There’s a whole lot of fine dining in Tokyo, with some particularly standout restaurants inside the city's many luxury hotels. The Mandarin Oriental is no exception, and its cutting edge dining (which includes the renowned Tapas Molecular Bar) was given a new face this June when its Michelin-starred French restaurant, Signature, welcomed a new executive chef, Nicolas Boujema.
Chef Boujema’s style of cuisine rejuvenates traditional French cooking but with distinct contemporary flair. There’s lightness to his cuisine so that it won’t leave you stuffed even after the extravagant 10-course menu, which shows a masterful calculation that is rarely pulled off in such perfect form. It could be described as French kaiseki, but the phrase doesn’t do justice to how faithful the cuisine is to authentic French. Whether it’s for a special occasion or just an opportunity to enjoy a night of exquisite ambience and cuisine, Signature is a good restaurant to keep in mind when you’re looking for a place worthy of a splurge.
Signature has a gorgeous private dining room that seats a maximum of 10 people, with the added benefit of a window offering a view into the kitchen where chefs are hard at work. There’s also a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar in which you can spot many of the wines that are presented in the wine pairing option of the menu. It’s a room well worth the extra charge if you’re going with a group—or someone you’d especially like to impress.
For dinner, there are three menus to choose from: a 10-course meal (¥22,000), an eight-course vegetarian menu (¥18,000), or a five-course meal (¥16,000). Aside from an extensive bottled wine list, there’s also a wine pairing option of three (¥8,000), five (¥10,000), or seven kinds of wine (¥12,000), which I highly recommend you go for. I tried the 10-course menu, paired with five kinds of wine.
The meal began with a whimsical amuse of small bites, which was not counted among the ten courses. Curiously, the warm, sandy-textured shortbread topped with a bit of avocado was especially delicious and memorable. It was served with a glass of champagne. Next came the sea bass tartare with clams, champagne and caviar. It was delightfully light and tasty, and the joyfully fragrant Hugel Jubilee Riesling a perfect match.
Then there was a truffle waffle with whipped cream and port wine jus. The long strip of braised leek is not just for presentation; it’s perfect to fold over the truffles and cream before piercing a bit of waffle to assemble the perfect bite. After this was the poached langoustine with zucchini and peppermint, which might well have been my favorite dish of the menu: succulent langoustine, custard-like layers of ricotta cheese and other delicious things, bathed in a heavenly sauce Americaine. It was served with a classic Meursault.
The braised John Dory with lettuce and spelt risotto proved that “sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking.” It was served with a lush Condrieu and followed by foie gras ravioli with duck veloute, which was paired with an elegant Gevrey-Chambertin. The eggplant with olive jelly and tomato sherbet was an imaginative dish, with varying temperatures and textures that come together for a singular eating experience.
The grand finale of the course was the beef tenderloin with red wine sauce and potato soufflé, served with a glass of Chateaux Leoville Poyferre 2010 as the amazing wine pairing climax. After a seasonal cheese selection and peach with gewürztraminer sabayon and pistachio ice cream to cleanse the palate came the dessert: nyangbo chocolate soufflé. Nostalgia hit when the divine aroma like a kitchen with brownies baking in the oven filled the room. The gentle, sublime taste of this magical soufflé is just pure love. It was so good that I asked who in the kitchen made it, and the answer came in the form of a young lady waving through the kitchen window.
By the time I stepped out of Signature, the Mandarin Bar was in full swing with the jazz band and a lively crowd. Go for the amazing dinner, and stay for the great bar scene. It’s the perfect plan for a dazzling evening.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Tokyo 37F, 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Open: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch; 6 p.m.- 10 p.m. for dinner; closed Tue
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