Theatrical dining that sets the stage for sustainability
Claim to fame: Modernist French cuisine rooted in Japanese culture
Reason to go: The wide-open kitchen and chef’s table-esque counter seating
To look out for: The crispy fried oyster with frozen lemon meringue
You go to Florilège, a darkly glimmering jewel box in Gaienmae, for the immersive, ringside dining experience and inventive pairings, but mostly for Hiroyasu Kawate’s technically stunning and progressive creations, crafted almost entirely from Japanese products. The former Quintessence sous-chef uses ingredients such as suppon (Sea turtle) and shirako (Smelt) in daring ways that push the boundaries of French cuisine. Just don’t call it “fusion”, the food displays a skeleton of solid French technique, overlaid with a sinewy musculature of focused Japanese flavors.
The concept-driven tasting menu highlights Kawate’s penchant for surprising juxtapositions of tastes, textures, and temperatures. Hetero, a signature from the restaurant’s early days, has evolved into a deep-fried oyster encased in a crispy nest of okahijiki (A seaweed-like plant that thrives in brackish coastal marshes) and topped with a verdant tangle of the vegetable, blanched to show off its juicy, springy texture. The dish is finished with nitrogen-frozen lemon meringue gumdrops and presented alongside a steaming shot of velvety oyster bisque. A thread of sustainability runs throughout the meal: semi-dried excess tomatoes and fried carrot tops garnish a fillet of broiled sardine and onion ice cream, while vegetable scraps flavor a rich and nourishing broth that bathes an aged wagyu carpaccio and smoked potato purée. In a nod to the Japanese custom of ending the meal with rice, pan-fried mochi rice, flavored with miso blankets the roasted Agu pork from Okinawa.
The restaurant’s dramatic interior marries wabi-sabi sensibilities with minimalist contemporary design. A dark stone counter surrounds the open kitchen at the center, treating guests to a bit of dinner theater. Elaborate ikebana arrangements, styled by sommelier Haruki Hirota, who moonlights as a florist and constructs impromptu “scenes” from blossoms and branches to match some of the courses, sit atop the prep counters, where the chefs add finishing touches to the plates before delivering them directly to the diners. Hirota favors natural wines on the drinks list, which spans Europe, Japan, and Australia. He also offers creative cocktails and non-alcoholic pairing options.