A Breakfast to Luxuriate Over at the Imperial Hotel
Anyone who has ever tried getting a meal in Tokyo before 11 a.m. knows that our city’s breakfast culture is nearly nonexistent compared to that of other major world cities like New York or London. Sure, there are the noisy, family-friendly hotel brunch buffets and a few cafes that are popular for morning business meetings, what if you want to really relax and savor your breakfast, reading the paper or sharing quiet conversation as you ease into your day? This is where the new breakfast course at the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saisons comes into play.
Stepping into Les Saisons from the mezzanine-level corridor overlooking the expansive hotel lobby, it is immediately clear that this is not the kind of breakfast venue most diners and travelers are accustomed to, even those who make a habit of visiting five-star hotels. The tables are set far enough apart from one another to give a sense of privacy, almost like each one occupies its own separate nook. Double layered white tablecloths, plush carpeting, and cushy upholstered armchairs all work to soften ambient noise like the clink of glasses and silverware on tables, or the sound of chairs scraping against the floor. Even the waiters move about nearly noiselessly, appearing only when needed and speaking in low tones. Everything seems designed to create a quietly luxurious yet soothing atmosphere.
Last month Les Saisons began offering a new breakfast course, which—luckily for us Tokyoites—is available even to those who are not staying guests at the hotel. The prix-fixe menu includes some of chef Thierry Voisin’s most celebrated dishes from Les Saisons’ lunch and dinner menu, reimagined in breakfast-sized portions.
The meal starts off with a choice of either freshly squeezed juice or Alain Milliat fruit nectar (flavor options vary and may include things like summer pear, apricot and raspberry), as well as coffee or tea. Next comes a variety of freshly baked breads and pastries, accompanied by honey and two types of homemade jam. At our recent visit we were served a strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb jam, and a mandarin, citrus and macadamia nut one. Both made wonderful, not-too-sweet toppings for the fluffy brioche and flaky croissants.
At one point our server advised us not to fill up too much on bread, as there was plenty more food to come. How right he was, as three courses of hot food followed soon after.
If you’ve ever wondered how to elevate humble scrambled eggs to a culinary masterpiece, here’s a tip: make them as creamy as possible and season them with black truffles. This is how Voisin’s eggs are prepared, and they are anything but ordinary. Following this is a generous filet of smoked trout from near Mt. Fuji. Incredibly moist and succulent, it is served with a small side salad and mashed potatoes garnished with fish roe. The main meat course consists of roast Okinawa agout pork and mixed vegetables. My steak knife seemed unnecessary, as it cut through the tender pork like it was nothing. A thin crust of green tea and kombu give it a uniquely Japanese flavor.
It is important to note that each dish is prepared carefully and unhurriedly, allowing time between each to digest, sip your juice and coffee, and share in a conversation. This is not a breakfast to be rushed through on your way to some important appointment or other; it is one to relax into, truly savoring each and every bite. It is the luxury hotel version of slow food.
We were beginning to think the meal was coming to a close, until we realized there were still three courses to go. Thankfully, these were made up of lighter fare: a platter of dried fruits and comté cheese that had been aged four years, a cup of yogurt with either berry or mango sauce, and a mini cake of the day that was just the right size to give us something sweet with which to finish off our coffee. Not wanting to leave the quiet sanctuary of Les Saisons just yet, we finished these last dishes even more lazily than we did the others, stopping at intervals to simply sit back and enjoy the first truly relaxing escape we had had from Tokyo’s frenetic pace in quite some time. It felt incredibly indulgent.
The breakfast service at Les Saisons is not what you would choose if you are looking for a quick morning boost or a place to take the kids for all-you-can-eat waffles. But to start your day off with a luxurious meal by a talented chef is a treat that everyone should be afforded from time to time, and I can assure you it will shape the way the rest of your day goes as well. The breakfast course (¥9,900 per person) is served from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and takes around 90 minutes, but I recommend allocating two hours in order to get the most from the relaxing atmosphere.
Address: Imperial Hotel, Main Building, Mezzanine Level, 1-1-1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3539-8087 (reservations for breakfast are requested three days in advance)
Open: Breakfast served daily, 7–9:30 a.m.