I had been curious about Il Ristorante Luca Fantin for a while, now. This Italian restaurant in one of Tokyo’s glitziest neighborhoods, Ginza, sits on top of the Bulgari building. Chef Luca Fantin himself has spent time at many top notch restaurants around the world, including Mugaritz (my favorite San Sebastian fine dining experience) and Ryugin, where he first fell in love with Japan.
The restaurant has maintained its Michelin star since 2011, though many think it at least deserves one more. It Ristorante Luca Fantin is also number 18 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 and 107th on the World’s 50 Best list.
When I initially asked Bryan whether he was interested in trying an Italian restaurant in Tokyo, he asked, “why would I want to eat Italian in Tokyo?”
I explained that Luca Fantin incorporates top quality Japanese ingredients into his creative take on Italian cuisine. Italian happens to be Bryan’s favorite cuisine in the world. Once he heard that, he was intrigued as well.
We booked about one month in advance, and it wasn’t a problem getting a reservation. We did have to pre-book which tasting menu we wanted. We also had to provide a credit card number. They would charge us a penalty if we did not cancel two days before our reservation.
We decided to go with the signature Menù Luca Fantin, JPY25,000 a person.
We started with an assortment of canapes, single bites of unique and creative flavor combinations served in a vehicle you might not expect, such as a tomato basil burrata macaron or a spherified “olives” filled with cheese.
9 Different Bites
The next set of nine bites reminded me most of Japanese cuisine, since the ingredients played such a large part of the overall bite.
A turbot with parsnip sauce was bright, with delicious citrus and olive oil notes. The raw tuna was fantastic, prepared Mediterranean style with salty olives inside. Uni, or sea urchin, was served with a root vegetable that reminded me of turnip except that it was orange.
Clam came served in a cute edible clamshell shaped shell. Baby fish was served deep fried, tempura-style with radish. Sweet shrimp (amai ebi) came with fresh snow peas, and was simple yet delicious.
A tangled deep fried “mess” of squid ink potato “strings” came with caviar and citrus (perhaps yuzu) zest. Finally, an orange brioche cracker came topped with with karasumi, or millet roe.
Bread + Olive Oil + Salt
They take their bread and oil very seriously. We had the opportunity to try three different types of olive oils. Each oil was paired with a different salt. You can see that the salts were strikingly different colors: black, white, and pink.
Our first appetizers was elegant and refined. On the left, Japanese hairy crab and cauliflower topped with chips made from the same crab. On the right, a beautiful and elegant pecorino ravioli, served with a stunning ham prosciutto consommé and fresh fava beans. We both really, really loved this ravioli course. The prosciutto consommé especially was divine.
Next was a risotto served with black aori squid, seafood stock, squid ink jelly, and rice which has been aged for two years. The server explained to us that aori squid is particularly expensive because it was really good eyesight and thus is difficult to catch.
Meat and Fish
Kinmedai seared with a Salamander (a broiler which can reach extremely high temperatures), sautéed with white asparagus from Kyushu (southern) and tomato water in a sauce that has been aged for four weeks.
A beautiful lamb tenderloin topped with jus. We enjoyed that together with a roasted endive served with four different sauces: saffron, horseradish, spicy horseradish & vinegar, pistachio and smoked in herbs.
The cheese selection was fun, a mixture of Italian cheese and Asian cheese. We tried a bit of all of them! I’ve tried my best to describe them below.
- Asiago Fresco Benetto – a mild yogurt-like fresh cheese made from three different types of milk
- Montasio – semihard cheese from the Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto provinces of Italy.
- Bitto – an Italian cheese from Lombardia made only during the summer when the cows graze on grass on the high alpine meadows
- Gorgonzola Dolce – a sweeter blue cheese
- Tallegio Lombardia – a washed rind cheese aged 4-5 months
- Magno – a crumbly cheese from Piedmont
- Silenzio – a hard goat’s milk cheese from Umbria
- Kinokawa – a local Japanese cheesemaker takes a North Italian cheese and cures it with Butterfly pea flower from Thailand, thus resulting in its unique flavor and blue color
Our first dessert included hazelnut ice cream, a raspberry chocolate mousse, and a pine nut custard filled tart.
East meets West – a brioche filled with cream (like custard), served like a Chinese steamed “bun” in a steamer.
The final mignardises? A beautifully formed raspberry made out of jelly that looked almost real, pear jelly, a lemon meringue tart, and chocolate (topped with gold for good measure).
Il Ristorante Luca Fantin – General Thoughts
We were duly impressed with the execution of everything at Il Ristorante Luca Fantin. Chef Luca Fantin does an exquisite job of taking Japanese ingredients and showcasing them using Italian flavors. The meal was decidedly Italian, with familiar concepts such as risotto, ravioli, generous use of Italian cheese, and other Mediterranean flavors. However, the Japanese ingredients definitely give the meal a more Japanese feel, which I love.
Chef Luca Fantin says he uses about 90% local Japanese ingredients and only imports about 10% from Italy. I think the meal is a really unique blend of the two. If you’re a fan of both Japanese and Italian food and ingredients, I think you’ll love what Chef Luca Fantin is doing.
Il Ristorante Luca Fantin
2 Chome-7-12 Ginza, Chuo City
Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
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