This restaurant was opened in March 2005 by Yoshiji Otsuka, who trained in classic French cuisine. It it is specialist steak house using a bespoke charcoal kiln furnace. Steak is custom cooked according to the style and size of cut, with two separate kiln furnaces used so as not to mix fish and meat. It has established itself as one of the top three steak houses in Tokyo, along with Arigawa and Kawamura. Kawamura is essentially open only to regulars, who make their next booking at each visit, effectively shutting out the uninitiated, so is almost a private club. Aragawa is in the same family ownership as the original Aragawa in Kobe. Dons de la Nature is in a basement on a busy Ginza street. The dining room has tables set in an L shape around an open kitchen.
There was an a la carte as well as the usual set menu and they provided seafood alternatives for the non-carnivorous. Unusually for Japan, there was also a decent sized wine list. Krug NV champagne was ¥30,000 for a wine that you can find in a shop in the UK for the equivalent of ¥18,250, Salon 1999 was ¥75,000 for a champagne that retails at ¥32,000, and Clos de la Roche Dujac 2001 was ¥70,000 for a wine that will set you back around ¥43,000 in a shop.
A seafood salad of scallop, prawn and crab was a rather mixed affair, the prawn a fraction overcooked, the crab nice but the scallop recently and properly cooked yet vaguely warm rather than either raw or served hot. However, the salad had good fennel and a nice dressing (13/20). Better was a very good French onion soup, which had quite deep flavour and was nicely seasoned (15/20). There was also some pleasant bread, both brioche and brown.
My wife had lobster. At the start of the meal this was brought out in a wooden box by the chef, the lobster covered in sawdust, and the chef wrestled it out of the box to show us as a preview. He also had a sense of humour, calling over to us as he was about to cook it, holding the lobster up and waving its claw at us as if to say goodbye. Joking aside, the lobster was actually terrific, not just being carefully cooked but having superb flavour with a hint of inherent sweetness. This was a simple dish but the quality of the lobster was most impressive (17/20).
After all this is a steak house, so lives and dies by the quality of its meat. They do not exclusively use beef from one prefecture, such as Kobe, instead picking whatever is best at the time. Tonight I was lucky to get Matsusaka beef, my favourite of all. Two sirloins were offered, and I chose the less marbled of the two, though even this had pretty intense marbling of fat, which melts away when cooked and provides the flavour in the beef. The beef is cooked over top quality Japanese kishu binchoten charcoal, charring the outside and sealing in the juices, served medium rare as the kitchen recommend. Some highly marbled Japanese beef can be so buttery that you it barely tastes like beef at all, but Matsusaka beef has a strong meaty flavour that persists through the cooking process despite the marbling of fat. It was perfectly cooked and really was magnificent, ultra tender but still tasting very much of beef, the char from the grill just right. As an experiment I cut some with a butter knife, which presented no difficulty at all, so tender was the meat. I actually preferred this to the Sanda beef I ate at Aragawa in Kobe last year. It was the best beef that I have ever eaten (20/20).
The attention to detail here was shown in the fruit for dessert. A cherry, strawberry and mango were served, all from Japan, the mango from Ise. I had just come back from Mumbai and had eaten some fine alphonso mangoes there, generally reckoned the best mangos. Yet this Ise mango was even better, with remarkable perfumed flavour and glorious texture.
I find it extremely hard to score a restaurant like this, which just takes a high-grade ingredient and cooks it simply. There are no complex sauces or elaborate pastry skills on display here. Yet Dons de la Nature does what it does exceptionally well, with the lobster far from an afterthought, and the fruit dessert strikingly good. The beef itself was to all intents and purposes perfect, the very finest ingredient, flawlessly cooked. If you ever want to see just how good a steak can be, I suggest you come here.
As a bonus the waitress and chef were extremely friendly, chatty and welcoming, both speaking a little English. Of course there is a price for perfection, and so do not expect a small bill. The damage for two was ¥68,400 (£225 a head) with beer and a glass of wine apiece. This was for a 200g steak, which was plenty of meat to eat and the minimum they serve, but of course if you indulged in some expensive wine or, as the next table did, ordered a second steak, then your bill could be pretty chunky. The sirloin itself was ¥15,000 (about (£100) per 200g. However, this is beef that dreams are made of.