With the insanely massive amount of good food in Japan, Tokyo is in itself a plethora of gastronomic pleasures. It’s one of those places in the world that you can travel to without a list and allow to surprise you—with minimal disappointments. The worst thing (is there even a worst thing when in Japan?!) I ate there was an overcooked sliver of Fugu (blowfish) that was grilled to the peak of elasticity at Kyoto’s Nishiki Market. Yet, it was a mistake that was easily forgiven because a second later, I found myself inhaling a scalding boat of takoyaki (octopus balls) with onion and tea salt. Never mind that the front part of my tongue was slightly burnt and numb—the pathetic blowfish incident was easily wiped away from my memory and (literally) seared with a new one.
So, why did we decide to dine at L’Effervescence? Apart from the occasion that was our honeymoon, my good friends Karen and Ryan told us that we mustn’t miss out on this restaurant. French food in Japan? Not really my sort of itinerary as I prefer to eat local, but I pretty much try out everything Karen tells me to try, and when I remember she told me about the playlist being kick-ass (Bon Iver, Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist, and The XX) I was all-in that it was easy to save Florilege and Den for later. We booked a table, and it was our first stop after arriving back to Tokyo after Kyoto.
I’ll skip the part about the interiors because they are, as expected in a two-Michelin star restaurant, very impressive. We did a juice pairing with our meal, and the moment welcome sake was served, everything around me melted into a blur as I found myself in an almost euphoric state. We experienced L’effervescence’s “Renaissance” menu, which highlighted the best foods of the season.
The amuse bouche, called Almanac, was already evidence of Chef Shinobu Namae’s elegant yet rigorous skills when it comes to preparing food—an awakening playground of flavor and texture that provided a glimpse into the rest of his menu’s story.
Then, the bread was served—crunchy exterior with a soft/chewy/gummy/fluffy center; a hard bread from Le Sucre Cœur (ル・シュクレ・クール), known to be the No.1 bakery in Osaka. The whipped tofu and olive oil spread is smooth, fruity, has the tang of yogurt but keeps a hint of soy. Really delicious. They get this from a traditional tofu shop called Tsuki no Shizuku (月の雫) in Chiba. And because I am of no shame, I asked for another pot of the tofu spread, and once the bread was gone, they asked us if we wanted more. I refused, but I continued to eat the tofu spread with my spoon.
Just Like the Apple Pie, one of Chef Namae’s signatures mimics a McDonald’s Apple Pie—also served in a carboard box that reveals a piping-hot, umami-packed melange of monkfish liver, vanilla, and celeriac. This is 31st version of the pie.
Barracuda is cured then grilled with black radish and served with sake lee cultured milk and lemon in Deeper. The fish had a beautiful texture that dissolved in the mouth, and the sauce was complex yet extremely light.
Another signature of Chef Namae’s that I’ve frequently seen on Instagram when I did multiple visits to the page is the A Fixed Point. I love it when I get surprised by food, and my experience with this turnip was quite unforgettable. Cooked for four hours, the Tokyo turnip is dressed with parsley, indulgent Basque ham, and brioche.
At this point, I noticed how Chef Namae has a penchant for serving his fish dishes with cloudy sauces. I see why. For the next dish, Gold, Amadai is poached in whey, and is served with cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bottarga, and yuzu. This was probably my favorite dish out of the bunch. It sounds simple on paper, but the flavors I can still remember up to this day. Notes of umami are brought to a deeply satisfying crescendo with sly hints of the yuzu.
I read before that L’effervescence served a soup made with shirako (cod milt) and chrysanthemum, and I saw this borrowed element in Where the Ocean Meets the Land. A gathering of the Japanese landscape, wood-fired duck rests on a taro & cod milt soup and is served with wilted winter spinach and spruce oil. Rich and woody, this was like walking through a Japanese forest in the winter-time, indeed.
The Autumn Foothills Hike rounded up the meal nicely with candied chestnut and chrysanthemum ice cream. The mandarin and Sierra Nevada chocolate provided a nice flavour contrast and texture.
Coffee from Fuglen was served, as well as mignardises that made me go nuts. Also, a special surprise!
One of the highlights of the meal, apart from the joy of eating amazing dishes with Arcade Fire playing in the background was the Matcha experience—a first for me! I’ve read about this tradition a lot, and now, I see how it truly is a form of meditation and a serious art. Despite the modern environment in which the Matcha-making was held at, you can’t help but be entranced by the finesse and concentration of the person preparing your tea. As my husband likes to say, “it was truly special.”
And to conclude the meal, a homemade nut drink was served, which balanced out the earthiness and deep flavours of the matcha. Creamy with hints of vanilla, it’s aptly called World Peace, and rightfully so.
This was definitely one of the best meals I’ve had. More than the food, L’effervescence draws you in with its unique Japanese hospitality and its very laid-back music. Music is very personal to me, and it was such a treat listening to songs that I would normally play during a commute to work, while eating a fantastic two-Michelin star meal. I was placed at so much ease, and it was so comfortable and relaxed—which I think how meals should be experienced. I’ve been to restaurants where the mood was so stiff, but here we have a gem of a restaurant that I would go back to in a heartbeat.
2-26-4 Nishi-azabu, Minato-ku Tokyo, 106-0031
Phone: +81 03-5766-9500
Total Damage: ¥15,500 for lunch (around SGD 195 or PHP 7,500 per head)
(Our meal was paid for ourselves .)