Lovely lunch date at Les Chanterelle
Our love for French food and exploration of Tokyo’s Michelin-starred restaurants brought us to Les Chanterelle for lunch (generally, a much more affordable way to tap your toes into the fine dining scene in Tokyo). Nestled on a side street in Moto-Yoyogi district, Les Chanterelle is a cozy enclave comprised of one dining room with an adjacent open kitchen. Chef Yusuke Nakada orchestrates his staff behind the counter while also casually conversing with his patrons (in Japanese). The name of the restaurant was inspired by chef Nakada’s love for mushrooms which are successfully incorporated in many of his dishes. He mainly draws on his experience while working at some of the top kitchens in France, including that of Regis Marcon, whose Restaurant Regis et Jacques Marcon boasts three Michelin stars and whose primary focus is fungi, having been known as mushroom king. A promise of a fungi-centric menu was a novelty for us, so we were excited to give it a try.
Our first appetizer was probably the smallest, yet the most memorable dish of the day: foie gras macaron served alongside the mushroom “tea”. Combination of the sweet shell of macaron and foie was divine, and it paired so beautifully with the earthy flavors of the warm mushroom broth. It was a truly brilliant dish that showcased restaurant’s theme very well.
Second course, with chopped turbo shell (coincidentally, we tried it the night before during our fantastic dinner at Amour), avocado and herbs, fell a bit short. We didn’t quite get any flavor out of the dish.
Next course showcased the “catch of the day” prepared using different techniques: tempura, sashimi, seared, etc. Marinated mackerel and the tuna sashimi were most memorable for me, and pared well with the pickled mushroom thrown in the midst of this seafood.
The final cold course brought together the melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon, eggplant, freshly chopped cucumber, dill, onion and cream, plus a touch of black olive powder and a drizzle of olive oil. It might sound like a lot, but it all merged into a perfect harmony on your palate. Definitely a standout dish I’d reorder with great pleasure.
We also enjoyed the beautifully cooked Fat Greening (which is a truly Japanese seasonal fish which has become a rarity) and mussels, complimented by the mussel dashi and cream sauce.
Although, it was the final savory course that made our tastebuds sing: a Japanese beef from Hokkaido cooked perfectly medium rare and paired with seared mushrooms. It was so moreish and flavorful, I savored each bit slowly.
We finished the lunch with rich dark chocolate terrine from Madagascar, that was paired with cassis sorbet. It was a thing of beauty, as was the final petit four: fennel Crème Brule served alongside the coffee.
Overall, we quite enjoyed our time and I’d categorize Les Chanterelle as a very pleasant one-time lunch spot. Honestly, I expected mushrooms to be featured more in the menu, however the dishes altogether were not lacking in taste. Some dishes were good, while others – like, foie gras macaron, or the beef course – were very memorable. I wish there was availability of English menu, and English-speaking staff who could provide more in-depth commentary about each dish to give the meal more meaning and context.