Chef Bruno Menard at Imperial Hotel

Aiste Miseviciute of Luxeat is a friend who put chef Bruno Menard on my radar. My first time to try chef’s cuisine was at a wine dinner at the Imperial Hotel with Don Melchor wines. I was taken in with not only the cuisine, but chef’s fine touches on the dishes to pair them with the lovely Don Melchor wines.

Chef Bruno is in Tokyo this week for a pop-up at the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saisons. He is collaborating with chef Thierry Voisin of Les Saisons. It was a treat to try his dishes once more.

What do I love of his cuisine? The small touches of Japanese ingredients, the rich flavors that are light and not too heavy.

Some of the highlights include a crab dish that includes yuzu kosho, a salty and spicy paste made with yuzu rind, but just the right amount of it so as not to outshine to crab. The presentation is fun, with the 3 Michelin stars on the package.

Truffles are in season at the moment and chef came to the table to shave the white truffles over his onion soup with chestnuts. Light on top, creamy at the bottom, and the rich aromatics and texture of the white truffles pulling it all together.

The yin yang dish above is scallop sashimi and beet sashimi. The dots were of Japanese shiso (perilla leaf) and umeboshi (pickled apricots) with raspberries, there was some kabosu (citrus) with the scallops.

Hokkaido scallop is sauteed in butter and set upon a spinach sauce with gnocchi and white truffles.

The lemon tart dessert is topped with a gin fizz sorbet, with mango powder and passionfruit crisps. The soft sable dough is topped with a sugar tuile.

The baba au rhum was finished table side by chef, and topped with a 2001 Diplimatico Single Vintage Rum aged in sherry casks. The cake is finished with a passionfruit apricot glaze with a fresh acidity. The syrup is steeped with star anise, lemon, lives, and cloves. White chocolate ice cream is nestled in the cake. The Diplimatico rum was crazy. Smooth, hints of coffee and vanilla, and no harsh alcohol flavors that can overtake this dish. Chef was proud to share that this recipe came from his father.

I had the pleasure of speaking with chef and loved hearing him talk about his regular customers from his L’Osier days coming back with their family to see him and eat his cuisine once more. He said that this is what the business of being a chef is all about. You could see he loved talking to the guests, but moreover, that the guests were so happy to be talking with him.

He did talk about the quality of ingredients in Japan and how good they are. That some are so great they should be served raw, while others can be transformed.

Chef Bruno is based in Singapore. I am hoping that someday he can open up a restaurant in Tokyo.

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Bruno Menard and Don Melchor Wine Dinner at Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel recently hosted a wine dinner with winemaker Enrique Tirado of Don Melchor from Concho y Toro. Don Melchor has partnered with Michelin 3-star chef Bruno Menard for a series of wine dinners in Asia. What a treat it would be to taste the wines paired with chef Bruno’s cuisine in different countries. Tokyoites were happy to welcome back chef Menard who was most recently at Ginza L’Osier.

The evening opened with an aromatic and refreshing 2013 Terrrunyo Sauvignon Blanc. Strong notes of citrus on the nose and the bright acidity sings of cool climate vineyards. Perfect start for a hot summer evening.

The first course was a beet tartare with geranium essence and cocoa. Paired with the 2013 Don Melchor that has 9% Cabernet Franc and 93% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc floral aromas danced above the wine and shined as the geranium essence brought the two together. The wine also had intense dark fruits of cassis and blackberries with some pencil lead. It was a well-balanced wine.

Enrique stopped by my table during this wine. He is charming and talks passionately about the wines and the vineyards. He said that he put 9% of Cabernet Franc in this vintage as the fruit was so beautiful in that harvest.

The second dish was a buckwheat (soba) risotto topped with smoked eel and foie gras and garnished with, sansho leaves, yukari (dried red shiso) and soba-cha. I could see chef Bruno’s influence of his long time in Japan in this dish.

This was paired with a 1988 Don Melchor, from before Enrique’s time. This had a nice acidity and a pleasant bitterness. The tannins were still quite rich for a wine almost 20 years old. The wine reminded me of Gene Wilder, who had recently passed away, refreshing and bitter. The food pairing was nice as the smoky notes from the eel and sansho stood up to the wine.

The main course was roast duck and mushrooms with a verjus sauce with a carrot mouse. I believe the duck was marinated in miso. This was paired with a 2005 Don Melchor that had intense tannins, dark fruit and chocolate. It was calling out for meat and this was a nice pairing. The sauce brought a nice acidity, with the verjus, to round out the pairing.

Even dessert was paired with a 2010 Don Melchor. I was skeptical, but not surprised when it did come together. Bruno’s father is a chocolatier so he grew up around a kitchen and sweets. The wine sung of intense fruit, spice, and ripe tannins. Dessert was a granité of griotte cherries and red wine, chocolate biscuit, and a five-spice chantilly. This was a great match, one as a sommelier I never would have been brave enough to pair. My eyes have been opened.

Chef Bruno came to speak to the diners. I was so impressed as he is fluent in Japanese! He said that he spent 14 years working in Japan, and that they were very important years in his career. He obviously knows the Japanese palate well. The menu was not too heavy and the dishes were created with a nod towards simplicity. He was easy to speak to and obviously loves his work.

The wines paired with the cuisine made for a memorable evening.

Chef Bruno mentioned that he has worked with the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saison chef, Thierry Voisin, since 1983 in France. The two have a long history and apparently also have played together in a band – now that is something I would LOVE to see.

Chef Bruno will be returning to Les Saison in October for a collaboration dinner with chef Thierry. Details for Bruno Menard week, October 17-23, lunch and dinner, here (in Japanese):

http://www.imperialhotel.co.jp/j/tokyo/restaurant/les_saisons/plan/bruno_menard_week.html