Christine Cunanan-Miki uncovers a hidden jewel in luxurious Ginza
My husband and I recently discovered Repertoire, a gem of a low-key French restaurant hidden away in the Hotel Seiyo Ginza, which itself is an ultra-luxury hotel that is so discretely run that many Tokyo expatriates have never even heard of it. Among uber-celebrities, however, not a few consider this small hotel their home in Tokyo. Recently, the Seiyo Ginza caused a sensation in Japan when it successfully hosted “The Hedonists’ Dinner,” a once-in-a-lifetime ¥1 million per-head dinner for 20 people cooked by the legendary French chef Joel Robuchon, and paired with rare wine selected by Robert Parker, the world’s foremost authority on wine. Both men were present that evening, and there was apparently no shortage of eager guests to fill the 20-head quota.
While not quite as hedonistic (especially in price!) as that eventful December dinner, Repertoire certainly serves fine food to make any evening more than memorable. On our first visit (which will certainly be followed by many others), we were most impressed by the superb in-house smoked salmon (¥2,940), which was painstakingly prepared over three days and served warm with lime cream. The salmon is marinated overnight in orange juice and salt, and then afterwards pounded with green pepper before being smoked in cherry tree wood. We’d never tasted smoked salmon quite so delectable, and a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (¥1,260 per glass) provided just the right citrus taste to complement the fish. We also enjoyed immensely an oven-roasted honey-glazed breast of duck (¥6,720) that was crunchy on the outside and tender medium-rare on the inside, and perfectly-seared scallops (¥4,200) served with a tangy red pepper sauce and basil oil.
Makoto Iijima, Repertoire’s talented chef, is an unassuming young man with a Michelin star-studded resume that would give many of his Tokyo colleagues a serious complex. He trained for three years with Raymond Blanc in Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons (two stars) in Oxford; and then moved on to a series of other equally notable French temples of dining including the world-famous Troisgros (three stars), the I’Auberge de L’Eridan (three stars), the Lucas Carton (three stars), the Le Bretagne (two stars) and the l’Escale (one star). Consequently, he combines youthful confidence and a preference for a quirky combination of ingredients with a disciplined adherence to classical French cooking techniques as practiced by the masters.
Meanwhile, the restaurant itself is fancy, but not in an overly formal way. It’s decorated in a French pastoral style, with paisley prints and comforting neutral colors, and imbued with the kind of atmosphere you’d find in a fine dining establishment in Paris that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its clientele is composed mostly of Japanese senior executive-types, with the odd foreigner wandering down from his or her hotel room above. On the night we were there, Repertoire was full of local executives and chic women of all ages, but the only other gaijin in the room (aside from myself) was a visiting American businessman being taken out to dinner by his Tokyo hosts. Hopefully, the demographics here will change after this review, since it would be a shame to keep Iijima-san and Repertoire restaurant so hidden away from the expatriate community in this luxurious little corner of Ginza.
WHAT TO EAT
You won’t go wrong with the smoked salmon appetizer (¥2,940), the panfried lobster with white wine (¥6, 090) or the oven-roasted lamb loin with a vegetable cassoulet (¥5,670). The roasted duck breast (¥6,720) and the pan-fried beef fillet (¥7,140) are also highly recommended.
WHAT TO DRINK
The Evolution Edition 6 (¥1,365 per glass), an intriguingly-named fruity New World wine from Oregon made from six different grapes, was our mainstay favorite. Meanwhile, a slightly acidic 2004 Cloudy Hay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (¥1,260 per glass) was great with the salmon while a Stag’s Leap Chardonnay from California (¥2,100) was so smooth it was almost like drinking water.
WHERE TO SIT
The corner round tables with the banquette seats are the most comfortable in this small restaurant.
HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
About ¥35,000-¥40,000 for a set menu and several glasses of wine for two persons.
WHO GOES THERE?
Foreign celebrities just love eating here when staying at the hotel as well.
WHO TO ASK FOR
Yumiko Ukawa, born in Tokyo and bred in Texas, speaks perfect English and has some great recommendations for food and wine.
Hotel Seiyo Ginza
1-11-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104 0061