like any other post on this blog) and all opinions are my own.
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What a fabulous birthday meal! A well-deserved treat for a lovely lady!
What a sweet thing to say, Angie, thanks!! :) The food was truly outstanding.
Ohhh, this really sounds like an incredible way to celebrate your birthday!! The presentation is so so impressive, and I love the touch of choosing your own knife.
Thanks Marcella, everything was truly memorable. :)
Wow! What an incredible birthday meal Nano and so nice that they surprised you with the platter and meeting the team at the end! And 43 ingredients in one salad sounds like the fanciest salad ever!
Thanks Shikha, it was such a remarkable night. And yes, they had to provide a separate list of all the ingredients in the salad, it was so complex :)