Modern Japanese Makes for a Romantic Culinary Escape

Food & Drink - February 2nd, 2007
Applause restaurant

by Christine Cunanan-Miki

It’s a rather incongruous name for a modern Japa­nese restaurant run by Nadaman, one of Tokyo’s most traditional dining establishments—and particu­larly so since it’s decorated almost entirely in black, making it more somber than celebratory, as the name “Applause” would usually imply. This alone is a mi­nor psychological barrier to initially phoning for a table or suggesting Applause for a dinner rendezvous; but those who overcome their reservations are in a for a delicious sensory treat.

Applause has an extremely wide menu of Japa­nese food, making it acceptable to almost everyone. It serves the full array of yakitori skewers (¥262 to ¥504), a decent variety of pub food-type appetizers, a handful of Japanese-Western dishes, and also proper ryokan (Japanese inn) meals arranged in the most beautiful pot­tery and lacquer ware. In fact, as we enjoyed dish after dish, my husband and I both agreed that this would be a good place for foreigners to sample fine Japanese food in a stylish way. It serves authentic local dishes with the expert artistry that Nadaman is known for, but there is almost nothing unrecognizable, or too exotic to make one squeamish, or too bland to be bor­ing to the foreign palate.

Our seasonal multi-course menu (¥16,800) began with the dramatic arrival of a vermillion red lacquer tray adorned with a single green leaf and five appetiz­ers in contrasting containers including sesame tofu in a tiny martini glass, mackerel sushi in a silver goblet, and roasted tuna belly in a black lacquer cup. The mix of colors, textures and tastes was pure delight.

Next came five kinds of sashimi on a bed of ice in a triangular lacquer box, and crab dumplings in a soup that reeked of high-quality dashi (bonito flake season­ing) served in a silver vessel atop individual green char­coal braziers. Meanwhile, our main course of charcoal-grilled Japanese beef sirloin steak came with a wasabi sauce and was wonderfully seasoned so it improved with each bite. And perhaps to acknowledge the for­eign concept of steak, our meat arrived on blue-and-white Royal Copenhagen plates.

Just before rice and dessert, our waiter happened to mention that there were two Japanese-Western dishes on the a la carte menu that were especially popular with foreign heads of state and other VIP guests stay­ing at the Akasaka Guest House. Of course my interest was piqued and I just had to order these as well. The sea urchin pudding with consommé  jelly (¥2,310) came topped with caviar, in a wide cocktail glass on a silver plate ringed with lavender flowers. My first spoonful yielded only a slight sweetish flavor, but the succeeding ones brought out the kind of refined taste that grows on you. The tartare mille-feuille with fruit tomato (¥1,680), another favorite of presidents and royalty, re­sembled a cake of straw­berries but was actually crab meat mixed with ol­ive oil and topped with spicy tomatoes. While this may be more West­ern than Japanese, it was certainly tasty.

We ended our meal with another successful hybrid—crème brûlée with charcoal-roasted chestnuts, sweet red azuki beans and vanilla ice cream—that can only be described as the perfect Japanese-Western dessert. Who would have thought that azuki beans would complement and not clash with creme brulee? The Japanese ingredient certainly refreshed this classic French dessert.

It was only after our colorful dinner that we un­derstood how the concept of Applause, with its theme of charcoal and its polished black tables, black filigreed curtains and textured black walls and furnish­ings, worked so ingenuously on us. Each dish jumped out precisely because of the lack of surrounding color, and heightened our appreciation. And this realization, along with the wonderful, creative meal we had just had, certainly made us want to clap our hands and shout “bravo.”

Applause restaurant


If you’d like to sample a proper Japanese ryokan dinner, order the seasonal menu (¥16,800). On the other hand, if you’d like a taste of the kind of dishes served at a state din­ner, make sure to order the sea urchin pudding with consommé  jelly (¥2,310) and the tartare mille-feuille with fruit tomato (¥1,680). And make sure to finish up with the  crème brûlée with chestnuts and sweet beans (¥1,260).


They have everything from reasonable wines at ¥945 per glass to super-premium wines costing over ¥5,000 per glass. We liked two very different whites: the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Vin de Pay D’OC (¥945) and the Corton Charlemagne 2003 (¥6,825).


¥45,000 should cover a set course and several glasses of wine for two. However, those on budget will happily be able to find cheap options in the a la carte menu.


The window tables are considered the best the house.


Nadaman regulars who want a more casual meal every now and then, Japanese corporate titans in their private time, and not enough foreigners save for hotel guests looking for Japanese food in a relaxed atmosphere.


Imperial Hotel
Uchisaiwaicho 1-1-1
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3595-2271