"Dining at L'Effervescence is like going a bit away from Tokyo," says Zacchari Touchane, the restaurant's maitre d'hotel. Since L'Effervescence opened in Tokyo in 2010, head chef Shinobu Namae has lured foreigners and local alikes to an unassuming corner of the city with thoughtful French cooking with a Japanese twist. The restaurant boasts two Michelin stars and currently sits at 16th best in Asia according to the World's Best Restaurants awards.
But that's not why you should go. Dining at L'Effervescence is a Tokyo must because of the attention to detail that radiates from the kitchen into the dining room. In French, "l'effervescence" means vibrant or lively and Namae-san chose the name to reflect both the food and the atmosphere. Waiters circulate to the tune of classic rock, chatting with customers, answering questions and making the experience feel like an epic dinner party as opposed to a stuffy formal meal.
"We use French cooking techniques as a language that brings together seasonal Japanese ingredients," comments Touchane. "Customers get a taste, not only of the seasonal products, but also of Japanese culture...to enhance their understanding of Japan."
Namae-san trained under Michel Bras's three-Michelin-star restaurants in France and Japan, then moved to England to work as a pastry chef at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck. Before cooking, Namae-san studied political science of developing countries at university.
His attention to place is evident in L'Effervescence's tasting menu, which he calls "Terroir: where the ocean meets the land." The menu features 12 courses, each of which illustrates a different aspect of Japanese culture. Learn about "migration" while eating chilled corn soup with cultured milk and mole negro. Soak up the "spring sunshine" with broad beans, strawberry and balsamic vinegar.
All the courses are seasonal except for one, "a set point." For this signature dish Namae-san takes the humble turnip, cooks it for four hours, then plates it. "The only thing that changes is the taste of the turnip," comments Touchane, "During winter it's sweet, during the spring bitter and peppery during the summer. Customers even travel to try it over and over in different seasons."
This dedication is more proof of the restaurant's wide-reaching appeal. On any given night the dining room is a mix of locals, Japanese and foreigners. It's not uncommon for waiters to bond with diners over a shared hometown. After all, the team is young, international and ready to connect with people who want to participate in creating a memorable meal.
You'll choose your own wood-handled Laguiole steak knife. Chat with the sommelier to select the perfect French wine. Slather your bread with a housemade combo of sour cream, silken tofu and olive oil that will change how you think of butter. Then there's that so-called apple pie packed in a cute little red box that might look like the fast food treats you clamored for as a kid, but is stuffed with a sophisticated savory filling.
Still hungry for more? Try a white wine-sake hybrid as an apertif and have matcha cake for dessert. Your waiter will offer you of coffee or tea to finish, then spoil you with a tray of petit fours, piled high with everything from choux puffs stuffed with yuzu-matcha cream to homemade Chupa Chup lollipops.
When you do finally step up from the table four hours later, you're brimming with stories to tell, and maybe a photo or two of your meal—if you remembered to take one, that is. Because dining at L'Effervescence isn't just about eating good food, but being immersed into a story about what it means to live in Japan in the 21st century.
Want the chance to dine at L'Effervescence yourself? Enter to win a VIP trip to Tokyo, complete with dinner and a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour at the restaurant!