‘Parmesan ice cream’ was the first thing I heard when our first dish arrived, but it was the subtly twisted pea shoots on the chartreuse coloured soup of their seed which caught the eye.
‘Let the ingredients do their work’ seems to be customary advice to any home chef these days; with soup that has to be about right – but the sweet onions and delicate seasoning certainly gave these peas a leg up. The cream had a brittle saltiness which – with the texture of a caramelised biscuit seemingly of the same cheesy provenance – transferred well to a punchy accompaniment for the mildest of spring days in a bowl.
The casual, airy room was quiet; staff plenty but not intrusive as we fine-lunched in the nighttime venue. We had taken the prime window seat probably designed for looking out from, but my eyes wandered to the chefs who patiently prepared our taster menus in silence. The main restaurant opened in 2005 – but in these times of austerity has cut back it’s service to evening only, with Cerise taking the reigns through from breakfast and holding tight in it’s brasserie style setting after sunset.
Comfortable room between courses allowed us to wonder what the crows were doing up here, 28 floors above Shiodome at the Conrad Tokyo. Presumably admiring the bit of the view that doesn’t include the massive Tokyo Dentetsu building – either that or searching for a way toward the sesame seeds brushed over my bread – maybe it was the clinking silver spoons of those who were Afternoon Tea-ing that caught their eye.
It did the atmosphere no harm to have a mix of menus on offer – the sense of stuffiness that can go with French food was not evident, on another day something from the grill, or some of those scones would have gone down just as well, it certainly seems the balance is finally right. We were enjoying our meal, and things seemed in their natural place up here.
It is rare after a plate including deep fried frogs legs the sauce tops out with talking point inches, but the pink grapefruit hollandaise that adorned asparagus charlotte and citrus greens deserved plaudits. Actually, I only saw one limb on our second of five courses, but it was as succulent as I’ve had, and at this early stage, who was I to argue. The candied zest in the salad cut through any greasiness that might have lingered from all that sauce I mopped up.
I forgave the un-billed olive paste for taking away valuable millimetres of crisp, perfectly pan fried sea bream skin, mainly for it’s surprisingly well paired marriage with the flesh – it gave a strong flavour to the dish I was hoping the ‘spicy’ couscous would bring, and allowed me to enjoy the red pepper coulis as something of a palate cleanser.
The whole lunch is more than reasonable, especially as we stuck to the sparkling water. The portions were accessible rather than dainty, so it wasn’t the bubbles that were filling me up. At 6,800 for the six courses, some simple, reductive arithmetic left me with an 800 yen premium – shamelessly forgetting the overheads, and coffee being one of them – with which to award the roasted spring chicken.
Ricotta gnocci and minted soy beans provided the base for a well textured meat – rolled and baked in such a way that every layer was as appealing as the salty crust. The supper like quality of the gravy – sorry, jus rôti – pushed my limits when required afterwards to fit in a slab of cheesecake, light as it was.
Sheer quality of fruit meant that actually desert only just lost out on the required bonus points for the course of the meal. It goes back to that old mantra about the ingredients speaking for themselves, and these blackberries couldn’t have had a better plinth from which to talk about their freshness and tell me I could easily clean the plate.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call ahead to check satus of menus as some changes in place due to ongoing supply problems caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami.
Menu in English and Japanese.