Well, I have too many restaurant reviews about restaurants i visited in the United States in February, which i suppose to update before this, but those restaurants didn’t impressed me at all thus i don’t want to waste too much time on them at this point. I want to share some better dining experiences i had in Tokyo in late March.
Finally here, Sugalabo Inc. – argubly the most mystrious eateries opened in Tokyo of the year. The ranking and rating of the restaurants was jumped to Top 10 in Tokyo on Tabelog not long since its opening, while it is impossible to get a reservation not even their telephone number and the only way is to ask someone who have been before to take you there. Luckily i was invited by a good friend in Janurary, and the earliest available day is two months after, which is end of March.
The man behind Sugalabo is Yosuke Suga (須賀洋介) who was trained under Robuchon in Paris. He started as an assistant of Jo Robuchon and later became an 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 bringing Japanese and French culture and flavors together.
Cost: Basic course JPY 20,000++, Wine Pairing 12,000++ (we spent slightly over JPY 28,000 per head include one glass of Moet, curry rice, tax and services)
Sugalabo locates in Kamiya-cho, Minato-ku in central 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 if you can recgnoise this little ‘cafe’ called Orange Coffee Tokyo at the ground floor of a office building. Yeah, that’s the reception. After confirming the reservation details at the ‘cashier’, you now may enter the restaurant – just push the book shelf on the left hand side. And 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 snaks to start our dinner. The first snack is a Japanese wafer ‘Monaka’ with a Sugalabo logo on it. The wafer is very crsipy, inside is 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 second snack was white fish tempura, the seasonal white fish is very tender and well fried. Crispy and delicious.
The third snack was a mini freshly-baked vegetable quiche, flaky and buttery crust, inside was smooth and flavorful. The only issue here : it was very hot and our mouth was hurt (we expected food at such fancy place should be served at ‘edible’ tempeture).
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 milk mily flavor. Again, too hot.
The first dish of our dinner was a Maguro (tuna) tartar topped with caviar, and side with Japanese spring peas. The maguro was do doubt high quality, while both my partners and i expected it to be more flavorful but we were a bit disappointing as there’s nothing else beside creamy.
Bon Dabon ham, the only raw ham 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) which is one of the most popular tourist destination in Gifu. 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. Again it wasn’t served at the proper temperature (way too hot, or burnt?) .
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.
After the fish course, we were served the meat course of Wagyu from Nara and Ginea 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 too impressive.
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 most want to try at Sugalabo. Simply steamed white rice, beef curry freshly cooked by Chef Suga at the counter, with pickled garlic and a small pinch of Srilanka 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, however, the taste didn’t really surprise us. I don’t like a hint of sourness of the curry that much.
By far nothing 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 adeleine 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.
Probably due to our high expectations, the meal at Sugalabo didn’t work out that much for us. But we have to admit that the ingredients were the top quality, all the ingredients were 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 is quite a few of dishes were served too hot. In short, it was a pretty enjoyable experience, but not on my revisiting list shortly.