Chef Shinobu Namae is an almost self-effacing person. He is humble, soft-spoken, and talks in a manner that you don’t often see with chefs. Unsurprisingly, the food he serves shares some of its creators characteristics. The subtle, introvert, and measured attitude can also describe his cuisine. Namae’s food is, after all, delicate, unadorned, and clearly bears the signature of someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about what he does.
As Namae has worked with Michel and Sebastian Bras for several years, the cooking of l’Effervescence is influenced by these chefs. And yet, given the produce available in Tokyo, and a different sensibility, the food at L’Effervescence has its own distinct voice. A remarkable dish that demonstrates this is monkfish, served with lily bulbs, girolles, and a monkfish/pheasant broth. It is perhaps not surprising that the two most arresting monkfish dishes we have had came from two chefs who share a similar philosophy, and approach to cooking: Alexandre Bourdas of Sa.Qua.Na and Namae here. The dish is not only remarkable for the quality, and cooking of the fish, it also features a combination of delicate, yet intense flavours that make it appear effortless. The combination of pheasant, and monkfish seems so harmonious, and pairs so well with the earthy girolles that you wonder why no one else has combined these products before. This is eye-opening cooking.
A dish that has an interesting concept, but does not quite have the same impact shows that such bare, daring cookery also has its risks. Shirako is served with herb salad, roast potatoes, and a cod brandade. The shirako is beautifully cooked, and has that creamy, almost milky texure that makes it such an idiosyncratic ingredient. The earthy puree, and bitter/fresh herbs act as a delicate accompaniment, but it is the roast potato that seems out of place. It feels too rustic-both in texture, and flavour-to be on the same plate as these products.
The menu, however, quickly comes back to the level of the monkfish: wild duck is served with spelt, prune jus, and wild herbs. This is a dish that truly showcases the quality, and cooking of the bird, without overpowering it. The jus introduces a fruity element that is not really sweet, and therefore a lot more interesting. The rusticity of the spelt works well in this case, giving a backbone to the dish. This is game cooking of the highest order: fresh, full of flavour, and deeply respectful of the product.
The experience of a meal at L’Effervescence is a little different from a number of Tokyoite French restaurants. The room is spacious, and elegant. The service incredibly friendly, and accommodating, and the wine pairings showcase wines from small artisan producers that share an idea not too dissimilar to that of L’Effervescence’s creators. Eating here, therefore is a very holistic experience.
A restaurant such as this is not something we often find. It serves food that is intellectually stimulating, without losing out on flavour; it has an idea that truly sets it apart from others in Tokyo; and most importantly, it is a dining experience that is most promising, and suggesting that this is but the beginning.