L’Osier is a legend in Japan. With a history of over 40 years, this restaurant has shaped the way Japan’s elites have discovered French cooking. Today, chef Olivier Chaignon runs it, and strives to make it the best French restaurant in Japan.
Its background, however, is unusual as there are few restaurants of this calibre in the world owned by cosmetics companies. L’Osier is one of them. It was set-up by Shiseido, one of the world’s leading players in that field, which itself has its origins as a drugstore in Tokyo. Whilst Shiseido’s presence in the restaurant is hardly visible, the sense of perfectionism here clearly demands considerable financial backing to make possible.
Financial backing, however, is not all that Shiseido provides at L’Osier. Anyone walking into the dining room will immediately notice just how beautifully designed it is. This sense of aesthetics is apparent in the decoration of the dining room and its guests. There are few restaurants, which attract a clientele as distinguished and elegant as that of L’Osier. Sitting here really feels like people come for a special meal, which is becoming increasingly rare.
And yet, what ultimately sets L’Osier apart from the rest is the quality of the food. Olivier Chaignon previously ran Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant in Tokyo, so when he took over this bastion of classicism, speculation as to what his cooking would be like was rife. And yet, for those eating here for the first time, the surprise could not be bigger: The food is remarkably well judged, composed, and classical. You won’t be faced with six plates per course, or combinations that only a mad genius would come up with, instead the regime at L’Osier consists of luxury products, perfectly executed dishes, and to put it mildly, some of the best French food outside of France.
A dish that best illustrates Chaignon’s cooking at L’Osier is Wagyu beef fillet. Simply served with two garnishes, and a balanced, intense jus, this is a lesson in product quality. The cooking of the meat results in a crunchy crust, perfect texture, and seasoning that is strong enough to bring out the inherent flavour without masking it. Finding better steak than this in Tokyo will be difficult, unless you go to restaurants such as Kawamura. This dish alone is worth the price of admission here.
Less classical, and showing Chaignon’s capability as a chef is a dish combining caviar with Jerusalem artichoke. Generous heaps of caviar top little towers of Jerusalem artichoke, which are placed atop jelly of the same root vegetable, and a cream made from it. This is a dish that might seem simple at first, but shows just how carefully judged composition and seasoning in Chaignon’s cooking are. The briny, salty caviar is contrasted with a very clean jelly, a slightly richer cream, and the little cylinders that add texture. As a whole, the dish is remarkably complex, given that it only contains so few ingredients.
That Chaignon’s cooking does not only rely on excellent technique, but also stunning product quality is evidenced in his Amadai with curry, beets, and a spicy beet/tomato puree. Whilst we are sick and tired of seeing beetroot on menus, this dish alone shows how much can be done with this root vegetable, if served properly. All it does is adding an earthy, slightly sweet background for the main protagonist: the Amadai. One of the most prized Japanese fish, Amadai must figure among the more expensive varieties of fish one can buy. At L’Osier it is slowly cooked on the scales, so they become incredibly crisp and delicate. The meat remains flaky, juicy, and firm at the same time, making this an eye-opening piece of fish cookery, not to mention product quality. The very light curry has just enough punch, without overpowering any of the other elements on the plate.
Writing about a restaurant that uses such stunning products, and has such a dexterous kitchen brigade is a pleasure we do not often have. And yet, at L’Osier it doesn’t stop there: the service, and wine service are just as effortless, and good as the food is. Whilst the relatively small room is filled with wait staff, you never have the feeling of being “observed” by any of them. Instead, this really is a perfectly organised ballet that is professional, and friendly at the same time.
Apart from a handful of French top restaurants, we cannot think of other establishments that offer food, and service of the quality of L’Osier. If Shiseido’s aim is to create a restaurant that is more beautiful, and better than any other Japanese French restaurant they have achieved this without question. We have rarely eaten better than here.
Note: the 7/7 rating is for dinner. At lunch, the food is simpler, and not quite as impressive as at dinner, hence it would deserve only 4/7.