Welcome to Crony.
Crony was the memorable food highlight of our four day trip to Japan this past summer. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to have such incredible food this trip (see previous post to see why). However, just as chance would have it, the folks at Crony reached out to me about a month before my Japan trip. Would I like to try Crony sometime? The timing worked out perfectly, so we arranged a celebratory dinner at Crony in honor of my friend’s birthday in early July.
Crony is a high-end French restaurant that applies influences from Scandinavia and North America to Japanese ingredients. Crony (クローニー) translates to a “forever friend with whom you enjoy tea”. The three friends who founded Crony wanted the restaurant to embody this concept . . . a place enjoy a cup of tea with your best friend and hang out for hours, regardless of whether you’re talking or not.
The restaurant opened less than two years ago, yet has already gained a coveted Michelin star.
Executive chef Michihiro Haruta (pictured at left) spent the early part of his career in France (Alsace, Perigord, and Provence) before moving to one of Paris oldest restaurants, 3-Michelin starred Ledoyen on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. He spent time at Quintessence in Tokyo before catching the Nordic bug and traveling to Scandinavia to learn more. After spending time in Copenhagen and Norway at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, Chef Haruta went to Tirpse in Japan, where he helped them achieve their first Michelin star. A stint at Saison in San Francisco added a Californian influence to his already broad repetoire.
The entire team consists of seasoned, experienced people. Director Kazutaka Ozawa came from Quintessence, manager Toru Onodera was previously at the Conrad Hotel, and sommelier Yudai Ishikawa was at the Ritz Carlton in Japan.
There is an a la carte menu as well as a tasting menu for JPY 12,960 + 10% service charge per person. We decided to go for the tasting menu, since it would be the best way for us to see the chef at his best.
We began with a lovely glass of blanc de blancs champagne from Ruinart. The refreshing bubblies paired nicely with the multiple small amuse bouches that followed.
We started with a visually catching plate of what looked a lot like black stones. In fact, in a sea of shiny black stones sat two stones that looked just a little less smooth than the others. These “stones” were actually croquettes with a bamboo charcoal exterior and a delicious interior of pork cheek jamon and potato.
Next, we chewed on dehydrated cucumbers which had been cured with salt and butter. They were chewy, intense, quite salty, and gave a jolt of umami.
Soon afterwards, these cute little Æbleskiver appeared, topped with uni and filled with red pepper puree. Traditionally, Æbleskiver is a spherical Danish pastry that is a cross between a pancake and a popover. This version was delicious, with a lovely intense red pepper center and luxurious uni on top. I loved how Chef Haruta artfully incorporated Japanese ingredients into this very traditional Scandinavian dish.
Mini corn tartlettes topped with lamb “katsuobushi” was next. Katsuobushi, also known as bonito, is typically made from dried, fermented, and shaved skipjack tuna. This creative version was made with lamb, and the texture was more like a powder than like the paper-like “flakes” that you usually get with fish. The crispy thin tartlette crust was delicate, and the corn inside was the predominant flavor, though the shaved lamb “powder” definitely added a more complex angle to the dish.
I loved this next simple course, a small pile of stir fried fresh green peas with parsley paste and prawn. The fresh flavors of the ingredients really shone in this dish.
Then came the teaser. What looked like a simple grilled zucchini surprised us all when the top “lid” was removed to reveal squid ribbon-like “noodles” sautéed with pistachio. The squid had excellent texture and the flavors were spot on. It was important to eat the zucchini and noodles together, because the extra sprinkling of salt crystals on top of the zucchini balanced out the overall flavor. We enjoyed the pairing this dish with a fruity 2014 Sancerre called Les Herses from Alphonse Mellots.
We loved how the ingredients really shone in this next course, composed of Girolle mushrooms (a type of chanterelle), fresh baby corn, hazelnut, and a quail egg. The whole dish had a lovely charcoal flavor and was flavorful, balanced, and delicious, especially when paired with the 2016 Ferraton Père et Fils “La Source” Saint-Joseph.
We absolutely fell in LOVE with the homemade bread, which was made from yeast brought all the way from San Francisco. Although our meal was already halfway over, none of us left a single crumb on the table. The bread was slightly crispy on the outside, warm and soft on the side, and oh-so-flavorful. We loved the large holes in the bread, which could hold more of that delicious butter (made with whey). We learned that the secret to the bread’s lovely crispy texture was that it was twice baked. Furthermore, they used yogurt in making the bread.
We experienced an interesting comparison of two very different chardonnays: we started with a lovely 2014 San Francisco chardonnay called Tatedog from Wisner Vineyard with our bread. This was followed by a saline buttery Cote de Beaune French chardonnay from Domaine Olivier called Santenay Le Bievaux L’Air de Rien paired with our fish course (pictured below).
The fish course consisted of a lightly seared red snapper with skin topped with an airy eggplant foam. The fish was tender, perfectly cooked, and very pleasant.
And then, finally, red wine appeared! We knew we were likely onto the meat course, and that the tasting was nearing the end. This was a French Burgundy from Dom George Lignier et Fils called Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru Clos des Ormes.
Our final savory course was pigeon topped with cabbage and shaved white truffles. The pigeon was exceptionally tender and had a distinct gamey flavor that Bryan loved but our friend did not. The Burgundy paired very well with the course.
For our cheese course, they brought a lovely sweet 1998 1er cru classe Sauterne from Chateau Suduiraut.
The cheese course itself was unusual, creative, and really fun. Reminiscent of the earlier black “stones”, these sand colored stones were different.
“You must put the whole thing in your mouth.”
We popped the ball in our mouths, and upon biting down, BOOM! a salty, Parmesan-like soup exploded inside.
“It’s like a xiaolongbao, but wetter” remarked one of my friends.
In fact, the interior was filled with a cheese soup made of Mimolette cheese. It had strong, salty flavors, not unlike Parmesan. The exterior had the texture of white chocolate, but tasted like cheese.
And then we sang Happy Birthday!
The birthday “dust” was actually a milk pudding topped with a frozen “dust” made from a variety of herbs. I absolutely loved the refreshing combination. We could taste a mixture of melon and dill in the green parts, while the white pudding inside had hints of malt and creme brulee.
We followed the refreshing, bright course with a richer “charred milk” ice cream made with butter, malt syrup, and flour.
Back to the beginning where we started. We knew the meal was coming to a close. It was another bowl of stones, visually indistinguishable from the first bowl. This time, however, the black stones were actually a “coal” cookie made with a salty cookie dough and coffee.
It was a lovely way to bring full circle to the meal.
General Thoughts – Crony Tokyo
This place is truly a gem and we were so glad to have experienced it. This was by far the nicest meal of our trip. It was a treat to spend an evening enjoying great wine while marveling at Chef Haruta’s creative renditions integrating his Scandinavian, French, and even Californian influences with local Japanese ingredients.
One of our dining companions (who has eaten at her fair share of good restaurants) even declared that this was “one of the best meal [she’s] ever had . . .”
This place is a delight, and I highly recommend it.
Expect to spend between JPY20,000 and JPY30,000 per person for a meal at Crony. The restaurant has 21 seats (5 counter seats, 16 table seats) as well as an additional private room.
After 9:30PM the place transforms into a more casual wine bar where you can enjoy snacks that pair well with wine. I can imagine the wine bar being the perfect place to enjoy a drink and a snack with your “forever friend.” Of course, the earlier dinner environment was also great for us. We highly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere where we did hang out with our close “forever” friends while enjoying great conversation and fantastic food.
18:00 – 21:30 Dining Room
21:30 – 2:00 Wine Bar
Closed on Sundays
MB1F, Nishiazabu FT Bldg, 2-25-24 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Disclaimer – We were invited by Crony to enjoy this meal and we did not pay for the meal. I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.