Terrace Dining at the French Kitchen, Roppongi Hills
Two of my absolute favorite things to do this time of year in Tokyo are to eat and drink outside, and luckily the city offers us virtually endless opportunities to do so. As soon as summer begins to show its face from behind spring’s shoulder, cafes, bars and restaurants across the city throw open their sliding partitions and set up tables and chairs on every terrace, alleyway and patch of sidewalk available. Whenever given the choice, I always opt for outdoor seating, so I was excited when one of my favorite restaurants, The French Kitchen, opened its beautiful terrace for the season.
Now through August 31, diners at the French Kitchen have the option of choosing the Summer Provence Barbecue, a course dinner that includes free-flowing sparkling, red, white and rosé wines for 90 minutes. At ¥5,800, it is a good value for a night out, especially considering the wonderful atmosphere of what is surely one of Tokyo’s best outdoor dining spaces.
The French Kitchen is located on the second floor of the Grand Hyatt at Roppongi Hills. Large planters housing full-sized trees and dense, elevated hedges bordering the balcony space provide serenity and a sense of privacy. Some recent redecorating removed several large, round booth seats and replaced them with a long padded bench and smaller tables, allowing for both increased seating and a more open feeling. The terra-cotta towers of the Roppongi Hills residences stand like silent sentinels, watching over this wonderful urban oasis.
Our reservation was for a Wednesday evening in early June, and we were lucky that it fell on the last clear night before nearly a full week of rain (in the event of inclement weather, those with terrace reservations will be able to enjoy their meal inside the restaurant). After ordering a glass of sparkling wine to start us off, we were presented with an amuse of crisp, round toasts served with tuna pâté. This was followed by a cold appetizer and salad plate, along with soft focaccia rolls and olive oil for dipping. All of this was fresh and beautifully arranged, and helped to whet our appetites for the main event, which we could see the chefs cooking, plating and garnishing at the outdoor barbecue station near our table. The aroma of charcoal-grilled meats and vegetables was carried on the slight breeze around the terrace, making my mouth water before my plate even arrived in front of me.
The mixed barbecue plate consists of spare ribs, sausage, a chicken leg, a prawn, a small dish of ratatouille, mixed summer vegetables (corn on the cob, zucchini, red bell pepper and eggplant), and rosemary roasted baby potatoes. All of the meats were succulent and flavorful, and the brilliantly colored vegetables made the perfect accompaniment. Everything was delicious on its own, but a spoonful of dijon mustard and a lemon wedge acted as the finishing touches. The food was filling, but it was also so good and prepared in such a healthy way that I managed to clean my plate without feeling like I had overeaten.
After finishing our meal, we opted to stick around for a little while longer to get the most out of the wonderful setting. As I sipped my rosé and listened to the soft, jazzy French tunes emanating from speakers hidden in the nearby hedge, I reflected on what a wonderful start the experience was to Tokyo’s outdoor dining season—and how difficult it would be to top.
Address: 2F Grand Hyatt Tokyo, 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo
Open: Four seatings are available for the Summer Provence Barbecue, at 5:45 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
How much: ¥5,800 per person includes a starter, appetizer plate, barbecue platter and free-flowing sparkling, red, white and rosé wines for 90 minutes (seatings are limited to two hours). An upgrade to free-flowing Veuve Cliquot Champagne is available for ¥12,800 per person.