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l'Osier

Shiseido Building, 7-5-5 Ginza, Chou-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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Editor's note. Osier closed in April 2011 due to the building in which it was located being completely rebuilt by its landlord. It reopens on October 25th 2013 with new executive chef Olivier Chaignon, who previously cooked with Pierre Gagniare in both Paris and Tokyo.

Osier originally opened in 1973, with Bruno Menard as its executive chef since 2005. The building in which it is housed is very grand, the dining room upstairs. It has a low ceiling but high grade furnishings and excellent lighting. There is a wooden floor, cream linen tablecloths, wood-panelled walls and a pretty flower is on each table.  Everything exudes class: the glasses are Riedel for example. The wine list is virtually all French, with choices such as Weinbach Riesling 2003 Schlossberg at JPY 9,800 (i.e. GBP 49 compared to retail price GBP 15) up to Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1970 at JPY 144,000. Another example was 2002 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet at JPY 19,000. Markups did not seem excessive for a three star restaurant.

Our waiter used to work at La Tante Claire in London in the old Pierre Koffmann days before moving to France and then to Japan; he was extremely attentive, as were all the staff we encountered. Breads were made here rather than bought and were a choice of rolls: fig, seaweed, brioche, "Scottish" i.e. a bap, croissant, baguette and an excellent black olive and wheat bread (18/20).

We began with asparagus and smoked salmon roll, a bavarois of peas, Campari and orange jelly, a duck liver "burger" and a cornet of lemon and sour cream (which actually barely had any lemon taste) topped with salmon roe. I'm not sure about the wisdom of the Campari as it rather dominated the orange jelly, but this was all well made (16/20). A soup of peas with morel jelly and chantilly truffle was superb, the soup having great intensity of flavour, the morels working really well with the peas, and the dish being lifted by the truffle. This was top quality French cooking (19/20).

5 minute egg was served on a salad of fresh leaves (mostly rocket) with shallots and a carefully balanced vinaigrette.  This was very good, if not in the same league as the pea soup (17/20). Sea bass was very fresh and well timed, served with white asparagus, potatoes, parsley and mushroom, a duxelle of morels and little pommes dauphinoise balls. (18/20).

The best dish was without doubt my fillet of beef. This was served with pomme dauphinoise, excellent sauce from the cooking juices flavoured with herbs, and a rather superfluous mousse of egg and fermented garlic.  The star was the beef: miyazaki beef from Kyushu. This is a rival to Kobe beef, made in the same manner from black Wagyu cattle, and was utterly dazzling. I could easily have cut this with a spoon rather than the steak knife provided, and indeed the beef itself was so incredibly tender it was almost buttery in taste. Truly one of the best beef dishes I have ever eaten.

Cheese was surprisingly impressive. The importer gets the cheese from France but has a proper temperature controlled cellar, and the cheese was in superb condition. We tried St Maure, Camembert, Epoisse, two-year aged Comte, Munster, Langres and Bleu d'Auvergne, served with grapes and raisin bread. The cheeses were in uniformly ripe condition (19/20).

For pre-dessert we had strawberry jelly, coconut mousse and pineapple sorbet, all of which were stunning. There were also macaroons of cherry blossom, vanilla and olive, pistachio and chocolate, lollipops of caramel and cumin, white olive and salt and black cherry. Finally there was a little creme brulee, a meringue with lemon cream raspberry and mint leaf (18/20).

Rum baba with wild strawberries was served with Kirsch ice cream. This is a classic dish that is surprisingly hard to get right, the most famous example being the one served at Louis XV in Monaco (it never leaves the menu). The one tonight was a very close second to that, the baba extremely moist (19/20). "Foret noiree" chocolate with cherries was parfait with maraschino cherries and orange ice cream, having terrific flavor (19/20). We had a glass of 1991 Yquem at pretty much retail price (GBP 40) and the bill still came to GBP 150 a head. To finish off a trolley appears with a vast variety of little confections: tuiles, chocolates of many varieties, superb lime jelly (this was 20/20), uzu tart, meringue, ice creams,.....

This was a meal of the highest standard, and I will remember the beef in particular for a long time. The restaurant has 36 covers, but 18 chefs and four sommeliers, to give an indication of the level of effort that goes in.  A proper 3 star restaurant.

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  • Mr and Mrs Folkard

    I and my husband had a lunch at L'Osier in September 09...That was hands-down the most memorable meal of our lifetime! It was truly superb, from the sommelier service to the out-of-this-world texture and flavour of the Mount Fuji trout, down to Bruno himself making a round, stopping to speak to customers and spending around 10 minutes chatting to us about the restaurant scene in Australia. The dessert service, of course, is the decadence of the highest order...I really did not have space for the petit fours, but they had to be had! What a fine place!

  • Eric Kellerman

    I wish we could share your enthusiasm. We dined here on 6 Jan 2009, and came away with the distinct feeling that this was a triumph of style over taste. Our waiter was probably the same as yours, if he was also French and a little Anthony Hopkins-like. Although everything looked beautiful, nothing much tasted of anything. Even the winter truffle and duck foie gras refused to divulge their expected flavours. My bouchée de boeuf also managed this amazing trick in a portion so small as to be little more than a miplaced amuse-bouche. Even granted they might have had an off-night in the kitchen, all the pomp and circumstance and over-attentiveness, plus our overweaning waiter, with his insistence on explaining every ingredient's provenance as if we had never eaten food before, ensured that we did not relax. The final straw was to be told that the small drop of brown liquid on my plate was KOKOA vinegar. When I asked what KOKOA was, I was told it was 'cacao' in French. Ah, I said, cocoa. No, he insisted, KOKOA. But it's pronounced KOKO, I replied. At this he dashed off, to return with an Anglo-French Larousse Gastro, open at the entry which announced that 'cacao=cocoA'. Added to this misery were poor open wines and a Japanese sommelier who spoke neither English nor French and did not seem to know his stuff - he seemed keener to discuss Dutch football, using my Japanese wife as an interpreter. It just capped our evening. Obviously a place like this can produce the goods, for otherwise it would never merit 3 Michelin stars and people like you would not be so enthusiastic, but we know highly regarded places where they know the trick of making you feel instantly at home, where we are not overwhelmed by 'look-at-me' show, and where the food is also consistently excellent. Your description of your meal, which you so obviously enjoyed, only increased my sense of gross disappointment at our experience chez L'Osier.

  • Eric Kellerman

    I should have added that we have just dined superbly at Arcana's western-style ryokan in Izu, with their superb French-trained young chef, Chiharu Takei. www.arcanaresorts.com Eric

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