Pierre Gagnaire is one of the most influential chefs of his generation. After the bankruptcy of his original restaurant in St Etienne, he has come back stronger than ever, opening his flagship restaurant in Paris, before expanding to other cities in the world such as Tokyo.
His Tokyo restaurant is located in the city’s ANA Intercontinental, and therewith one of the few haute cuisine restaurants in a hotel in the city. The dining room is like in Hong Kong, and Paris not particularly noteworthy, although it benefits from a beautiful view over the Tokyo Tower not far away.
The food is what really matters in most of Gagnaire’s restaurants. With the exception of London’s Sketch, his mad genius finds its manifestation on the plate only. The Gagnaire style is unique. No other chef manages to serve themed dishes, consisting of several plates, and condiments that you would never even dream up. Whilst Gagnaire’s cooking can be truly captivating at its best, it can also lead to rather bizarre, and unbalanced dishes on a bad day.
In Tokyo, the Gagnaire and his chef Yosuke Akasaka serve dishes that are somewhat more restrained than in Paris, but clearly bear the master’s handwriting. A lobster starter is served with lobster/Macvin cream, a yuzu/cauliflower condiment, daikon, and carrots braised in orange. The description of the dish looks like poem, and on paper it looks like one of the incredibly complex, and bizarre dishes that characterise Gagnaire’s food. What eventually turns up on the table is a perfectly balanced, and composed starter that is harmonious, and much more classical in its profile than you might expect. The lobster is perfectly timed, and combines very well with the various elements. This is a fresh, appetising starter that makes you look forward to the next plate.
Using Japanese produce, a beautiful fish course is a hata (grouper) fillet, served with sea urchin, and rapeseed. Also served are cod milt, with one of Gagnaire’s odd sauces, mysteriously named: Dundee-Pinky condiment. The combination of the beautifully timed piece of fish that also is of very good quality, and the cold sea urchin that is added tableside is remarkable. A very clean pairing of various nuances of the sea, this combines beautifully with the intensely green, vegetal rapeseed sauce. This is certainly a remarkably simple, and unassuming dish for a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant, but it is also truly delicious.
Gagnaire’s Tokyo restaurant is unmistakably Gagnaire with the distinct selection of breads, and the possibility to get a glimpse of this mad-genius’ culinary creations. The food here is technically impeccable, and very good in every aspect. The only point of “criticism” would be that it is perhaps not as daring and lively as it is in Paris. That is hardly a criticism, but Gagnaire fans should be aware of it. Compared to the restaurants of other French chefs in Tokyo (i.e. Ducasse, Robuchon), Pierre Gagnaire Tokyo is a very convincing restaurant.
Pierre Gagnaire’s Tokyo restaurant is a great place to discover this highly controversial culinary figure’s cuisine. It serves food that combines precise technique with some very thoughtfully created food.