Joel Robuchon Tokyo

Yebisu Garden Palace, 1-13-1 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Surrounded by modern skyscrapers is the Robuchon building, a French Chateau built specially for Joel's restaurants, and so out of place in this ultra-modern area of Tokyo it is almost as if it has been teleported here from another place and another time. The ground floor houses the Table du Joel Robuchon, the first floor the gastronomic restaurant while the top floor has private dining rooms. The main dining room is impressive, with high ceilings, a fine chandelier and a dark, thick carpet. The only concession to modernity in the decor are the little "candles", which are electric and touch sensitive.

Oscietra caviar is an old Robuchon classic, served prettily in a rich jelly (18/20). I had a lemon jelly with vanilla beans and a little drop of tapenade oil, the cream having a hint of aniseed. This was pleasant but I personally found the flavours competed with each other rather too much (15/20). A cold ravioli of lobster had honey dressing and was served with Japanese radish. The lobster was tender, but I wonder whether this might have been even nicer served warm (17/20).

A cold asparagus soup with pieces of passion fruit and and bitter orange tasted better than it sounded, the soup having a very distinct asparagus taste, the little acidity from the fruit balancing the asparagus nicely (18/20). A prawn with angel hair and caviar was very tender, served with more white asparagus and a little dipping sauce of sweet chili (18/20). A type of octopus "Aori-ika" was of the non-chewy variety and had a good dressing and an intense essence of tomato with tapenade and courgette chips (18/20)

Gorgonzola was served as a kind of egg flan, with a little flavour of apple and tomato (18/20). A fish called "kinki" (there is no translation apparently) was cooked simply with a bouillon of artichokes and pistachio butter. This was pleasant but I was not convinced about the bouillon with the fish (16/20). Beef was grilled and tender, served with micro tomatoes, mushrooms tempura, artichoke and horseradish. The horseradish was excellent and the beef nicely cooked (18/20). A simple vegetable dish followed, featuring corn on the cob and asparagus in an orange cream gelee (16/20).

Cheese was in very good condition, imported from France.  Brie, Camembert, Munster, Epoisses were all excellent (easily 18/20, bordering on 19/20). A mandarin bitter orange foam topped an orange jelly, the foam certainly capturing the intense bitterness, a little too much so for my liking (17/20). We finished with the best dish of the meal, a hand-blown sugar sphere containing of passion fruit ice cream with a lovely grapefruit dressing (19/20).

A wide range of high quality breads is provided from a chariot. A dessert chariot later appears with coffee, and we tried a number of chocolates, some excellent financiers and good biscuits. Coffee itself was superb, with a wonderful richness (20/20 coffee). 

Overall, while the food presentation was uniformly superb, I found this meal a slight let-down. The service and setting were great, the ingredients generally very good, and yet somehow very few dishes really stood out to me. There were no errors to speak of in the technique, but for me the depth of flavour rarely came through to match the beautiful presentation.   The meal was great theatre but for me it was not 3 star cooking.

Service was superb, and the chef extremely helpful. Alain Verzeroli speaks excellent English and has lived in Asia for many years, working before this at the Robuchon in Hong Kong. As a bonus, we met Joel Robuchon himself, who came over for a chat. I have not seen him for years, and as a long time regular at the original Jamin in Paris I was very pleased to be able to speak briefly to the great man.  

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  • nicolas

    I have to say, my take is this is as 3 stars food as it gets. Some other establishment will be located in a historic place or have another extraordnary feature. Unlike Astrance, we are not talking of small specific diner here, but a highly regular world class quality. And to my opinion, they do succeed in that, with a very clear and balanced food that follows the seasons and the products.. A nice demonstration of elegance, talent and quality here.