Quintessence カンテサンス (2016.01)
Chef Shuzo Kishida and his restaurant Quintessence (カンテサンス) has been positioned NO.1 on Tabelog for a long time. This 9-year old French restaurant is considered the best French food in Tokyo or even Japan by lot of fine diners. Quintessence is awarded three star by Michelin Guide Tokyo since it was firstly published in 2008. It is also featured by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants as well as World's 50 Best Restaurants for consecutive years.
Last May, I visited Quitessence for the first time and i was very impressed by the cheese dish and the slow-roasted fish. However, the entire meal, especially the consistency of the dishes, was kind of disappointing consider to its fame. Since it is hard to judge a restaurant depend on only one visit, and i personally missed the two dishes i mentioned, i decided to visit Quintessence again and see whether i will like it more.
Reservations can only be made by phone calls two months in advance, either by locals or hotel concierge. I called the restaurant in early November morning at got our reservation on Jan.21st. Unfortunately dinner was already fully-booked, but the 9,000 JPY lunch is definitely a safer choice for a discovery. The restaurant can fits 30 diners at a time, no pictures are allowed in the main dining room but there's no such worries in private rooms. Luckily we got a private room again.
The first dish is always a shot of warm soup of seasonal ingredients. It was the best time to have spinach during my visit - probably the sweetest spinach are produced in this season. The soup itself was indeed warm and naturally sweet, the squid has a burst of umami flavor and the Nagasaki foam was too aromatic and delicious - a very good start.
The bread is from Maison Kayser (メゾンカイザー), a famous French bakery you can find almost in every famous department stores or shopping mall. While this bread is specially made for Quintessence everyday, it was freshly baked before serving. I love its crispy and crunchy crust with a soft and chewy center. French butter Charentes Poitou is served with the bread. There's nothing specticular about the bread part.
The dish i missed the most from Quitessence - a bavarois of goat cheese from Kyoto, olive oil from south France, topped with fresh lily bulb, slided macadamia and a pinch of sea salt. The goat cheese is incredibly fresh and light, the texture and flavor are more similar to greek yogurt compare to normal cheese. Olive oil with goat cheese sounds like a weird combination which might be a bit oily and heavy but that's not the case here. The oilve oil was also very light and perfectly brings out the flavor of goat cheese. Lily bulb gives a smooth and sweet hint and the sliced macadamia added a crunchy texture.
The best cheese dish ever.
Wakasagi fish (Japanese pond smelt) was nicely grilled, it came to the table with an aromatic buttery smell. The fish itself was tender and has a gold crisy outer-layer. Topped with crunchy trout roe to enhance the oceanic flavor.
Besides the cheese dish, i also missed the fish dish a lot. Chef Kishida is very good at and famouse for his slow roasted technique. He usually cook the dishes ahigher and lower temperature to make a perfect Quintessence-style texture. A lot of chefs from Quintessence left and opened their own restaurants such as the chef of Florilege and Abysse, who also use the same technique.
I was actually expected to see the slow roasted fish again but this time i had the crispy scale Amadai.
The fish was firstly pan fried to make its skin crispy and then roasted in oven and 300 degree. The skin was perfectly crispy and the flesh was succulent and fork tender - nothing besides perfect. The fish was cooked without any seasoning, but seriously the best of itself. The French Banko sauce was creamy and flavorful to pair with the originally delicious fish.
Everything was so perfect except the deep-fried kabu on the side, the battering was crispy but too oily to enhance a balance for our liking.
For the last main dish of the day, we were asked to choose from pork and deer. The whole table are requested to have the same order, and because one of my partner doesn't eat deer, they had the pork. For me, I had another fish dish instead of the pork.
We were very surprised to know that the pig eats sweet potato only. It was roasted at a higher and lower temperature as well. (sorry, i forgot to ask about the temperature) The young pink pork slice seems very tender and delicious, or maybe sweet because the pig eats sweet potato. Unfortunately, it was very tough, very hard to cut and one of my partners only had two bites of it - simply because she cannot properly chew it. While the flavor was very simple and delicious. Sorry for the poor Mr.Pig.
My Sawara was not that horrible in texture compare to the pork, but definitely not the texture i expected. It was a bit dry and not juicy at all, the previous crispy Amadai was much much better in all senses. While the sea urchin sauce was lovely and made up the flavor of the dish.
The first dessert, or a pre dessert for cleanse-palate purpose was a glass of sorbet of black tea from Fujian, China. The flavor was similar to Japanese Hijicha and earl grey, very balanced bitter and sweet flavor from the raisins.
The main dessert was baked cheesecake made of mascarpone cheese and finished with apricot brandy sauce on the top. It was really aromatic when it came to the table and i cannot wait to have it. We all enjoyed the hot, moist cheesecake which was very light but deep in cheese flavor. The apricot brandy sauce was well-balanced. Lovely.
When the fisrt black tea sorbet came to the table, i realized that the famouse meringue sorbet is not on today's menu. We ordered the meringue sorbert which came at 864 JPY for a large scoope. It has an aromatic almond flavor, very creamy and delicious. The first few bites were perfect, but its large size gives me an over-sweetened and heavy feeling at last.
The meal Quintessence was much better than last time, and the service was too largely improved - at least someone can introduce each dishes in English properly. My (our) best dishes were cheese and Amadai, followed by spinach soup, cheese cake and meringue ice cream. However, we all think the consistency was not very good - the good dishes were really good, bad ones were really bad. I mean, not that seriously bad, but consider to its Japan No.1 and Michelin-three-starred position. Anyway, Quintessence is overrated in my opinion.