My last post about our Tokyo trip looked like a food journal, and I couldn’t help it – food is always a big part of my itinerary!
I did skip one restaurant purposely though, because I believe the meal I had here deserves to be highlighted separately. This is the dinner we had in the French restaurant, L’Effervescence.
L’Effervescence is a must dining destination in Tokyo. It is rated No. 12 on San Pellegrino’s list of Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants for 2015.
Literally translating to “liveliness” or “bubbles” from French, L’Effervescence – in terms of its concept – also means “to make things happen,” “to give birth,” and ” to make people gather.” Its chef, Shonbu Namae, brings with him a rich culinary background, including training with Michel Bras in Hokkaido and with The Fat Duck’s Heston Blumenthal – whom he credits for the fun and playful approach to food that L’Effervescence puts on its plates.
Inside, the restaurant is very elegant in a Japanese way. The service is impeccable and the staff are knowledgeable – two things that are very important in my book!
The 11-course tasting menu (which regularly changes) is all about modern French cuisine and European technique that integrates native and seasonal Japanese ingredients in an interesting but delightful manner.
The theme for our meal was “Un souhaite et lumiere” which means “A prayer and the light.”
We started with an Amuse bouche. This little shot glass was filled with layers of corn, basket clams, sea urchin (yes, it was generously loaded with Japanese uni!) and then combined with a mixture of sweet tomatoes and tarragon. The bubbles, found in the foam on top, are a clever link to the restaurant’s “bubbly name” – effervescence! It was surely a good way to whet our appetites.
The second dish was called “From an idea of an apple pie #20.” It comes in a small red box similar to the McDonald’s famous apple pie! The waiter explained to us that this is Chef Namae-san‘s playfulness at work: he wanted his diners to enjoy his food so he created this unique, playful apple pie.
Since he created this dish, he has had several versions already, with each version having a different filling. This is his 20th type of filling, so this is his 20th version of the “apple pie.” Our filling was composed of eel, paprika, and miso. It was a revelation! Meanwhile, the puff pastry was soft inside, crispy and buttery on the outside. This was a case of something simple and familiar turned into something unexpected and delicious!
The next dish was called “Cool of the evening.” This is a fish called Ayu, which was cooked in its clear broth (that was served to us like soup prior to this). The “guts” of the fish were then flavored with “gastric sauce, eggplant, myoga and sansho pepper.” It was a very interesting dish to say the least. One thing’s for sure: it was one delicious, sweet fish I’d never had before.
The next part of the menu was called “A fixed point” because this is one dish that’s always on the menu. Nothing complicated here, but the spotlight was given to a simple vegetable: the turnip.
The turnip was presented simply, sitting on a little bed of brioche, Kintoa Basque ham, and surrounded by parsley emulsion. It was roasted for 4 hours, so the flavor was evident. I am not a big fan of turnips, but this was probably the best and most delicious turnip I’d ever had, so yes, I am now a convert!
The next dish was called “The flame” – rice hay grilled bonito and shishito (green peppers) with morel, shiso sauce, and edible flowers on top. I loved this dish as I’ve always been partial to bonito sashimi. And the combination of the morel, shiso sauce, and flowers made it even more interesting. (Shisho is also known as Japanese basil that belongs to the mint family.)
Next up: “The Mountain.” This was foie gras cooked naturally with plum, tonka beans, lacto-fermented black radish, wild rocket, yarrow leaves, and inokozuchi oil. The foie gras was cut into cubes and possessed a very earthy flavour. This dish, although pretty rich, was quite impressive. I’ve never seen foie gras mixed with these flavors and executed in such a refined, clean way.
After that rich foie gras, we were given a palette cleanser, called “Right and Left Taiwanese Tea.”
The waiter placed this small cup in front of us and told us that it was no ordinary tea. I took a sip and all of a sudden, I couldn’t figure out what was going on inside my mouth. One side of my mouth felt warm and the other side felt cold. Another sip of the tea confirmed the name “Right and Left” – a mind trick after all! This is an homage to the chef’s time with Heston Blumenthal. It is his own take on The Fat Duck’s “Hot and Iced Tea.”
For the final savoury course, we were allowed to pick our own knife with handles made of olive wood. I don’t normally care about the color of my knife’s handle but I must admit, being given the chance to choose my own knife was pretty cool – especially because they were these beautiful Laguiole steak knives!
Up next was the main course, called “Bite.” This is pure-bred pork sirloin called “Nakjin-Agoo,” which was roasted on an open fire, and then laid on a bed of homemade sour cream, gaper clam, cucumber, dandelion leaves, grilled with lardo oil, and seasoned with wild pepper. Yes, a mouthful!
But let me tell you that I’ve never had pork taste this clean and flavorful. The waiter informed us that this kind of “clean” pork, “Nakjin-Agoo,” only comes from one place in Japan, the Okinawa Prefecture. And because of its rarity, this type of pig was once an endangered species too. This is Japan’s black pig noted for the meat’s excellent quality and major umami component.
Before dessert, we were given a choice of either having a cheese platter or a vegetable dish. (I wonder who would choose the latter!) It seems like a trick question because obviously more people (especially those like us who love to eat) would choose cheese over vegetables, any time!
There were four kinds given on the platter: blue cheese, vintage cheddar, a fresh curd, and goat’s cheese. There was also a small drop of quince jam to break the “cheesyness” of it all. Lol.
And lastly, my most awaited part: the desserts. (Yes, we were given two!)
This first one is called “Green Wind Note.” This is homemade goat milk blancmanger and yogurt sorbet, with jelly and meringue of sencha, peach and lime infused olive oil. Simple and fresh, and with just a little bit of crunch coming from the meringue on top. The flavors of the goat milk, peach, lime, and yogurt sorbet blended beautifully and made this dish so refreshing. A dessert I wouldn’t mind having more of!
As a follow up to that first dessert, we were then served a second one called “Terada & Fujimaru.” It is basically jelly and ice cream but made of different kinds of Japanese liquor. Though this dessert contained alcohol, it was light and still, I would say, a good way to end our meal (although a bit tipsy by this time, ha ha).
Last, but certainly not the least, was this pretty plate of “Nibbles”, or petit fours, which was served together with coffee or tea. There were different kinds of pastries here, and some were made with yuzu and matcha creme. They also had their own version of Chupa Chups lollipops which, to my surprise, were filled with pop rocks candy and even more chocolate inside!
Oh, let me not forget this other interesting part on the petit fours platter: the DIY lemon meringue tartlet, where I had to squeeze the homemade lemon curd out of the tube onto the little tart and then top it with that white meringue! Yum!
And finally, as we were about to leave, we were given two bags of freshly baked cookies to take home!
L’Effervescence certainly gave us one unforgettable culinary experience. Food was excellent, no doubt. This meal was all about fresh local ingredients, innovative ideas, outstanding cooking techniques and artistic presentation. These are all the ingredients needed to make one meal, extraordinary. But more than the food, I was impressed by the level of service and attention to detail of the staff. Service was impeccable – something that is rare and hard to come by these days, even in the most expensive or highly rated restaurants.
No surprise that this restaurant is a small wonder. Although still fairly new in the highly competitive dining scene of Tokyo, it is now ranked 12th best restaurant in Asia, and given two Michelin stars by the critics.
I shall definitely be back someday!
2 Chome-26-4 Nishiazabu, Minato,
Tokyo 106-0031, Japan
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