This is the twenty-fifth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series. Please scroll to the bottom to see all the other posts in this series.
Typically when I travel, I stick to exploring food from the local region. For example, I eat dumplings, noodles, and Peking duck when I'm in Beijing, not pasta. When we were in the Piedmont region, on the other hand, we ate handmade pasta with white truffles every single day!
However, I make an exception for Japan. When the Japanese execute food from another region, they often incorporate so much of their own culture, ingredients, and values, it really becomes its own separate cuisine.
A perfect example would be the Japanese hamburger ("hamburg" in Japanese). Although it's considered a foreign-influenced dish in Japan, we now have Japanese restaurants in America dedicated to this unique Japanese-American fusion cuisine.
Another example is French food in Japan. Many Japanese chefs train in French culinary methods and techniques. However, they are also influenced by Japan's strong identity with kaiseki, a centuries-old, ingredients-driven, hyper-seasonal food philosophy that arose from a mix of imperial court cuisine, Buddhist temple cuisine, and traditional tea ceremonies. the result is a beautiful blend of France's sophisticated culinary techniques (arguably the best in the world) combined with one of the most obsessively ingredients-driven food philosophies in the world.
Florilege is one such restaurant.
Chef-owner Hiroyasu Kawate opened Florilege in 2009 and he's quickly gaining recognition.
Florilege won Asia's 50Best Restaurants "One to Watch" Award in 2016 (the first time for a restaurant not on the 50Best list). Chef Kawate is obsessed with bringing out the flavors of local ingredients in French dishes made with a very Japanese style. He is also a huge proponent of sustainability, and does many unusual things that are consistent with this philosophy.
We stopped by Florilege for lunch our first day in Tokyo. Our friend Thatcher (a Saison alum and fellow Japanophile we met while dining at the restaurant), highly recommended this place to us, telling us it was one of his favorite restaurants from his last trip.
Our first course was a beautiful - a single, tiny local Japanese sweet potato smoked in hay. The smell was intoxicating, and the presentation was stunning. The potato itself was absolutely delicious - smoky, sweet, perfectly crackling skin, smooth creamy inside.
We received hot steamed buns as bread (yum!).
One unusual way in which the restaurant promotes sustainability is by serving beef from breeding cows who are beyond breeding age. They are much older than normal beef cows. Typically, meat from cows who have given birth is considered too tough and not usable for high-end dining. However, Kawate has found a way to tenderize this meat and therefore find a way to use these cows. Presented as Beef Carpaccio, I thought the beef was excellent, with a deep rich flavor.
On the side was a creamy potato puree that really reminded me of the famously creamy and rich Joel Robuchon mashed potatoes. An clean apple sorbet provided a nice, refreshing balance to the richness of the rest of the dish. A vegetable consommé made from vegetable scraps (another effort towards sustainability) was poured on top.
The next course, “Contrast”, explored the contrast of temperatures in a single dish. A cold piece of foie gras confit came served with a hot chestnut cream sauce and topped with chestnut sprinkles.
“Oyster” was the next course, and consisted of a huge creamy, deep-fried oyster covered with seaweed. It was served with an oyster “cream” (imagine a mix of oyster broth and milk) together with little drops of lemon meringue that had been frozen in liquid nitrogen.
The “Meat” course was served family style. We could see the chef slowly roasting a suckling pig on one of the grills.
He came back to show us our piece before taking it back to carve up.
The suckling pig, which was delicious tender and had a lovely crackling skin, came with a red pepper sauce and a roasted red pepper.
Two ground cherries as a simple palate cleanser.
We tried two different types of tea infusions.
The first was grassy and bright. The second had more body and a more traditional green tea flavor.
For our first dessert, we tasted a dish simply called “Mozzarella”. It was a brilliant concept. Chef made a mozzarella mousse that was slightly frozen and had the exact same texture as real mozzarella. This was topped with a fried basil and a lemon sauce that resembled egg yolk.
The next dessert, titled “Brown Sugar”, was a persimmon and cream galette served with glazed almonds (made to look like the like persimmon seeds). I was surprised, but I thought this dessert was really good. I especially loved the light and airy whipped cream and how well it paired with the persimmons. Everything was flavorful yet not too sweet at all. I really thought it was better than desserts I've had at most high-end restaurants (which are typically too sweet for me).
All in all, we had a lovely meal at Florilege. The food was excellent, the service was very good, and the ambiance was pleasant. On a weekday, the restaurant seemed to be filled with a mix of business people, tourists, and friends gathering together for a nice meal.
The place is pretty foreigner-friendly. Our server gave us a menu that was printed in English. They had at least one server who could speak English pretty well, and thus was able to describe all of the interesting background information about each dish to us.
I appreciate Chef Kawate's respect of ingredients and his efforts towards sustainability. His food is great and I really look forward to seeing how he continues to grow as a chef.
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy
Dinner at a Truffle Hunter's Inn - Tra Art e Querce
Trattoria Della Posta in Montfort D'Alba
Nighttime Truffle Hunting with a Dog in Alba
Osteria della Arco - last dinner in Alba
Stunning Images of La Morra and Barolo, Italy
First Day In Bordeaux, France - Une Cuisine en Ville
Chateau Haut-Brion Tour in Bordeaux France
Restaurant Le St. James
Touring Bordeaux Wineries - Day 1 - Left Bank
La Tupina, Bordeaux (traditional French dinner)
Cos d'Estournel Tour
Touring Bordeaux - Pauillac, Chateau Lynch-Bages
A Different Paris
Le Relais de l'Entrecote
Hiking at Mount Takao in Japan