Delicate, exquisitely flavoured and often complex, Japanese cuisine is a gourmand’s paradise. Here are five of the top eating spots around Japan.
1. L’ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Tokyo) is the Japanese outpost of what is fast becoming one of the sexiest up-market food brands. Red and black dominate this long, skinny restaurant, and counter seats overlook a clean and busy kitchen. Robuchon has placed his Tokyo branch in the very capable hands of chef Ryuta Iizuka. The menu is akin to a tapas bar in that diners can choose to graze on a number of small plates. And, most delightfully, the dishes have roots in French, Italian, Spanish and even American cuisine. If it is your first time, we recommend splurging on the Menu Decouverte, or ‘discovery menu’. But if you want a less substantial menu, order some of the small items. The gelee of hommard (lobster jelly) with sea urchin covered with cauliflower cream is one of Robuchon’s signature dishes.
2F Roppongi Hills Hillside
2. RESTAURANT DE JOEL ROBUCHON
Built according to architectural traditions of the 18th century, Joel Robuchon’s Chateau Restaurant is the epitome of French elegance in Tokyo. Up on the second floor, guests can sample Robuchon signatures, such as the famous caviar jelly with cauliflower cream, on top of other sublime creations that bear accents of Japanese influences, such as the dessert of crisp and tender chocolate on a bed of candied apricot marmalade with yuzu (Japanese citrus) ice cream. Both set and a la carte menus are available at lunch and dinner.
2F Yebisu Garden Place
Conceived by the Shiseido Corporation in 1973 to bring fine French dining to Japan, L’Osier is named in honour of the famous willow trees that lined Ginza’s streets in the late 19th century. Chef Bruno Menard and his staff of 45 pamper their 40 or so customers every day with excellent service and superb neo-classic cuisine that combines classic French cooking with modern ingredients. Ossetra caviar is cunningly paired with Hokkaido uni (sea urchin) and the Mount Fuji lake trout is served with a delectable macadamia nut hummus.
4. ROAN KIKUNOI
Roan Kikunoi is where the real gourmands go for the best of Kyoto kaiseki cuisine today. At this internationally acclaimed temple to good food, without the pomp and ceremony of truly traditional kaiseki dining, celebrity chef Yoshihiro Murata creates edible works of art with the freshest seasonal ingredients and the most painstaking attention to detail. Sit at the restaurant’s startlingly minimalist but elegantly appointed 10-seater bar counter and watch the chefs perform culinary magic. The tuna belly sashimi with egg yolk dipping sauce is a revelation.
5. THE WHITE FOX
It seems that the fluffy Shinto messengers of the god of wine and food brought many good things to the historic town of Oji. Those would include British chef Trevor Blythe, who brims with experience from the kitchens of Europe, a friendly little 20-seat space, and a drinks list of the “seasonal, special and the unusual” that include rare sake and Indonesian civet coffee. The a la carte menus are brief but refreshing in simplicity and fine execution. At lunch, sample the marinated salmon donburi with avocado, ikura (salmon roe), bannonegi (chives) and quail’s eggs. Dinner serves up a selection of tapas and otsumami (snacks to accompany beer) like a carpaccio of foie gras, aloe vera, white raisins and brioche crumble.
2F Kouei Ekimae Building