My Go-To Brasserie

My go-to brasserie is Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The menu includes many classics like Salad Nicoise (2,300 JPY) and Pate de Campagne (2,600 JPY). I love the Japanese twist on the salad which included seared tuna. The pate de campagne is dense without being heavy.  There is a nice selection of wines by the glass. Service is professional without being stodgy.

The Petit Lunch is a good value for 2,500 JPY which starts with a soup or salad, main, and dessert. The restaurant is on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku. There are a handful of seats along the window, but I prefer the cozy banquettes. At a recent dinner here there was a family celebrating a baby’s first birthday in a corner semi-private room. We’ve come with our young son and the kid-friendly restaurant made us feel at home.

Girandole at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2, Park Hyatt Tokyo 41st Floor

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

For my birthday we went to Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Cafe on the second floor of his shop. The menu has always intrigued me, especially since I saw a photo of his avocado toast.

New on the menu is chicken pot pie, which was the best pot pie I have ever had. A crispy golden crust over an umami-rich stew packed with chicken and vegetables. I woke up the next day thinking about this. The avocado toast comes with créme fraiche and a salad. The butternut squash was accented with cinnamon marshmallow squares.

The first floor of the shop is almost always full. The cafe has a full drink menu as well, including champagne and wine. There is an open kitchen and on my way out I could see a lobster roll being assembled.


Dominique Ansel DKA

We were so full from lunch that we celebrated at home with chef’s signature DKA, Dominique’s version of the kouign amann. This pastry is very popular in Tokyo and many bakeries serve their version of it. This one is not too sweet, has a rich texture from the buttery dough.

The shop is very popular and the line can be very long on the first floor. Reservations can be made for the cafe and sweets from the first floor can be had in the cafe, along with a drink order. The only thing that is only sold on the first floor is the cronut. From what I hear from friends in NYC, the line here in Tokyo is much shorter for cronuts.

The bakery is in Omotesando, just off the main street. It is worth the short detour if you are in the area of Harajuku, Shibuya, or Meiji Jingu Shrine. The first floor opens at 8 a.m. and the cafe opens at 9 a.m. A great spot to start your day in Tokyo.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

shop information and access:

Click to access DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Imperial Hotel La Brasserie

La Brasserie

Chaliapin Steak

Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin, a Russian opera singer, was touring in Japan in 1936, and was a guest of the Imperial Hotel. He was dining at the New Grill, the predecessor to La Brasserie, even though he was suffering from a toothache, he wanted to have steak. The executive chef, Fukuo Tsutsui, came up with this dish, now called the Chaliapin Steak. Taking inspiration from the classical sukiyaki dish, he put finely minced onions on top of a steak to soften the meat and then grilled it.

The ingredients are simply steak, onions, butter, salt and pepper. La Brasserie uses aged rump steak. The onions are sautéed just enough to draw out the sweetness.

La Brasserie is a nice nod to the classic French brasseries. As it is in the basement of the Imperial Hotel, many visitors never make it down here, which is also part of its intrigue. The restaurant is popular with Japanese and reservations are highly recommended at lunch as it is very busy.

The interior reminds me of a polished up Balthazar. Red banquettes, but these are velvet. Service is professional but without the stuffiness that can be found at many Japanese French restaurants.

If you are craving something more formal, then head to the mezzanine level to Chef Thierry Voisin’s Les Saisons, which has recently started serving breakfast. I am a big fan of his cuisine.

La Brasserie at the Imperial Hotel
Chiyoda-ku, Uchisaiwai-cho 1-1-1 千代田区内幸町1-1-1
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Tower Bldg., LL1

Shibuya Adenia

Adenia burger

Adenia burger

Adenia in Shibuya is home to one of my favorite burgers in Tokyo. Chef Masafumi Irie was the sous chef at the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the same time that I was the sommelier. The bistro is a short walk from Shibuya station. It is on a quiet residential street. The daily lunch menu, reasonably priced between 1,000 and 1,500 JPY, includes a fish, meat, and steak. The burger is a bargain at 1,000 JPY. The burger is meaty and juicy and comes with the essential side dish, French fries.

Adenia steak

Adenia steak

On a recent visit I had the steak frites. The Australia steak is served with a generous salad that has is always well seasoned and has a nice acidity to it. I mention that only because I am often disappointed at how other bistros in the city dress their salads.

Adenia tartare

Adenia tartare

For a supplemental fee an appetizer or dessert can be added to the menu. The steak tartare brings me back to Paris.

Looking over this blogpost I see that it is all meat, but have no fear as the seafood options are always excellent. My dining partners usually get the fish and it is delicious. But for whatever reason, once I get here I always fall for the meaty options.

It is a small bistro, so call ahead for reservations.

Chef Irie has opened a second bistro, Decary, in Kameido which is in Kōtō-ku. The station is on the Sobu line. The menu is simliar to Adenia. Good to keep in mind when you are on that side of the city.


Shibuya-ku, Hachiyama-cho 1-7




My friend, Jeffrey Merrihue, the founder of Chowzter, was in town recently to film a documentary on chef Yoshihiro Narisawa. Jeffrey followed chef Narisawa on a fishing expedition, a very cool imperial duck hunting adventure, and foraging in the woods. The end of his week of filming was a lunch at Narisawa and I was lucky to be Jeffrey’s dining partner for the meal. It gave us a time to observe one of Asia’s, if not the world’s, top chefs. More exciting for Jeffrey as he was with Narisawa when many components to our meal was collected. The restaurant also did an all Japanese beverage pairing of wine, sake, and some unique beverages.

I am not including photos of every course, but many highlights and all of the drinks that we had, as they are so unique and I can’t imagine anywhere else in the world that has all of these beverages in house. We were served by a sommelier who kept introducing us to new wines and saké. Having worked as a sommelier, I love watching a sommelier at work and we were in good hands. Very interesting selection of wines – all Japanese, if you can believe it. And, a handful of saké as well. Some drinks were old friends, but many of them, new to me. A treat and great adventure.

It’s a visually stunning meal, not only food, but how it is presented, much like kaiseki cuisine, so including leaves and such that remind diners the time of year. Including how we started the meal, Water in the Forest, Cuvee Narisawa. A gentle and refreshing, aromatic start to lunch.


The amuse was the Japanese forest in winter. An earthy dish including deep-fried burdock root, bitter Ishikawa herbs, snow made from okara (tofu lees), bamboo charcoal (chikutan) and even a snowman made from daikon.

DSC_0031This spring of water was a watery jelly made kanten (agar agar) and wasabi.


2009 Toriivilla Imamura Cuvee Tradition 100% Koshu. A light, aromatic fruity white wine. (Katsunuma, Yamanashi) DSC_0046Narisawa’s signature Soup of the Soil

This is one of those dishes you read about and think to yourself, really? It’s a beautiful presentation. And, what caught my ear was that the chef said that there was no salt added to the soup, that the flavor is all natural. It was very delicious. It had a lot of flavor to it. Recently Narisawa was on a documentary on Japanese television and they show him making the soup from scratch in the restaurant. Burdock root is sautéed in a pan before the dirt is added and then the dirt is sautéed for a while before water is added. And, when I saw this being assembled, it all made sense. The soup does taste of the earth, but also of burdock root. It’s a great dish and something I would ask for again in the future.

DSC_00621992 Chateau Takeda Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (Kaminoyama, Yamagata). Very fun to try a 20-year-old Japanese wine. Still had some structure to it, but elegant, as can be seen in the color.

DSC_0068Jokigen Junmai Daiginjo (Kaga, Ishikawa). I am a big fan of this saké brewery so always happy to have this.


Ash 2009. Barbecue on the seashore. Squid, olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, and liquid nitrogen. Tomato puree with Kochi yuzu.DSC_0083The seasonal bread with chestnuts and moss butter.


2012 Edel Wein Riesling Lion (Hanamaki, Iwate)

Riesling Lion is a grape you’ll only see in Japan. A hybrid grape made from riesling and koshu. It tastes much more like koshu than it does riesling. A light, refreshing, and aromatic wine with some Japanese citrusy notes to match well with the deep-fried fugu (blowfish).

DSC_0090Deep-fried fugu (blowfish) with sudachi. We eat fugu from time to time at home and I am not a big fan. This was a revelation. Delicious!


Suntory Tomi no Oka (Yamanashi)

This is the fish that Jeffrey went fishing for with chef Narisawa. It is called kanburi, or winter yellowtail. It is one of the most delicious fish this time of year. It is so good that my husband and I journeyed to this same area to see it at the fish market in Himi port for part of our honeymoon. Chef just seared it so most of it was still sashimi. Rich in fat and so delicious.


Chateau Gen 1981 from Mie prefecture. A unique sake made from genmai, brown rice. Rich, like wine and a nice match to the pork in this soup.

This Okinawa dish was one of my favorites. It is made with a delicate broth, rich in umami, made from irabu (Okinawan sea snake) that is dried. It was an elegant version of dishes I’ve had in Okinawa.

DSC_0110 DSC_0117

Domaine Sogga Pinot Noir Claret 2011 from Obuse Winery in Nagano

I had the pleasure of working with Takahiko Soga at Coco Farm and Winery in Ashikaga, Tochigi. Soga-san has since moved on to Hokkaido, to open up his own winery, Domaine Takahiko. Soga-san’s family runs Domaine Sogga in Nagano prefecture, known for their wines, and this lovely pinot noir. It was served with a roasted supponSuppon is something I see at Tsukiji Market when I do tours there. It is a soft-shell turtle that is considered a delicacy in Japan. I was a bit hesitant to try it, but what better way to try a new food than with a star chef like Narisawa. It was amazing. Meaty, well-seasoned, and not at all turtle like (imagining it would taste of a lake or be chewy).


2010 Torivilla Black Queen and 2009 Sumi Tajima Beef


DSC_0142Chō Nōkō Jersey Yogurt Shu from Miyagi prefecture was an unexpected surprise. A thick drink made from Jersey milk yogurt and saké. Perfect for this saké kasu, kuzu kochi and winter citrus fruit dessert.


At the end of the meal Jeffrey and I were talking about sweets that we liked. We both said that we loved any dessert with salted caramel. So, you can imagine how delighted we were to see this striking display of macaroons, with a caramel salted one. Our waiter kindly brought us a second one so we could each have one.

Narisawa Menu

The staff kindly printed out the menu for us. I had the Ash 2009 instead of the Botan shrimp, Nanao Bay, which Jeffrey had. It was a lovely meal and would be great fun to go back in another season to see how chef Narisawa interprets a different time of year. I hope that soil soup is served again.

Thanks to chef Narisawa for a lovely meal, and to the sommelier (sorry, I didn’t get his name), who paired each course so wonderfully.

Chef Narisawa has recently collaborated with a historic and famous yōshoku restaurant, Tokyo Toyoken, that has just opened on January 15th, in Akasaka. The indefatigable chef shows no signs of slowing down. Looking forward to trying his new place and seeing what the future holds.


Minami-Aoyama 2-6-15


Chef Nicolas Boujéma of Signature at Mandarin Oriental


There is a new French chef in town, Nicolas Boujéma, at Signature in the Mandarin Oriental. I was very curious to try his food as he has a very impressive resumé, most recently coming from Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong. I had the chance to interview him for Metropolis magazine for a Tastemaker piece. It’s always exciting to see a chef who is new to Japan explore the local ingredients. Boujéma is a talented chef and it will be fun to revisit and see how his cuisine evolves as he experiences the changing produce and seafood. He lives near Tsukiji Market and visits often, and says that he finds a lot of inspiration there.

Louis Roederer champagne to start, a lovely wine. This table overlooks Tokyo station, the Bank of Japan, and the historic Nihonbashi district where the Mandarin Oriental is located.


Some lovely amuse bouche to start includes smoked eel, an aromatic muscat, and gougère.


An earthy Australian truffle soup, ravioli foie gras, with a light vegetable broth. It is well balanced and not too heavy, and just sexy enough with the truffles. Which makes me feel guilty for indulging in something so nice before dinner.Sig4

Saffron butter and whipped butter. Excellent bread is being made in house  like this petit baguette and brioche. The saffron butter was a very nice touch.


Tavel Chateau d’Aquéria is a lovely rosé and perfect not only on a hot summer day, as this was, but also with the sardine and tomato dish it was served with.Sig6

Lovely presentation of iwashi (sardine) that is marinated in salt, lemon juice,  and olive oil. It’s served with a refreshing tomato terrine, goat cheese from Loire, Italian ham, and mustard crouton. Again, the dish is well-balanced and not too rich, as one would expect from iwashi.


Alsace is one of my favorite wine regions for its aromatic white wines with a crisp acidity. It is the wine I choose when we are out and celebrating a special occasion. When the sommelier brought this to the table I couldn’t stop smiling. I was told that a former Japanese sommelier at Signature married into the Hugel family and is now living in Alsace. This was riesling was nice with this next dish.


My favorite dish of the meal was this amazing combination of truffles, waffle, braised shallots, leeks, mushrooms, and whipped cream with truffles. The leek was sliced thin and painted onto the plate. The waffle pockets were stuffed with braised shallots and served with a lovely Port sauce. And again, a hedonistic course with truffles. Had I been at home I would have picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sig9

Francois Villard Condrieu Les Terraces du Palaix. Lovely aromatics in this viognier. This floral Rhone wine is perfect for the accompanying fish main dish which reminded me of the Mediterranean.Sig10

Bouillabaise inspired cod, amadai sashimi, eggplant puree with lemon, zucchini, and fennel. The warm breeze of the south of France. A nice touch of amadai (tile fish) sashimi with the cod. Sig11

Potato espumante with saffron is a refreshing palate cleanser before the cheese course.Sig12

Macon La Roche Vineuse Gamay – lovely with the cheese! Fruity yet with a nice backbone.

48 months aged Comte cheese which I am told is very rare. It is prepared with truffles, a white pepper cream, and shaved with some sweet jelly, and brioche in the middle. Muscat grape and dragon fruit. A luxurious course and so nice to see the cheese served three ways.


Hakuto peaches espumante. A wonderful, light finish and a nice touch as peaches are at the peak of their seasonality in Japan at the moment. Sig15

And a few sweet touches to end a lovely lunch.

It’s always exciting to welcome a new chef to Tokyo. Be sure to put Signature on your Go List for Tokyo. Excellent food, outstanding service, knowledgeable sommeliers, and spectacular views – day or night. It will be fun to watch his cuisine evolve as he acquaints himself with the seasonal Japanese ingredients.

Signature at the Mandarin Oriental

Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Reservations: 03-3270-8188