Andaz Tavern Blends European and Japanese Flavors

This month marks one year since the opening of Toranomon Hills, as well as the Andaz Tokyo hotel, which occupies its top floors. To celebrate, the hotel's flagship restaurant, the Andaz Tavern, has unveiled a special anniversary menu that includes highlights of the last 12 months, as well as some new additions.

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Together with his sous chef Gregor Streun, chef de cuisine Gerhard Passrugger is recreating his childhood memories by way of food. Before designing a new dish, Passrugger draws it in his mind, letting himself be inspired by holiday travels through Europe with his parents. The Austrian chef especially remembers the flavors of Italy’s mediterranean coast and the hills coast of Tuscany. “Imagine sitting in the sun along the rocky coast in Tuscany, where in the glossing summer heat the sweet fragrant smell of herbs and blossoming wild fennel is in the air, with a salty breeze coming from the sea,” he says.

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For every dish, Passrugger and Streun are establishing an emotional connection, a world of flavors between refined European provincinal cuisine (the German term “landküche,” used by Passrugger, implies a certain down-to-earth attitude) and the best seasonal Japanese ingredients. Which, by the way, complies with the Andaz’s concept of using high quality local and regional materials for the interior decoration, furniture and tableware in each of its hotels.

In my opinion this culinary concept turns out best in the scallop dish with fennel pollen crust (the wild fennel pollen is hand picked in Tuscany) and sea urchin cream. Letting the delicious floral aroma of the pollen develop on your tongue, combined with the sweet, creamy roe of the sea urchin and you will forget that you are sitting on the 51st floor of a Tokyo skyscraper and not on a lush Tuscan hill under the shadow of a cypress grove.

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This is another area in which the Andaz Tavern succeeds. Yes, you might be sitting in a very upscale, luxurious hotel restaurant with sprawling views of Tokyo Bay and the city, but the atmosphere makes you feel at ease. “We want our guests to feel comfortable when they eat,” says Passrugger. “Ideally, our waiters detect the mood of our customers and finds out how they want to eat. And then, as a next step, offers tailormade service.” If a couple comes for a romantic date, for example, their server should suggest the menu de degustation. However, explains Passrugger, “when a bunch of seven or eight girls are having their girls’ night out, we might as well just put a big pot in the middle of the table for them to share and make the whole presentation more casual.”

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This idea of sharing a dish works especially well with the Yamanashi herb chicken and root vegetables, baked in a clay pot with sherry and sudachi (a Japanese citrus fruit). The tender young chicken is marinated with a layer of herb butter under the skin and is placed with root vegetables and lard into a Roman pot. The sherry poured over the chicken adds a distinct aroma to the dish, and a squeeze of sudachi replaces the lemon that would be used in the Mediterranean. The ancient method of cooking in a clay pot allows the dish to breathe, while the moisture is preserved.

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The dishes that make up the anniversary menu at the Andaz Tavern mix European and Japanese influences, but there is also another rule to which the chefs hold tight: always respect the seasons. “Japanese people are masters of seasonal cuisine, especially when it comes to seafood,” says Passrugger. Now is the best period for Spanish mackerel, but in two weeks’ time it will already be the season of a different fish. However, one dish is a regular on the menu: the lobster salad. In summer Passrugger and his team serve it with baby spinach, fennel and sundried tomatoes; in fall it comes with pumpkin and black truffles. “Lobster salad is something our guests expect to be on the menu. And we add our Andaz handwriting by adapting it to the seasons,” explains the chef.

Some new dishes also made it into the anniversary course menu, dishes exclusively developed for tailor-made dinners for private events, according to Passrugger. After all, that’s what the Andaz aims to do—to offer an unforgettable dinner in a casual, discrete atmosphere.

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The Deets

What: Andaz Tavern Anniversary Dinner Course

When: June 8–21, 6–10 p.m.

Where: Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, 1-23-4, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo

How much: Four course menu ¥10,000, five course menu ¥12,000, six course menu ¥15,000 per person. All menus come with a complimentary glass of champagne.

Reservations: Bookings are required, and can be made online or by calling 03-6830-7739.