Le Salon Jacques Borie, Shinjuku
No matter how deep our desires are to cultivate our taste buds, we travelers and expats know the feeling of wanting something familiar all too well. Sometimes, it’s a grande double shot caramel macchiato from Starbucks. Sometimes, it’s browsing through English books at Kikokuniya. Living in Japan for just over a year, I’ve acquired a taste for dango, manju, taiyaki, and other excellent Japanese sweets, but I was missing something. That thing for me was a decadent dessert that my aunt used to make—the chocolate soufflé.
Responding to a bad case of nostalgia, I scheduled a lunchtime affair with an upscale restaurant that goes by the name of Le Salon Jacques Borie: a charmer that fits the bill for the Isetan Department Store in which it is housed. In addition to his work at Ginza’s legendary L’Osier, Meilleurs Ouvriers de France recipient Jacques Borie is also known for defeating the seemingly unbeatable Yutaka Ishinabe on the hit show Iron Chef in 1993. I was curious about the famous chef’s take on my favorite dessert.
The restaurant is located on the fourth floor, just left of Chanel. Upon arrival, you may feel that the only proper way to enter Le Salon is to float in. With tasteful furniture and swelling bouquets of pink and white, there is not an unpretty corner in the place. In all its loveliness, this establishment takes luxury and privacy seriously. You will forget you are at a department store. You will forget you are in Tokyo. You may even forget you are in Japan. Such is the magic of ambiance.
The menu offers elegant lunch entrees—Scottish salmon and a lobster medley, for example—and two different course options, a light lunch (¥3,900) and lunch in saison (¥6,800). The spotlight, however, belongs to Le Salon’s confections: a wonderful cartful of cakes, tarts, hot desserts, ice cream, and sherbet (¥800 yen to ¥2,500 per selection). You may opt for a choice of two or three cakes for the sweetest deals (¥2,400 and ¥3,200, respectively). A selection of champagne and wine is also available. Without wandering too much, I decided on the warm Grand Marnier soufflé (¥2,500) listed under “the inevitables” and a black coffee (¥1,200).
My coffee, served in a dainty cup with a gold handle, was a medium roast and the right temperature. As promised, my soufflé arrived 15 minutes later with a serving of homemade chocolate ice cream. One bite and I no longer felt guilty for my splurge. It was just the right amount of bittersweet, and more importantly, it was perfectly baked. I initially judged the soufflé as too small, but by the time I finished I realized that it would’ve been overindulgent had it been any larger. Chocolate lovers will also delight in Borie’s soufflé, but some may prefer the traditional balance of vanilla ice cream instead.
The service was one of the most prompt I’ve experienced personally—there was a server designated to ensure our water glasses never went empty. The surrounding guests were entirely separate, or at least in a different state of mind, from the bustling commuters you might see around the complex. Most of them, women in patent leather heels and tailored attire, seemed to be regulars enjoying a leisurely lunch. As for me, I imagine I will save Le Salon and the ¥2,500 soufflé for my special occasion list. It is the sort of place that you go for the experience as well as the cuisine. Here, you can expect to be treated like royalty—just as you imagined during your childhood tea parties—as long you are willing to pay the adult price.
Address: 4F Isetan Department Store, 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.