L’Alliance is like a throwback to another time. Though the elegant restaurant only opened eight years ago, riding up the elevator in its grand entrance and stepping into the high-ceilinged main room you could be traveling back in time to the boisterous days of the late 1980s when the champagne flowed and fine food in ostentatious surroundings were the order of the day.
The Kagurazaka restaurant has a seen a spectacular evolution in its menu, driven by the dynamic man in charge, Takeshi Suzuki. A towering presence in person, the friendly Suzuki works in a French context for his dishes, but over years of doing that most important of things – listening to his customers – he has come up with a unique approach to one of the most famous of cuisines. This being Japan, there is always a need to take into account local tastes, and the chef has done this in a subtle and ingenious way: At L’Alliance, your dining adventure starts out with the comfortable familiarity of a Japanese meal and then slowly morphs itself into a French one.
Inspired from his experience, Suzuki tried many things after consulting with customers. He finally decided that the best approach is to make an impact with the main course, a meat dish, so doesn’t serve beef, lamb or chicken before it. Instead he focuses on seafood, for example, offering sashimi, but as carpaccio, and using dashi, the most Japanese of soup stocks to cook other items.
Suzuki starts his courses with seafood cooked with an adaptation of French methods but presented in a Japanese style and served with chopsticks. We were given a plate of fresh langoustine, scallops and truffles, decorated with a cauliflower puree and langoustine jelly. A fine combination of delicate flavors from the sea, it was the kind of dish that would appeal to both Western and Japanese palates. The courses, which are available for 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 and 15,000 yen, then proceed through soups and granitas that take a stop for the main fish dish and a main meat.
We tried the ito yori, a kind of snapper, cooked till it had a pleasantly crispy skin over its delicate but firm flesh. The plate was decorated with a mussel, slice of awabi, and a miniature squid, and a splash of mashed potatoes. This is the turning point of the meal, where Suzuki – who studied in France for two years – transitions to a more classical style of French cooking. The main course dish is Australian beef served up with seasonal vegetables in a traditional sauce.
L’Alliance has a massive selection of French wine on hand, dispersed around there spacious venue, and an elegant after dinner bar where you can have your coffee and a digestif after gorging on Suzuki’s blended creations. And if you just want a drink with out the full meal, customers can pop in for just a bottle of wine or a cocktail in the lounges comfortable seats.
Desserts are chosen from a rolling trolley, making it all the more difficult to resist despite the filling coarse meals.
L’Alliance is truly an impressive space, with the busy kitchen brightly lit up behind a glass wall, so you can watch the magic happen. The ceilings soar to over six meters and the interior screams opulence. If you want to imagine what time were like when Japan was the juggernaut that everyone wanted to copy, stepping into L’Alliance will take you back in time – but not only that, it will tickle your taste buds with a fine balance of the East and the West.
2-11 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0825