It’s not often I find myself saying “perfectly done” after finishing each course at dinner. But that’s how I felt one recent evening at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant at the new Conrad Hotel in Shiodome, where practically everything I tasted met or even surpassed my expectations.
Of course, I should have assumed it would be good. After all, this is a restaurant that bears the name of a famous footballer-turned-chef with a total of seven Michelin stars for his group of restaurants in Britain. This same fact, however, also made me a little skeptical since so many places all over the world have opened with similarly stellar backing and then have disappointed, simply because it’s very hard to keep up that Michelin standard long-distance between the star chef in Europe and his satellite restaurant in Asia.
Gordon Ramsay in Tokyo, under the capable hands of young chef Andy Cook, a film-major-turned-Ramsay-protege from London, seems to be one of the successful exceptions. The cuisine here is labeled as modern French, although to me it seems more like the best of modern British. The menu was a sampler of good British cooking today, with straightforward, unstuffy choices that were prepared with simple trimmings and little fuss, and very light sauces. Sea bass is steamed and served with potatoes, a grilled fillet of beef comes with creamed mushrooms, and scallops are pan-fried and then drizzled with a cauliflower puree.
In this case, simple is indeed best, and the operative word here is ‘understated,’ whether in taste, ingredients, or presentation.
Dinner at Gordon Ramsay also gave my taste buds a fresh perspective. That evening, I ordered an interesting-sounding starter described as Crispy Pig’s Trotter, simply because I had never heard of or tasted such a dish before. It turned out to be one of Gordon Ramsay’s innovative signature dishes, and an excellent choice: calves sweetbread and foie gras are stuffed into rillettes of pig foot meat wrapped with crispy skin and wonderfully paired with some greens. Even as I write this, I’m already thinking about another visit just to have this one more time before the menu changes.
Also, I’m usually not a big fan of foie gras terrine but the version at Gordon Ramsay (Mosaique of foie gras with fig chutney and Barolo reduction), which arrived with perfectly toasted bread and again some crunchy greens, is one I’d certainly order again and again. The same is true for the caramel petit-fours that I first passed up until my husband persuaded me to have a taste. These melt-in-the-mouth caramels, oozing with chocolate, officially made me a caramel lover. Finally, I never expected to enjoy the pairing of basil herbs with creme brulee, but the one here (which has a very strong basil taste) was absolutely delicious.
The atmosphere at Gordon Ramsay is chic, but not achingly so. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, neutral colors with purple accents, and wood paneling, the restaurant looks like a Terence Conran makeover or a low-key version of the glitzy New York Grill of the Park Hyatt Tokyo. It’s the kind of place where you can dress up or dress down as you please, knowing you’re in for a memorable food trip either way.
WHAT TO EAT
Duma menus are ¥7,000 for two courses and ¥9,500 for three courses, there is also an eight-course Menu Prestige for ¥19,000. Among the starter., we loved the crispy pig’s trotter stuffed with calves sweetbread, the mosaique of foie gras and smoked duck breast, and the pan-fried sea scallops with cauliflower puree. For the main course, Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish is the filet of beef with creamed mushrooms, but his roasted cannon of lamb with white bean puree was very good as well. For dessert, the basil creme brulee and the earl grey parlait are highly recommended.
WHAT TO DRINK
The Jurancon Uroulat 2001 (¥2,000 per glass) is an excellent sweet white from southwest France that goes beautifully with foie gras and dessert, while the Mosel-Saar-Ruwr Riesling 2002 (¥2,200 per glass) is a refreshing dry white with a hint of lime that pairs well with seafood. Among the reds, the Casa Lapostelle Cuvee Alex 2003 (¥1,950 per glass) is a good-quality, decently priced cabernet sauvignon.
WHERE TO SIT
Table 18 allows you good views of both the main restaurant and the kitchen, but the booth tables (tables 30, 31, or 32) across the open kitchen are probably the most comfortable and private. Meanwhile, the seats at the chef’s table, which is a high counter with bar seats arranged in a row, are the most fun.
HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
Plan on spending around ¥30,000 for a dinner for two with wines.
WHO GOES THERE
British expatriates, Gordon Ramsay fans who delight in the fact thai his Tokyo restaurant is easier to reserve than any of his U.K. restaurants (which are often fully-booked months in advance), and Japanese professionals working in the Shiodome area. A lot of foreigners also patronize Cerise by Gordon Ramsay, the cheaper and more casual brasserie adjacent to the main restaurant.
WHO TO ASK FOR
James Devereaux, head sommelier, will direct you towards good value wines and interesting options to the good old Chardonnay or Sauterne.
Gordon Ramsay at Conrad Tokyo
1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo