The two-Michelin-starred ESqUISSE has been one of the best-rated Western restaurants in Tokyo since it opened in 2012. 'Esquisse' is the French word of 'drawing' created with rough lines in architecture or paintings, the talented French-born chef Lionel Beccant plays a role of the artisan at Esquisse. The dishes are blended with modern French techniques and Japanese ingredients, created by using chef Lionel's unique 'esquisse' method which showcases his emotions, inspirations, desires and passions…
Chef Lionel Beccant started to cooked at the age of 20. He worked at Michel Troisgros’ brasserie Le Central and brushed his skills at Michelin 1-star Guy Lassausaie and Petrossian at a young age. For four and a half years, he served as the Sous Chef at 3-star restaurant Maison Troisgros. In 2006, he was appointed by Michel Troisgros as the Chef at 2-star Cuisine [s] Michel Troisgros in Tokyo and served as the Executive Chef for five and a half years until he was appointed as Executive Chef at Restaurant ESqUISSE in 2012.
The restaurant located in an office building within a minute walk from Ginza station. The decor of the restaurant was simple and clean which reminds me of the country house in Southern France, if not, a breeze of Mediterranean. The elegant and casual atmosphere never make me feel restricted like most fine dining restaurants.
My last meal at Esquisse was in late 2015, it wasn't as impressive as i expected despite of the high ranking. The entire meal was light, the menu runs smoothly, i never refused to come back again but definitely not a priority one on my list. After had been to nearly 98% French restaurants on my list, i finally decided to revisit Esquisse after a year. Of course i hope i would LOVE this place this time.
Esquisse opens for both lunch and dinner everyday except Sunday dinner. Lunch menu is priced at 11000,15200 and 19200 yen respectively, dinner costs slightly higher with two menus priced at 19000 and 24000 yen. Usually the lunch menu is quite different from dinner menu since it is cheaper, but i found it is interesting that at Esquisse, 15200 lunch course is exactly same content as the 19000 dinner course, and the 19200 lunch course is same as 24000 dinner course.
So just a kindly notice for budget foodies, get a reservation for lunch to save almost 5000yen (USD$60?).
For me, i get a lunch reservation for two reasons: better light for photography, and more importantly, save the dinner time to Japanese food because most Kaiseki and Sushi restaurants only open for dinner.
Our table had the 14200 lunch course, which is the same as 19000 dinner course. The mid-priced menu is always the safest choice for me. Mineral Water and a glass of Champagne are complimentary for all the diners.
The meal started with 4 plates of Hors D’oeuvres, followed by fish dish, meat dish, pre-dessert, dessert, coffee & petit four. The first dish to arrived was a small bite of Hamaguri clam topped with mushroom and a thin layer of apple jelly. Its mild umami taste with a sweet hint nicely opened my palates. Next was a beautiful dish of Kabocha mousse with Mikan (Japanese mandarin orange), anchovy, carrot and olive oil sorbet. Naturally sweetness to match the umami of anchovy, so smooth with a bit crunchy hint, very spoonful.
Although my last meal at Esquisse was not impressive, the bread service was nothing but outstanding. One of the best baguette i have had at a fine dining restaurant - so crunchy on the outside and airy inside. The butter was whipped with cream cheese for an extra smooth and light texture.
For the following two dishes, the Kabu (radish) was juicy and the black truffle lifted the entire bite. Shirako was so beautiful - arguably the best presented shirako i have ever had. Fish course was steamed Kue (grouper) with mountain vegetables and white wine sauce, the fish tastes as clean (positive) and tender as it looks. Despite the flawlessness, the dishes didn't bring any wow factors at this point.
The last dish to served before the desserts was Wagyu beef from Kochi, it was coated with a layer of caramelized orange. The meat was succulent and flavorful, one of the most impressive beef dishes i have had during this trip (Dec.2016). We also had a chance to try the blue lobster as a replacement of the wagyu steak for one of our guest. It was also well-done. The only disappointment here was the exact same garnishment of the lobster and wagyu dishes. In my opinion, the lobster should be paired with something lighter.
Surprisingly, our table coincided that the 'dish' of the meal was chef's cheese course - black truffle cheese with a drizzile of apricot honey on the top. The black truffle matches so perfectly with the young cheese.
We were served a refreshing cup of mint ice cream with lemon cream and grapefruit foam before the main dessert to arrive. The main desserts is just a piece of art as it looks, so abstract and hard to understand - quite weird combination of sweet, sour, spicy and bitter.
Lastly, three petit fours were served with a choice of coffee or tea. The coffee cup and servingware were so textural and artisan! And here arrives another highlight of the meal besides the baguette and cheese, the canele was so good that we cannot resist to had a second serving. This is rarely happen to me as a petit fours. It was perfectly baked - crunchy crust with a jelly center, the sweetness of honey and vanilla hint were right to point.
The dishes i had this time were still light, beautifully-presented, but forgettable on the flavor side. Highlights include the comparably insignificant baguette with cream cheese, black truffle cheese and the canele in the petit four platter. To me, Chef Lionel's philosophy is direct and clear, but i still don't quite understand Esquisse's quite high ranking on Tabelog, too light and clean to be impressed.
By the way, Esquisse's pastry chef was awarded the Best Pastry Chef by Asia's 50 Best Restaurant. I visited in Feb.2017 and found it is overrated too. Since i loved their baguette, i bought two from their bakery in Tokyu Plaza Ginza, but it wasn't as good as those i had at the restaurant.
Address: Royal Crystal Ginza, 9F, 5-4-6 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo Prefecture 104-0061, Japan
Hours: 12:00-13:00 (LO), 18:00-20:30(LO), Closed on Sunday evening
Date of visit: Dec.26.2016 (Lunch)