Cuisine Michel Troisgros is the offspring of the renowned three star Michelin restaurant Troisgros in Roanne. This establishment, which in 2010 had two stars in the Michelin guide, was headed by executive chef Lionel Beccat (editor's note: in 2012 Lionel has opened his own restaurant Esquisse in the Ginza) from Corsica, who was cooking at a bistro in Roanne when he met Michel Troisgros, who later recruited him. Lionel had a rapid rise at Maison Troisgros from section head to second chef, and then to head chef in 2006 before moving to Tokyo. He became executive chef here in April 2009. The restaurant is on the first floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel in Shinjuku, opening in 2006.
There is an open kitchen, and the tables were arrayed around this, with a further section beyond. Tables were large and generously spaced, with high quality linen. There were two tasting menus as well as an a la carte selection. The wine list was extensive and featured some excellent growers; the list is strong on French wine but also had a decent selection of wines from around the world, even from more obscure corners such as Austria and Greece. .Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2008 was a hefty ¥ 9,500 (£72) for a wine that you can buy in the UK for £15. The 2007 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet was ¥15800 (£120) for a wine that costs £31 in the shops, while its prettier sister sublime Etienne Sauzet Montrachet 2005 was less aggressively marked up at ¥73,000 (£553) for a wine that costs £458 in the UK. Indeed some of the really prestige wines looked to be barely retail price.
Amuse-bouches comprised a triangle of "cigar paper" fried with ricotta cheese and apricot jelly, which was lovely (19/20), melba toast with green pea and almond paste with edible flowers and a little onion; I thought this a touch salty but the pea flavour was excellent (17/20). There was also a less successful, rather chewy puff that was seemingly a soufflé of lard and lemon; this was dry and I found the texture unappealing (13/20). This seemed out of place given the other, far better nibbles. My wife had lobster from Brittany, and this was as fresh as it gets, presented live at the table before heading off forlornly to the kitchen. I had jelly of tomato with lemon zest, with ravioli of artichoke purée and a garnish of tomato and basil. The tomato jelly had fabulous flavour (19/20).
The dish of the night was my wife's monkfish steamed with uzu, garlic and ginger and a sauce of mustard and dill with fish stock. This was served with cherry tomatoes marinated with vinegar and garnished with rhubarb and grapes. Monkfish is a difficult fish to cook well, as it all too easily becomes chewy, so is a good test of the skills of a kitchen. The fish was very tender indeed and had terrific flavour, was served with a beautifully made mustard and dill sauce based on the fish stock, a sauce that had gorgeous richness with just enough mustard bite for balance. This dish was from the top drawer (20/20).
Bread comprised country bread, baguette, a herb bread and foccacia. These were made in the hotel but were quite ordinary, and below the standard I would expect in a Michelin starred restaurant (14/20). Butter was a French butter called Surgeres. My dish at this stage was raw sea bass with ceps and apple and a sea urchin sauce with a little hard boiled egg yolk as decoration. This dish worked well, the combination of the ceps and apples providing some balance to the richness of these urchin sauce, which was of high quality (18/20). Scallops topped with spices were served with celeriac puree and lime zest, with a sauce of carrot, ginger and fresh lime juice. The scallops were cooked properly but, surprisingly given this was Japan, did not taste of particularly high quality, lacking sweetness; however the purée was very good (16/20).
The lobster put in its final appearance of the night now, flambeed at the table with shitake mushrooms on melba toast with tarragon butter and lemon juice, and garnished with superb rocket. A second serving of it was served with girolles. Given the lobster's long journey from Brittany it would be nice to say that the effort was worth it, but the flesh was actually a little disappointing. It was not chewy, but definitely heading in that direction; this may not have been the fault of the cooking process, as lobsters kept too long in a tank can develop a firmness of texture. Nonetheless it was a pity (16/20).
Sea bream with fresh grapes, hazelnuts and walnuts was served with a Sancerre sauce. The bream had excellent flavour, was well cooked and the sauce was skillfully made (18/20). Japanese beef was grilled with garlic and ginger and served with shiitake mushrooms, on toast with tarragon butter. It seemed odd, given the level of obsession that the Japanese bring to their beef, that the menu did not describe the origin beyond "beef". It was wagyu but I was unable to find out more; I did ask the waiter to check but never received a reply. The beef itself was good rather than exceptional, although interestingly one of our dining companions ordered her beef blue rather than the default medium rare, and hers tasted significantly better than mine (18/20).
We sampled the cheeses, which consisted of various French cheeses such as St Maure and Comte. Oddly, the waiter seemed unsure what some of the cheeses were. This was served with sweet biscuits and Melba toast made from fruit and nut bread, pickled ginger, grapes and caramelised orange peel. The cheese was fine but not memorable (16/20).
Cannelloni of cream cheese and herbs with Japanese shallot on a little piece of toast as an intermediate course did not work for me, the combination of cold pasta and cream cheese just not being a good one (14/20). Pineapple (oddly sweet), passion fruit and nori crisp followed, while my wife had fresh peach with chantilly cream and tomato sorbet with tarragon sauce; I just do not think that shrubbery belongs in desserts. I was also unimpressed with a disappointing rice pudding which did not really go with shiso sorbet. My problem with these dishes is the conception rather than the execution. A demonstration that the pastry section could deliver something pleasant if it chose to now appeared in the form of soufflé of caramel with rum ice cream and a pineapple and anise granite The soufflé had good texture and the ices worked nicely in combination with the caramel
Coffee was not particularly good, while petit fours comprised verbena marshmallow, a tiny biscuit with lemon mousse topped with mint, a little wafer of red pepper mousse, a stale beignet and mousse of chocolate and Baileys liqueur (14/20 average, but Homer Simpson might have rejected that chewy beignet). The bill came to ¥68,255 yen for two (£258 a head), admittedly with a fair bit of wine. Service was friendly but a little error prone, with more than one request needing reminding. I found this a frustrating meal in many ways. The best dishes were really terrific, the monkfish in particular a shining example of French cooking skill at its best. Yet there was considerable inconsistency, with the odd technical slip as well as some rather eccentric flavour combinations at times. This inconsistency appeared even with the amuse-bouches, and ran through the meal. Given the standards being aimed at here, and the Troisgros name, not to mention the price, this was galling, especially since the best dishes showed that there is real talent in the kitchen.
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