Quintessence – 3 Star Michelin Restaurant At Tokyo Is Classy, Subtly Exceptional
September 21, 2015
The French word “Quintessence” exemplifies quality, refinement, and class. This would perfectly describe 3 Michelin-starred restaurant Quintessence in Tokyo helmed by Chef Shuzo Kishida.
Quintessence is known to be one of the finest restaurant in Japan, offering some of the best French food outside France itself.
Word I would use to describe my dining experience – classy, pure, white, subtle, exceptional.
After being exposed to certain gimmickries in presentation and occasional try-too-hard restaurants (Michelin or not), Quintessence is quite the complete opposite of these.
I would re-visit it in a heart-beat if I travel to Tokyo again, IF ONLY the reservations are not so difficult.
Okay, Difficult is an understatement.
Reservation at Quintessence is known to be particularly hard, even listed as one of the “toughest reservations in the world”. The irony is it is easier to secure the teacher’s 3-star Michelin L’Astrance in Paris than Quintessence itself.
The restaurant accepts reservations up to 2 months ahead just on the same date. That is, reservations on say 20th November will begin on 20th September.
Only telephone calls are accepted, no emails and, calls have to be made between 9:30am – 11:30am, 3:30pm – 5pm.
It took me a few trips before finally getting a space. The hotel concierge would be one of the best options, unless you have a reliable Japanese friend residing in Tokyo itself.
You know the say, “Good things come to those who wait.”
The food concept is hugely inspired by L’Astrance where Chef Shuzo Kishida had his training.
Essentially, the cooking revolves around three core values: Respecting the ‘produit’ (product); pursuing ‘caisson’ (cooking process); and attention to detail in ‘assaisonné’ (the seasoning process).
This stresses the importance of the quality of the ingredients, and understanding of the actual cooking process (without conforming to standard culinary practices).
However, there is a difference with the French style of cooking, with preference for lighter seasoning and highlighting the natural flavours of the ingredients.
Chef also added he would include a touch of his humour and poetic license.
Lunch for 7 dishes including dessert with a digestif is 8,500 Yen (SGD$99.50, USD$71), while dinner for 13 dishes is 18,000 Yen (SGD$210, USD$150).
Presenting the menu… a white ‘menu carte blanche’ which is actually a blank slate, where the food will be dependent on fresh seasonal produce available at the market, changing day to day.
There are still some signatures that will remain. Without giving too much of the game away, I will highlight a few exceptional items.
Quintessence’s star dish is the Assaisonement – goat milk bavarois with lily bulb, sea salt and olive oil.
To highlight Chef’s dedication to perfection and getting only the right ingredients, the goat’s milk is transported fresh from a farm in Hokkaido, the sea salt from Brittany, and olive oil from France.
You can somewhat sense Chef’s personality from this dish.
His favourite colour is probably white, the appearance may be quietly subtle but the taste is just incredibly balanced and intricate. This added with a touch of playfulness from the fleur de sel that ‘pops’ like a pleasant surprise.
The kitchen uses a time-consuming process of low-temperature long-time roasting in order to extract the delicate flavours from the meat.
I was mind-blown when I learnt how they prepared this pork dish.
The meat is first placed in the oven for 1 minute, taken out to rest for 5 minutes, alternating continuously for 30 times which will take 3 hours to prepare. After that, the outer layer is pan-seared for crispiness.
You would notice that the pork’s colour is still pinkish and looks raw, but is actually fully cooked. The piece is moist and softly tender, and you can slowly relish in the pork’s natural juices in its full glory. Amazing.
One last thing to note is photography is not allowed in the main dining room for fear it would interrupt other guests. I only managed to get away because we managed to book a private room.
1F, Garden City Shinagawa Gotenyama, 6-7-29, Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
〒141-0001 Tokyo, Shinagawa 北品川6−7−29 ガーデンシティ品川 御殿山 1F
Tel: +81 3 6277 0485 (Reservation calls are only accepted between 9:30am -11am and 3:30pm – 5pm)
Opening Hours: 12am – 3pm, 6:30am – 11pm (Mon-Sat), Closed Sun
Closed late December-early January