Finally here, Sugalabo Inc. - argubly the most mystrious eateries opened in Tokyo in 2016. The ranking of Sugalabo has jumped to Tokyo's Top 10 on Tabelog soon after its opening. While it is almost impossible to get a reservation as their telephone number was not open to public. Luckily i was invited by a good Japanese friend.
The man behind Sugalabo is Yosuke Suga (須賀洋介) who was trained under Robuchon in Paris. He started as an assistant of Joel Robuchon, followed by executive chef at L'Atelier de Jo Robuchon Paris before he opened Sugalabo in April 2015. Sugalabo offers upscale French food in a laboratory style, Chef Yosuke focuses on every single elements from ingredients, tableware to cookware to give the guest the best culinary tour, by blending Japanese and French elements in the best possible ways.
Sugalabo locates in Kamiya-cho, Minato-ku in Tokyo, just few minutes walk from Kamiya-cho train station. The entrance of the restaurant is very special and almost impossible to tell, no signboard nor significant directions, but everything gets easier when I recgnoise this little 'cafe' called Orange Coffee Tokyo. Yeah, that's the reception. After confirming the reservation details at the 'cashier', you now may enter the restaurant, by push the book shelf. Here we go!
The restaurant features a 8-seat counter and 8 table seatings, there is also a private room. The only menu at Sugalabo includes 5 dishes and 2 desserts, comes with complimentary amuse bouche and petit fours. Cheese and curry rice are also available upon request.
We were firstly served four snakes to start our dinner. The first snack is a Japanese wafer 'Monaka' with a Sugalabo logo on it. The wafer is very crsipy, inside was creamy scrambled eggs and Ikura marinated in Japanese soy sauce 'shoyo' (いいくらのしょうゆ漬け). Nice delicay to open our palates.
The third snack was a mini freshly-baked vegetable quiche, flaky and buttery crust, inside was smooth and flavorful. Unfortunately it was really hot and our mouth was hurt (we expected food at such fancy place should be served at 'edible' temperature).
The last amuse is a shot of onion soup made of freshly-harvest baby onions from Awaji. We were surprised by the natural sweetness of the onion soup, very delicious with a mild milky flavor.
The first dish was Maguro (tuna) tartar topped with caviar, with Japanese spring peas on the side. The maguro was do doubt high quality, however under-seasoning that we couldn't tell it was maguro besides its creamy texture.
Bon Dabon ham, the only certificated ham producer in Japan, it is considered the best ham in Japan by a lot of locals. The producer Tada Masatoyo (多田 昌豊) has his own factory in Gifu (岐阜). For this dish, the thin-sliced ham is paired with one of the best produces of Spring - white asparagus. The ham has a deep and flavorful taste which matches well with the juicy asparagus.
Followed by a chawamushi (steamed egg custard) with clam, topped with broccoli rabe and its foam. Chawanmushi itself was very silky, clam was rarely cooked but just at its best.
The first main dish of the night was crispy-scaled Amadai paired with Topinambou chips. Chef Suga-san showed as the fresh Topinambou before he served the dish, it looks like ginger but taste more like potatoes (at least the chips were!). Amadai was tender and i really liked its crispy scales.
The meat course of Wagyu from Nara and fowl from a local farmer. We watched Chef Suga-san grilling the steak at the counter at the very beginning of out meal, it has a lovely crispy skin and pretty succulent, flavorful meat. On the side, the fowl was also delicious.
Before serving the desserts, chef asked whether we want to add on Cheese platter or curry rice. It is quite interesting to know that such a fancy French restaurant serves curry rice, to be honest this is the dish i came for.
Simply steamed white rice, beef curry freshly cooked by Chef Suga at the counter, with pickled garlic and a small pinch of Sri Lanka spice on top of the rice. The beef curry is less creamy than regular Japanese curry but makes a perfect texture after mixed up with the rice. While the taste doesn't really surprised us.
Honestly, there was no highlight by this point (even for the entire meal). Even ourselves were pretty suprised by the truth that the best part of the meal was the 'Kodoka' strawberries in out first dessert. Produced in Nara, the premium Kodoka strawberry is considers the top strawberry in Japan. It is so juicy and 'amai' (Japanese word). The Japanese mandarin and its soup was pretty clean and refreshing, its chip was pretty delicious too.
The freshly baked apple pie was made of apples from a hundred-year-old tree from a private farm in Aomori. The cookie-like tart base was buttery, apple was well-baked which has a very balanced sweet and sour taste (actually the ingredient itself plays a larger part here).
Finally, we were served with two complimentary coffee snacks. The coffee custard in an egg shell impressed me a lot, very smooth and mild flavor. A tray of fresh Madeleine was then appeared in front of us, its buttery smell already makes my mouth watering when i was shooting. Normally madeleine is denser but this one is quite airy, my friend doesn't like its airy texture but it works for me. But we coincide that the deep eggy flavor was lovely.
To be honest, my first visit in 2016 was a bit under expectation. But there's no doubt thatthe ingredients were the top quality sourced from the best farms in Japan. Chef Suga-san makes French food into his unique style by using those top ingredients, but we still feel something is missing on the flavor side. Another issue was quite a few of dishes were served too hot. I think the team need a bit more time (maybe few more month) to become sophisticated. But i still looking forward to revisit it some time soon.