Most people likely don’t associate the Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, with Italian cuisine, but this oversight is what makes its Piacere restaurant a bit of a hidden gem. Even after taking the elevators to the 28th floor, the entrance to the restaurant is tucked around a corner out of sight. All this unintentional secrecy serves to give Piacere’s first impression even more of an impact. High vaulted ceilings, mirrored walls, marble floors and white satin tablecloths immediately convey a sense of modern luxury, but in many ways these elements pale in comparison to one of the restaurant’s greatest aspects: its view. From the recently renovated Tokyo Station and its network of railway tracks to the office towers of Marunouchi and the grounds of the Imperial Palace, it’s a dynamic sight that offers something different from day to night.
For the first two weeks of April, Piacere is offering a special menu consisting of five courses of pasta…sort of. Lest anyone get turned off by how heavy a meal this may sound, it’s worth clarifying that only two courses actually feature pasta as a main ingredient; in the others it plays more of a supporting role. And while diners are highly unlikely to leave the restaurant feeling the least bit peckish, it’s not a meal that will weigh most people down.
The menu for the Pasta e Pasta course will differ between the first and second weeks of the promotion, but the very capable chef Paolo Pelosi is sure to make it worth the visit at any time.
Pelosi started us off with a pasta salad of fedelini with sea urchin and tomatoes. The thin strands of cold pasta in a lightly creamy sauce eased us into the meal, and the slight sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes perfectly offset the sea urchin, which has a naturally strong flavor.
Next came a dish of handmade pici pasta, a specialty of Pelosi’s native Tuscany. The chef explained that it is made with only two ingredients: flour and water. This gives it a chewy texture that went well with the umami quality of the fava bean and pancetta sauce, which was topped with pecorino romano and black pepper. The olive oil and light cream base had just the right amount of richness without overdoing it.
The fish course consisted of grilled halibut topped with candied kumquat and a walnut sauce, and accompanied with two nuggets of pumpkin gnocchi. It was a skillfully executed dish, with complex flavors that excited the palate with every bite. The fish was lightly seared on the outside but juicy and tender inside, and the sweetness of the kumquat, the nuttiness of the walnuts and the slight spiciness of the pumpkin blended together seamlessly without competing or overpowering.
For the meat course, Pelosi stuffed thin, delicate cannoli with oxtail, then topped it with a puree of Jerusalem artichokes, fried artichoke flakes and shaved black truffle. It made the perfect savory climax to the meal, with lots of luxurious flavors intertwining with the tender flakiness of the meat.
The last of the five courses was dessert, which was perhaps the most imaginative. Long, thin slices of rhubarb were carefully fashioned into ravioli, which was stuffed with dollops of yogurt. This was served with milk ice cream and a raspberry garnish, over which Pelosi poured hibiscus tea. The sweetness of the tea, he explained, helped to balance out the acidity of the yogurt and tartness of the fruit. It was a delightfully light, refreshing way to end a unique and enjoyable meal.
In addition to the beautiful setting and delicious food, Piacere stands out for its meticulous, attentive waitstaff. For a first time diner at the restaurant, the whole experience exceeded expectations, and Pelosi’s ability to create such varied courses of pasta ignited my curiosity for what he may have in store during the second week of the promotion.
For reservations, call 03-6739-7898.