There are three “can’t miss” restaurants I HAVE to visit every time I come to Tokyo. The first is Sawada sushi – which, sadly, is closed during this two week stay. The second is Esquisse, a brilliant French restaurant headed by Chef Lionel Beccat – which we’ll be visiting in the coming days. And the third, is L’Effervesence, with its delightfully inventive menu c/o Chef Shinobu Namae – which I visited last night with my friend Tomomi.
It was a night of consistent culinary highlights. Among the highlights of the highlights…
Apple Pie #16 is the sixteenth version of Chef Name’s signature pie inspired by a certain McDonalds menu item. This version is compromised of foie gras, fig, and a touch of basil.
In my bid to not go a day without sake, I decided to go with the sake pairing which offered up a wonderful variety ranging from peach sweet to smoky dry. I was offered my choice of cups to get me started. I opted for the Mt. Fuji, bottom left.
With a little Mr. Fuji inside.
One of the menu items that never changes is this incredible turnip dish. It’s cooked in a warm bath for 4 hours, then lightly roasted and butter basted.
The chef chooses lean deer from Hokkaido that is roasted for 10 minutes, then allowed to rest, returned to roast for another 10 minutes, then set aside to rest. The process is repeated until the eat is perfect, then served – here with local peppers, pumpkin sauce, and a reduction.
The salad is comprised of 51 fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. I’m not a big fan of salad but this one was a lot of fun, offering a myriad of complimentary and contrasting flavors and textures.
My lovely hostess, Tomomi, shows off the Sirene chocolate I brought for her.
Tonka bean mousse, barley ice cream, and a Chinese fruit – whose name escapes me.
Our third dessert was a plate of fun mini-bites including a tube of lemon curd I used to spell out my guest’s name. Impressive, no?
After the meal, Chef Namae came by to check in with us and see how we’d enjoyed the meal, something he does with EVERY table. I honestly told him that every meal I’ve had at L’Effervesence has never failed to impress.
By the time we wrapped up, it was almost 11:00 p.m. Between the sake and the jet-lag, I was thoroughly exhausted, but I decided to forego a cab and walked back to Ometesando Station, then caught the metro back to the hotel.
Passed by this interesting-looking eatery. The spicy pad-thai is like a roundhouse kick in the mouth!
By the time I got in, I was ready for bed. I had a relatively deep sake sleep, punctuated by weird dreams involving the French counryside and brain surgery, then woke up at 7 a.m. Rather than hit Tsukiji again for breakfast, we packed up, checked out, placed our luggage in storage, then caught the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka. On a Saturday! On what appears to be a holiday weekend. We just managed to snagged seat – but, sadly, weren’t able to grab a bento box for the ride.
Osaka Station was super-busy, crowded and crazier than I’d ever seen Tokyo. Akemi’s dad suspects it’s because of the many visitors who have taken advantage of the long weekend (Monday is, of course, National Old People’s Day) to visit the new Harry Potter theme park!
No Harry Potter for us though. After meeting up with Akemi’s dad, we grabbed a quick lunch -
Stewed fish head.
And shirasu (that’s what the little fish are called) salad.
Then, for dessert, we met up with Akemi’s friend, Ayaka, for chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate (and pistachio) at Au Palet d’Or…
As it turns out, Ayaki is an avid reader of mystery novels (averaging a respectable ten books a month) and so, afterwards, we too a walk down to the nearest bookstore where I bought her…
The Japanese edition of Gone Girl. She was super-pleased.
We’re staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Umeda and it is beautiful…
Er, interesting art work.
And, to Akemi’s delight, a nice, deep tub.
Akemi and I had dinner reservations at a popular izakaya called Nagahori. Her dad was hoping to join us as a late addition to our table for two and accompanied us to the restaurant. Sadly, they weren’t able to accommodate him -
He was disappointed.
Akemi took the news a lot better than he did.
Father and daughter, in happier times (ie. before he received news that he wouldn’t be dining with us).
Me and my lemurs (?) – also in happier times.
Okay, enough chit chat. Time for dinner!
The hairy crab was, thankfully, a lot less hairy than I feared.
The sashimi plate. Ooooh, check out all the sea urchin!
Steamed abalone with abalone gut sauce. Highly recommended.
Deep-fried anago (sea eel) and yuba (tofu skin) – Akemi’s fave.
Tasty grilled chicken guts!
And, for dessert: Kasu panna cotta with eggplant ice cream. I’m a big fan of kasu desserts but have to admit – I’ve never met an eggplant-based dessert I’ve liked.
We caught a cab back to the hotel. If you ever visit Japan, here’s a word of warning: Learn the Japanese name of your hotel. Japanese cities are confusing enough as it is and, fully half the time, the cab driver won’t know where he’s going. Chances are he also won’t know the English name of your hotel. For instance, in Tokyo, if I tell them my destination is “The Imperial Hotel”, they’l stare back at me blankly. But if I tell them I’m going to the “Teikoku Hoteru” (Imperial Hotel in Japanese), I fare much better. On this night, we told the driver we were going to The Intercontinental Hotel. He’d apparently never heard of it. After some discussion with Akemi, he apparently figured it out and got us there in record time. And by “there”, I mean another hotel. But close enough. It was only a five minute walk to our actual hotel from there.
Enroute, we cut through a mall…
For all your chopstick needs.
This robot promised to do something cool – and then tried to sell us a phone plan.
I spotted my old friend Doraemon. He was obviously drunk (again!) and I tried to take away his bottle booze. Things got ugly after that.
Tomorrow, we wake up bright and early to go to Akemi’s childhood home (my first visit!) to take part in a tea ceremony. I’ve been warned I’ll be required to sit cross-legged for twenty minutes or so – something I haven’t done since elementary school. Wish me luck!
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