Nov 27, '09

L'Osier, Tokyo

Before this trip to Tokyo,I agreed with those who were sceptical about other than Japanese food in Japan. Well, after my dinner at 3 Michelin stars L’Osier, i don’t share this opinion anymore.Imagine what happens when the excellence of French gastronomy collide with Japanese perfectionism. It is a big bang of flavors and pleasures of eating.I still think of the divine foie gras raviolis with white truffles or suckling pig with polenta. And i could have licked the plate of scallops with polenta and white truffles…

I got a table at L’Osier accidentally. The plan was to eat at one of the teppanyaki restaurants that night, but the very last second we decided to try a chance at L’Osier. I don’t know if it was pure chance or pure luck(you have to book very in advance), but the restaurant had a last minute cancellation. When the taxi stopped in front of the spectacular Shiseido (at the this time of the year all Ginza is sparkling with Christmas decorations) building in Ginza, the directeur de salle was waiting outside the restaurant. Soon i found out that he used to be a directeur de salle at one of the most famous restaurants in Cannes and we knew the same restaurants in that region. Tetou, for example. Lionel Lavernhe knows other ‘best of ” things, like the best baguette or best cassoulet in Tokyo.
And this is what impressed me most at L’Osier –  the passion for food. The chef Bruno Menard is a master of marrying ingredients and creating dishes that actually taste good, i mean very good. With his neo-classic dishes, Bruno Menard doesn’t try to shock or to “reinvent a bicycle”. Instead, he revisits the French classics and turn them into stunning and memorable  creations of the 21st century. Bruno Menard comes from family that is highly linked to gastronomy- his both grandfathers were chefs, while his father is a chocolatier. In France he used to work at Jean Bardet restaurant in Tours which is now closed. I ate there once and i remember the chef growing his own vegetables and herbs in the garden of his château . Beautiful, “old France” location.
In the kitchen, Bruno Menard seems to remain loyal to his roots while taking from Japan what it has the best – products, precision and impeccable service ( There are 45 people working for 40 guests)…
Salmon rillettes amuse bouche with crispy toasts ( the picture above)..
or the fresh and refreshing tuna tartare..
The truffles season has just started and the restaurant had plenty of dishes with white truffles. You could smell their aroma as soon as a waiter would pass carrying a dish…
” La truffe blanche en fins copeaux , sur une ” tarte d’oignon” et poitrine salee, creme glacee a l’huile d’olive truffee”
I liked the fact that Menard associates simple and every day tastes with luxurious products. As you can imagine, it was a perfection.
” Raviolis de foie gras a la truffe blanche , sauce supreme et jus tranche”
Decadent flavor of foie gras mixed with intensive white truffles shavings and creamy (yet light) sauce.
“Cochon de lait de “Chiba” roti,polenta cremeuse truffee,jus simple a la verveine”
Suckling pig,some fromage de tete and boudin– again, casual food turned into high gastronomy. The secret? The top notch products and flawless, yet simple preparation. “Petite salade” on the side- what can be better?
“Polenta de St Jacques et truffe blanche,puree de cepes et soja hors d’age”
What i like about Bruno Menard’s cooking that despite of traditional ingredients, the preparations were very light. Me too, i always thought that polenta is heavy, but it tasted like very light potato puree. The scallops come from Hokkaido. I am sure that Japanese products are particularly pleasant to work with… (and Italian truffles too ;))
The cheese tray with some of the best French “national treasures” . L’epoisse, one of my favorites.
The pre – dessert…
… dessert “raviole ouverte de mandarine au parfum de gentiane,croustillant aux agrumes”
… and the “post dessert” … As you can see there was a particular emphasis on the desserts, maybe it’s due to the fact that Bruno Menard comes from chocolatiers family?
So why eat French food in Tokyo? Because at least in the L’Osier case, it is better than in France. It’s been  very long time , that i was literally blown away by a French restaurant. Few years ago it was La Maison Troisgros by Michel Troisgros.Now – it’s L’Osier by Bruno Menard.
Bruno Menard (right) and Lionel Lavernhe outside the L’Osier restaurant

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