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The second French restaurant I visited in Tokyo was Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros, perched on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency. This was actually a last minute addition to my list of restaurants to visit and the only reason why I ended up booking there was because I just happened to be staying at the Hyatt Regency the previous night so it wasn’t like I was going out of my way for lunch.
Michel Troisgros happens to be the son of French haute cuisine great Pierre Troisgros, whose restaurant Frères Troisgros won the first ever Michelin Star. Frères Troisgros has since been a three-Michelin star winner since 1968 and Michel is no stranger to success either having opened a few of his own restaurants in France in addition to this baby right here in Shinjuku. The Tokyo restaurant itself received two Michelin stars in 2015.
Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros, like most fine dining restaurants in Japan, is elegant and refined. So far, it’s been interesting to compare the fine dining experience in Australia and Japan. Back home, things are much more relaxed at even the most expensive restaurants. Here, there’s a strong level of formality that’s to be expected regardless of whether you’re a diner or staff there. At the same time, service is still friendly no matter where you go and during my time in Japan’s fine dining restaurants, I’ve never experienced a server who’d acted like a wanker – in Australia on the other hand…
But anyway, I digress.
I was given a lovely table by the window. We were in the government district so it wasn’t like the view was amazing but I do love my window seats.
Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros do set menus for lunch; a few different options are offered with the shortest (and least expensive) menu starting at ¥6000 (AUD62). I decided to go al cheapo by going for the ¥6000 option. For certain dishes in each menu, there’s also the option to have a white truffle supplement for an extra ¥4800 (AUD50). I was going to have the veal with gnocchi for my main and figured that a few slices of truffles would bring the dish to another level. After all, it was white truffle season in Europe so why the hell not?
My wine for the meal was the very lovely Côtes du Jura Blanc 2008, a Chardonnay that was more peachy and caramel-y than oaky and, in fact, shared similar flavour profiles to a port. To me, it was almost like drinking a dessert wine (hell, it paired well with the coffee I later consumed) but strangely enough, it also matched with all the dishes I ate.
Even though we were at a French restaurant, the nibbles took on a very Japanese flavour; a lovely array of textures and flavours to whet one’s appetite.
I also enjoyed some warm corn and buckwheat bread along with some plain ol’ white bread with French butter.
They also offered me some books to read while I was waiting for my meal. Granted, the books were blatant endorsements of the chef and his restaurants but still, I wished more restaurants offered reading material for solo diners.
The first course was a playful twist on the tortellini. The little shells you were are potato ‘skins’ that are sliced so thinly that they almost felt like rice paper. They were filled with pumpkin soup, lovingly perfumed with chicken stock. I did have a bit of a giggle when I saw ‘strong juice’ on the menu – that term referred to the parmesan-infused white sauce you see on the plate. It was a beautifully presented dish and a creative way to enjoy ‘pumpkin soup’ without feeling too full.
So this was my main: veal topped with a salty buckwheat crumb (which you can barely see because of the truffles) and well, two pieces of gnocchi and greens.
The veal was so succulent and tender while the two gnocchi were beautifully fluffy. The dish would have worked well even without the truffles but I really did think they added a nice earthy element to the dish. It was a fantastic main and I guess my only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it, dammit.
I’m not much of a meringue fan so I did grimace when I saw that meringue was being served. It wasn’t a bad dessert though – perfectly formed meringue tubes were filled with a smooth walnut ice cream and muscat combination while a single pear added a lovely visual contrast on the right. It was a nice strong finish to what had been an excellent meal but it’s not a dessert I would have picked if I had been given a choice.
I was left to browse the rest of the book with some mediocre coffee (this is a fine dining restaurant in Japan after all) and petit fours to nibble on.
Of course, my meal ended up being over AUD100 given the truffle supplement, service charges and taxes so don’t let the ¥6000 fool you into thinking that you’re getting a bargain. However, the high quality of ingredients, execution of each dish and fantastic service made it worth every yen.