For my fourth trip to Tokyo, I decided to mix things up a bit. While I’m undeniably a fan of Japanese cuisine, including sushi, Kobe beef, yakisoba, and tempura, I wanted to check out a Michelin-starred French restaurant. This establishment has been delighting the taste buds of Tokyoites and tourists alike since 1973. In the kitchen, you’ll find chef Olivier Chaignon, who began his career in France before settling in Japan and earning two Michelin stars for his restaurant L’Osier.
It all began several decades ago, when L’Osier opened its doors in the heart of Ginza. The restaurant was of course named after the tree which symbolizes this district in Tokyo. Its location is ideal, right in the center of this chic neighborhood, world famous for its luxury boutiques and gourmet restaurants.
To my great surprise, I discovered that L’Osier belongs to the Shiseido group (a Japanese cosmetics brand), which wanted to create a restaurant with a spotlight on French gastronomy. The first chef to take the reins of the establishment was Jacques Borie, who passed the torch to Bruno Ménard in 2005. In 2010, the restaurant closed for renovation, opening three years later inside of the Shiseido Company building and introducing Olivier Chaignon as its executive chef.
A Top-Notch Chef
I had the pleasure of meeting the chef in his kitchen after lunch had been served and, in addition to his incredible talent, he’s very friendly and approachable. He’s had an illustrious career; born in north-central France, he perfected his skills in the best Michelin-starred Parisian restaurants, like Taillevent and Pierre Gagnaire. He became head chef at Tokyo’s Pierre Gagnaire before arriving at L’Osier five years later.
Make no mistake, Olivier Chaignon’s cuisine is 100% French! Here the largely Japanese clientele won’t find the flavors they appreciate in their own kitchens, as might be the case for local customers in Japanese-inspired restaurants in France. “Right here at L’Osier in Tokyo, we feel like the cuisine we’re enjoying is more typically French than what we can find in the best Parisian restaurants,” the clients can be heard saying after their meal.
Time for the Tasting
For lunch, I can eat à la carte, or choose one of two possible set menus: one is a lunch menu for 10,000 yen (about 76 €), the other a “les belles gourmandes” set menu for 14,000 yen (about 104 €). The meal is rather affordable for a restaurant with two Michelin stars when you compare it with the prices you might find in New York or Paris.
Here in mid-March, springtime is slowly making its way into the city’s streets as well as its gastronomy. The courses on offer are becoming lighter, more delicate, and are featuring more splashes of color. As you probably know, Japan is preparing for a major event at the end of the month: hanami, or the cherry blossom festival, celebrates the arrival of spring, and this can be felt in the local restaurants.
The meal begins with a very refreshing hors-d’oeuvre to prepare our palates for the explosion of flavors that will soon follow. The procession of dishes continues with a highly anticipated appetizer: white asparagus, shiso flowers, black truffle, and scallops. The flavor is divine, and the presentation demonstrates perfect mastery. Even though the chef himself has told me that his cuisine is essentially focused on ingredient combinations and taste, the food’s appearance is clearly not an afterthought—it’s a sight for sore eyes! This is what I love about Japan, where finesse and aesthetics are extremely important.
Next, it’s time for seafood to make its entrance: for the first time, I will try kinmedai, a fish with firm flesh that is rarely eaten in France, accompanied by an emulsion of peas and broad beans. It’s perfectly cooked, and the association of flavors is once again excellent. The chef has told me that the local region is a fantastic playing field when it comes to this fish. The richness of seasonal Japanese ingredients available, including fish, crustaceans, and vegetables, is an ideal base for his cuisine.
The third course features a very French recipe: beef cheek! Accompanied by turnips, parsnips, shallots, and a red wine sauce, this classic of French cuisine displays all of the qualities you’d expect—it’s perfectly gelatinous, with an exceptional flavor.
The meal continues with a “pre-dessert” then a strawberry parfait, involving an apple-saffron center, vanilla sorbet, and a poppy flower-flavored emulsion. I’m thrilled that this chef places such an emphasis on sweets, and while I go through the parfait in no time, the sweet delicacy trolley is already on its way. It’s an original and surprising idea, and with my sweet tooth, I’m captivated by the bonbons, each more delicious-looking than the last. It’s hard to make up my mind: there are chocolates, meringues, fruit jellies, candied fruits covered in chocolate, caramels… as you can see, a real dilemma! This sweets cart reminds me of the one at Meurice in Paris (which features herbal teas), and doesn’t fail to excite the clientele!
And the Décor?
The restaurant interior comes to us thanks to designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. The themes are white, gold, transparency, glass, and light, and the result is impressive. A few flashy art pieces enhance the room’s appearance, which on the whole displays an elegant and refined style.
As is often the case in Japan, I absolutely love the service! Restaurant manager Yasuhiko Uchibori and his entire team are unfailingly kind and professional. From the moment of my arrival until I make my leave, the personnel is incredibly attentive. I greatly appreciate that the serving staff have made the effort to know a few words in French, and some of them are even bilingual. It’s truly a privilege to be welcomed in such a way; few gourmet establishments have such fantastic service!
I of course expected that the cuisine in this Michelin 2-star restaurant would be excellent, but L’Osier went above and beyond my expectations. I was completely enchanted by chef Olivier Chaignon’s creations! His restaurant is an exception here in the heart of Tokyo, and combines French tastes with a rich variety of locally-produced foods. The service is impeccable, and all your wishes are anticipated; I truly felt that I was in an establishment of high standing and flawless refinement. I can’t recommend enough that you come and discover the best of French cuisine more than 10,000 kilometers away from Paris.
- The asparagus: my favorite course of the whole meal!
- The beautiful presentation
- The surprise candy cart at the end of the meal, adding to my enjoyment!
- The basement-level dining room. Even if the décor is very bright, it would be nice to have some natural light.
- More information available on their website
- Open weekdays and Saturdays for lunch and dinner; closed on Sundays.
Thank you to the restaurant L’Osier for the invitation to explore their establishment. Of course, the content of this blogpost was left entirely up to me!