I recently shared my Tokyo Food Guide on Cheap Eats but today I wanted to share some experiences with fine dining in Tokyo. There are quite a few Michelin Star restaurants in Tokyo and I tried two! They are very contrasting in style and I’ll with you the unique dishes as well as my overall experience with two Tokyo Michelin Star Restaurants: L’Effervescence and Jimbocho Den.
Type of Food: French
This was my first Michelin star experience! Well not actually but Tim Ho Wan in a subway station in Hong Kong doesn’t feel like a real Michelin experience. The restaurant is nestled in a quiet neighbourhood area and there are not many other businesses around. There is a beautiful view of their garden from the dining room and each table has fresh flowers to add to the ambiance. The restaurant is actually available on Open Table so it makes it very easy to make a reservation without language barriers.
Their lunch tasting was 10,000 Yen and includes 8 courses. They have a few dishes that are always on their menu and the other courses will rotate based on seasonal ingredients. The Apple Pie is one of their famous courses and mine was #31 which means it’s the 31st version they’ve made. The filling of the “apple pie” I tried was monkfish liver! Another item that is a staple at L’Effervesence is the Tokyo turnip “A fixed point”. It’s cooked every morning for 4 hours before lunch service.
My favorite dish was at the beginning and the end. “Hello” really blew my mind as they crystallized grapefruit and sake into solids and I loved the use of science with food. I also really loved the dessert which featured chrysanthemum leaves ice cream. You likely won’t be eating the same menu by now as it’s always changing.
We had impeccable service with one main waiter but many support staff! I love that they were able to describe every dish and that the waiter is clearly passionate about the food. There were some really creative dishes and it was great to hear about how it’s cooked and the inspiration from our waiter. I also love that the end of lunch includes a matcha ceremony and tea made right in front of you by the sommalier.
I thought this was the quintessential Michelin star experience as it serves elegant French food in a classy setting. The atmosphere is fantastic and there was really attentive service from all the staff. The style of service and way of cooking food are Western but the ingredients used are true to Japan’s roots. I would recommend this for a classic upscale dining experience that will make you feel special.
Type of Food: Modern Kaiseki
A complete opposite experience to L’Effervescence was my lunch the next day at Jimbocho Den. It is another two star Michelin restaurant but the experience is all about family style eating with quirky surprises to be found. There was about 10 people all seated along a long bench and each course is served to everyone all at the same time. It was such a fun experience as each party was from a different country!
In keeping with the theme of surprises, there is no official menu. The lunch and dinner are both offered at 15,000 Yen. Before each dish is presented, they will explain what it is or sometimes let you guess what it is before telling you. Some of the really memorable dishes includes a chicken drumstick in a “take out box” but stuffed with a secret ingredient. As well as a dessert that copies a Starbucks design and says “Star comebacks” since the restaurant lost their two star status but recently gained it back!
All the dishes are amazingly executed and quite a few of them have surprises or something humorous about it. It’s a really unique experience to see a chef have so much fun playing with food with shapes, flavors and colors. I’m not sure how often their menu changes but a lot of the ingredients are seasonal so I’m sure you’ll have a slightly different experience if you go. From what I know, their staples are the monaka stuffed with foie gras as a starter as well as the 20 vegetable salad.
There was one main waitress who described the food and did the hosting but they also had quite a few support staff around. You can also clearly see the team of chefs cooking right in front of you, on that day there were 4 chefs in the kitchen. The service was very friendly and the sommalier had good knowledge about sake and we had some delicious pairings. You really feel welcomed as a part of the family and it was really fun dining with new people around the world.
Jimbocho Den was a very unique experience and adds a sense of humor into food. It has some of the most interesting presentation and use of ingredients I have ever seen! The service was attention but the whole feel was more family style. I think if you only have time for one fancy meal, I’d pick L’Effervescence for the classic upscale experience! But if you have been to many fine dining restaurants, Jimbocho Den has the unique factor that will leave you laughing and appreciating all the little nuances he adds to his courses.
I picked these two restaurants due to the value and the differences in style! Both these restaurants are also listed in Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants! Have you been to a Michelin star restaurant? Let me know what your experience was like!