The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

6th wedding anniversary with French @ Joel Robuchon, Tokyo

When you think about it, 6 years isn't a long time. But it's long enough to learn that a marriage needs a lot more than just romantic love to be successful (of course, we already realistically knew that before we tied the knot, but you don't really know something until you're actually in it, right?). We've enjoyed the past 6 years of marriage, but believe me, we've had our fair share of bumps during this marital journey. The important thing is that we've managed to get over and past each hurdle, and - as clichéd as it sounds - to come out stronger and closer than before.

To celebrate our 6 years of marriage (and 9 years of relationship), I booked a table for two a couple of month ago for lunch at Le Château de Joël Robuchon on our wedding date (which fell on a Saturday this year). The restaurant is at Ebisu Garden Place, in a beautiful castle-like building (hence the "château" in the name) that has four different levels of dining areas and a bakery/patiserrie. We are big fans of Robuchon, having enjoyed all three previous experiences at his restaurants in Tokyo and Hong Kong. This world renowned chef has restaurants in many cities, and I believe all of them have been awarded at least one Michelin star. He has no less than three restaurants here in Tokyo, and Le Château holds 3 Michelin stars. I know from experience that it is almost impossible to make a booking at a 3-star restaurant, so needless to say, we were pretty happy to have gotten the opportunity to dine at this restaurant before we move out of Tokyo.

The second floor dining room was classy, with black table setting offset by crystals strewn across. A beautiful chandelier hung in the centre of the room, and even the walls were lined with Swarovski crystals. As always, service was first-class. Friendly yet professional, attentive yet not in-your-face. Interestingly, Rob was the only Caucasian diner - the other diners were mostly Japanese (I heard spoken Chinese at a nearby table). Our meal took more than 3 hours, but we were reluctant to leave. There were three different lunch courses of varying degree of damage to the pocket. Rob chose Menu Gourmand (12,300 yen) with 9 courses, most of which were fixed with the chef's specialities (he could choose the entrée/soup and the fish courses). I went with Menu A (9,800 yen), an 8-course meal that gave me flexibility to choose all courses from a list of options. We ate a lot of food between us, so I'll just post the food photos and give a brief description using my now-fuzzy memory of the meal. We forgot to ask for a copy of the menu, so unfortunately I can't use the more romantic French names of each dish.


Soon after placing our order, we were given a crusty sourdough mini baguette with a plate of olive oil containing a single drop of balsamic vinegar. The trolley of beautiful baked goodies was rolled over to our table shortly after our entrée was served. After selecting, our choice of breads were warmed before they were served to us. We tried six different types of bread between us, all were delicious (I was partial to the anchovy croissant, but the olive roll, butter danish, basil bun, cheese roll and rosemary brioche were good too), and it was so hard to say no to offers of more bread.

Amuse Bouche

Both of us were served different amuse bouche, which was a little unexpected because I'm used to restaurants serving only one type of amuse bouche to everyone. Another unusual element was that both amuse bouche were sweet. Rob's had an almond theme with a creamy pudding and mine was a fruity cocktail meant to be stirred and mixed before consumption. I loved how these were served in a tall glass so we could appreciate the different layers of different textures.

Almond-style amuse bouche, and cocktail-style amuse bouche:

Soup and Entrée

The entrée included in Rob's course was Gel of Sea Urchin, one of the restaurant's specialty. This had uni (aka sea urchin roe) encased in a delicate jelly and topped with cream of cauliflower. We enjoyed the beautiful flavour of uni, but failed to see exactly why it was a special dish. For my entree course, I chose Duo of black pudding and duck's foie gras with apricot (it sounds a lot nicer in French). This was quite interesting and surprisingly palatable considering what black pudding really is. It was innovatively presented like a cake, and the sweet apricot sauce and gel cubes went really well with the savoury counterparts. We were told that the ball of shredded white vegetable came from France. It tasted similar to celery, but sweeter with a more delicate texture.

Sea urchin jelly and the Black pudding "cake":

In addition to the sea urchin entrée, Rob had a choice of an additional entrée or soup. He went for a seasonal entrée of Trio of Corn with Duck. The plate had corn fritter topped with shavings of parmesan, sweet young corn and juicy corn kernels that had been beautifully grilled, and accompanied with thin slices of raw duck meat.

Corn entrée:

For my soup course, I chose the Spicy shellfish bouillon with king crab and fresh herbs. The soup was fragrantly spicy with herbs, yet it was light enough not to overpower the subtle sweetness of the king crab flesh. I quite liked this soup.

Crab bouillon, completed at the table:


Rob chose "Isaki" with sea urchin sauce and Malabar spinach. This was really good. The flesh of the Isaki fish was firm and juicy with a beautifully crisp skin, and the uni was delicious. My Snapper with lemongrass foam and butter sauce seemed quite pale in comparison to the Isaki dish, although it was also quite tasty especially with the strands of fried (or baked?) lemongrass.

Isaki fish and Snapper:


The meat dish in Rob's course was Grilled Wagyu with Vegetables. This plain-sounding dish is also another restaurant special, but while it was delicious, we didn't think it was anything special. For my meat course, I chose the Young chicken with cream of tomato. Apparently the chicken came from faraway France, and it did taste nicer and had a better texture than the standard chicken meat we get at the supermarket these days. I personally liked this chicken dish better than the wagyu, but then I am not a red meat person.

Grilled Wagyu and Pan-fried young chicken:


Rob's Menu Gourmand included a Cheese plate, and a trolley full of all sorts of hard, soft and smelly French cheese was wheeled over to our table. Rob selected five types of cheeses (I think he could get away with more, but I reminded him that dessert was still to come), including Camembert, Roquefort and Mimolette (the only hard cheese Rob chose). He adventurously chose this particular cheese that was so fermented, it was liquid in texture (we didn't catch the name of this cheese). It indeed had a pungent odor, but I didn't find it repulsive because it reminded me of chou doufu (aka stinky tofu) which I grew up eating. I am no cheese connoisseur, with a strong preference for mild cheese, so we were both surprised that I actually enjoyed that liquid cheese. The roquefort was served with honey, which made eating the blue cheese so much more pleasant. My favourite on the plate was the mimolette cheese, which was mild and slightly sweet.


Just before the dessert course(s) commenced, we were surprised with a special congratulatory plate, and a "Happy 6th anniversary" from our waiter. I was a little embarrassed actually, especially when there were 3 or 4 waiters standing around our little table clapping their hands. After that, we were served the Avant Dessert (or pre-dessert), an apricot sorbet with sugar almonds and apricot foam. Great palate cleanser to prep us for the dessert course.

Rob predictably chose the Chocolat Sensation with guanaja chocolate cream and condensed milk ice cream coated in Oreo biscuits. This was really good, a perfect choice for chocolate lovers, but it was also really rich and creamy which meant that I could only handle a small amount. I went for the Mango Ravioli with coffee ice cream, and this was lighter and easier to handle than the chocolate dessert. The 'ravioli' had a thick mango-flavoured skin surrounding a coffee-flavoured ice cream, and surrounded by mango foam and coffee cream. Mango and coffee makes a surprisingly delicious combination!

Chocolate sensation and Mango ravioli:

We both chose Cappuccino, and was served with a tiny cup of fruity sorbet (I think it was apricot). We were high on sugar by this time.

We really enjoyed this experience at Le Château, which is a great place for a special occasion. A little pricey, but definitely worth it for a 3 Michelin stars restaurant. We're glad that we managed to finally dine at Le Château in our last month in Tokyo.

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