Time flies, it’s already been 11 whole months since i visited L’Effervescence last December. Although i have only been there once for lunch, the entire experience was really impressive – the birth of my favorite French restaurant in Tokyo.
Housed on a back street in Nishi-Azabu – neither close to any train stations, L’Effervescence offers modern French food with a Japanese twist. Not only rewarded 2 Michelin Stars in 2015, L’Effervescence is also positioned No.12 of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.
Latest Visit: Oct.14.2015 (Lunch) / Dec.2014
Address: 2-26-4 Nishi-azabu, Minato-ku Tokyo,106-0031
Hours: 12:00-16:00 (13:30 L.O), 18:00-23:30 (20:30 L.O), Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Damage: Lunch JPY 7,000/10,000, Dinner 18,000
The owner-chef,Shinobu Namae was trained under both Michel Bras and Heston Blumenthal. He applies well-honed European technique to sensational Japanese ingredients at this slick Minato restaurant.
L’Effervescence offers three different menus during lunch: A promenade (JPY 10,000) / Through the pathway…(JPY 7,000) / Where the ocean meets the land~ (JPY 7,000). ‘A promenade’ is a shorter 7-course compare to the 10-course dinner. A glass of champagne or wine is inclusive in each set, quite reasonable price for a meal at such a great restaurant.
The first part was made of black radish emulsion, top with a layer of chilled vinegar. The foam was made of walnuts, and you will find some abalone cubes with shisho flower in the center. The entire combination was great, deep black radish flavor and ocean flavors. On the right side, the sudachi and sake liquid nitrogen was refreshing.
As it is very hard to get Japanese butter, some of the upscale western restaurants in Japan serves different spreads for bread. Such as ESqUISSE uses a mixture of butter and cream cheese, Anu uses cream cheese and olive oil. I can somehow imgaine cream cheese as a spread for bread, but guess what?
Chef Shinobu created this special spread – made of tofu and sour cream, with a hint of extra virgin olive oil. It was very silky and unexpectedly refreshing. The olive oil was very light and paired very well with the tofu. Sounds quite interesting, but, it was superb.
The first dish was served in two parts, we were firstly served a shot of Hamo dashi. Cooked with Hamo (conger pike) and kelp, Chef Shinobu then freezed the commune and filtered it, that’s why the dashi was so clear. Very clean and umami flavors to wash the palate.
Hamo (conger pike) is a 1-meter-long fish, chef sliced all the way through the fish, pike and seared it for one mintue before steaming it. The dish has a cirspy skin and moist flesh underneath. Paired with the seasonal vegetable – pumokin, which works pleasantly no matter in flavor or textures. The caramelized fish sauce too works well with the fish. Usually (pickled) cucumber is served with unagi (eel) but it surprsingly balanced well with the hamo, too. Very creative and elegant dish.
Followed by L’Effervescence’s signature turnip dish. The orgin of turnip changes with season, and usually the turnips are sweetest in February. After cooking the turnip for 4 hours, chef uses some butter to make it more aromatic and flavorful. The juices of turnip runs out once i cut into it, it tastes very smooth and totally has no bitter flavor. Compare to the one i had last December which was quite crunchy, the one we had this time is juicer and slightly sweeter.
L’Effervescence do offers alternative dishes for guests with special dietary requests. Although we all eat foie gras, the restaurant manager mentioned the alternative choice, wheat starch, in case we want to try something different. I thought foie gras is usually pan-fried which is quite heavy, and i never had wheat starch in any western restaurants before, so i decided to have wheat starch while my partners went with foie gras.
I was a bit regret when the foie gras came to the table. Served raw, on a bed of chef’s homemade yogurt and decorated with Japanese grapes, the foie gras dish looks very light and refreshing. We were quite surprising for the combination of foie gras and yogurt, the foie gras was very elegant and creamy; Japanese grapes as another helper to bring a touch of refreshness.
Instead of the foie gras, mine was replaced with fried wheat starch. Wheat starch is widely used in Chinese vegetarian cooking, i don’t think it is something that expensive that would me used in fine dining. Its chewy texture was similar to halloumi cheese, it was processed well that is quite hard to detect it was actually starch.
Before serving the main course, each of us was asked to choose a knife we like. I picked the second one made of horn comb.
The apple pie is another highlight of the menu, a signature dish that i didn’t try last time because it contains ingredients i don’t eat. Luckily i got to try it this time. From an idea of apple pie, chef changes the ingredients seasonally for the pie.
Autumn is a peak season to eat mushrooms, the porcini and shiitake mushroom inside the pie were aromatic and juicy, its crunchy texture was very sync with the bouncy langoustine inside . Scallop mousse wonderfully enhanced the umami flavor, which works really well with the creamy foir gras; the apple gives some sweetness and refreshness to the dish. Underneath the pie was eggplant sauce, its smoky flavor and creamy texture was very elegant.
Garnished with 51 kinds of vegetables, fruits and edible flowers, this dish was seriously too pretty to eat. Some vegetables was already in my stomach when i realized i should note them down, ingredients i did note down includes: gobo, lotus root, permission, botton mushroom, sprouted green beans, potato, pumpkin, tomato, purple and white radish, okra, purple radish, black truffle and assorted green leaves.
Chef Shinobu shaving white truffle for our pigeon dish.
The aroma of white truffle immedieately spread over the table once it was sliced. The pigeon was perfectly roasted, the skin was crispy while inside was succulent and flavorful. The Japanese look consomme was very clean but balanced so well with the pigeon. With the aromatic white truffle, the entire dish was incrediblely elegant and enjoyable.
We were quite surprised that chef Shinobu used the Japanese white miso, which is a svaory ingredients, in the dessert. It is very important to control the degree of saltiness of the dish, otherwise the entire dessert would be a disaster. And of course, Shinobu-san never disappoints you. The sweetness from the fig and white chocolate mousse was just right with the savory white miso. The texture was also awesome, loved the super crispy pastry in the center.
Few restaurants make really impressive petit fours, and L’Effervescence would never missed any details to impress the guests. Consists of white chocoalte iced rock with corriander, mochi with fresh pear, shorbread sandwiched purple potato and rasins, and chocolate lollipop with popping candy.
Instead of serving coffee and leafy tea, L’Effervescence now offers freshly-made matcha at the end of the meal. The staffs learnt tea ceremony from a Japanese teacher, and i coudn’t believe myself seeing this hadnsome French guy skillfully whisking Matcha in front of us.
The matcha was very pleasant, whisked efficiently, perfect ratio of water and tea powder, wonderful temperature and flavor. To balance the bitterness, we were also served a glass of peanut milk made of US peanuts, vanilla and cream. Perfect ending.
It was a very impressive meal. We were quite surprised by the creations of chef Shinobu by combining ingredients we never thought of, and the outcomes were just beautiful. Everthing was to the point, the aroma, temperature, texture, flavor…
One of my partners was complaining about the service quality in Michelin-ed Japanese restaurants and Western restaurants before starting the meal, as most Japanese restaurants give you a very homey and treated feeling, while service at western restaurants is more concise in comparison. I again feel so grateful to the the French manager Zac’s satisfying service, each dish was detailed explained – the origin of the ingredients, how the chef proccessed them… Chef Shinobu gave us a tour to the kitchen and shared some his cooking conception with us. We found ‘sharing’ is a very important factor at L’Effervescence. And i wish to share more great things at L’Effervescence next time…