Benoit, Aoyama

Food & Drink - July 3rd, 2009

Ten floors above fashionable Aoyama, a slice of Parisian chic offers diners glittering views of Tokyo. As the elevator doors glide open, visitors to Alain Ducasse’s Benoit are greeted by an interior of authentic French antiques and warm, European style. Ascending the open staircase to the eleventh floor reveals a beautiful and elegant restaurant interior courtesy of acclaimed designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. Lemon and olive trees planted in large Grecian pots from the early 20th century complement the stunning view from the windows.

Benoit Interior

Author of 17 books and creator of numerous restaurants around the world (including two in Tokyo), Alain Ducasse is one the world’s most decorated chefs. In 2003 the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences named him Finest Chef in the World. Defining the term star-studded, his multiple restaurants hold a total of 18 Michelin stars. Ducasse makes frequent visits to his restaurants in Tokyo, so it’s possible for diners at Benoit to catch a glimpse of him at work.

The menu is simplicity at its best. Using ingredients that are both locally grown and typical of different regions in France, Benoit offers truly authentic French cuisine. Executive chef Kei Kojima travels from his home in rural Kamakura every day, stopping by the popular Kamakura market along the way. Only the freshest, finest ingredients make the cut and are passed for use in the Benoit kitchens.

I started with a light pastry complemented by a delicate white wine. The main course was the chef’s recommendation, local vegetables stuffed with veal and mushrooms, a speciality based on the natural style of cooking around Nice, where Kojima previously worked. A lightly dressed salad of fresh greens, including roquette, offset the summery plate. The chef insisted I try his all-wheat bread, freshly baked of course, which was wonderful and almost too hot to touch.

Outstanding among the excellent selection of regional French wines and cognac on offer is Alain Ducasse’s very own champagne. Although affordably priced, this fine bottle is exceedingly rare. The only other bottles available in Japan reside in Ducasse’s other Tokyo restaurant, Beige, in the Chanel building Ginza.

Benoit, French restaurant

The tenth floor café’s vin du comptoir drink menu includes not only soft drinks, but features a full line-up of alcoholic beverages and cocktails. It is the perfect place for an aperitif or a casual drink with friends, and the prices are reasonable. Benoit also offers various opportunities to enjoy fine wine, including the popular ‘Wine Day’ on the 20th of each month. On these days savvy customers will receive 30% off all bottles of wine.

To celebrate Bastille Day, the French national holiday on July 14, Benoit will be hosting a special performance by some two of Japan’s leading classical musicians, Yasunao Ishida and Hiroyasu Yamamoto. The event costs is ¥20,000 per person, which includes the show, food, drinks, tax and a service charge. Reserve early to ensure a place.

Best table: By the large windows, in order to take in the view. Prices: ¥3,300 to ¥7,300 for lunch and ¥7,000 to ¥14,000 for dinner. Location: Next to United Nations University on Aoyama Dori.

Open daily (11:30am–11:30pm) 10F, 5-51-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tel. 03-6419-4181

All Photos © Benoit