Perched on the 51st floor of Toranomon Hills, the Andaz Tavern offers an enticing blend of modern European cuisine, impressive design, and a relaxed atmosphere.
It can be quite daunting to go to a luxurious restaurant. You don’t want to seem underdressed or make a faux pas that might draw unnecessary attention. That was my feeling before I entered the Andaz Tavern, on the 51st floor of Andaz Tokyo, a lifestyle boutique hotel managed by Hyatt.
There was no need for worry. It was clear as soon as I arrived that it was a first-class establishment, but one with a thoroughly relaxed ambiance: all of the guests, dressed in casual attire, looked extremely laid back. It was nothing like the stuffy atmosphere I was expecting and Executive Chef Gerhard Passrugger – who came out to explain each of his dishes before they were served – told me my tie wasn’t necessary.
“People don’t want to feel suffocated at restaurants anymore,” he continued. “Those days when everything had to be so prim and proper are over. Guests now want a sense of freedom when they eat. Be who you are, be as you are: that is what we are trying to encourage here, not only through our service, but also through the food itself. We want you to be able to share your meal in a comfortable environment while taking in the remarkable surroundings.”
Being so high above the ground it’s no surprise that the first thing to grab your attention when you walk into Andaz Tavern is the dramatic view that can be seen from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. I was there on a cloudy day but nonetheless, Tokyo’s skyline still looked spectacular, with Skytree taking a prominent place. I could have spent my whole time there staring out at the sights below, but there was a meal to eat and before that I wanted to have a look around.
It was still early in the evening so the restaurant was fairly quiet, but it was easy to imagine groups of families and friends enjoying a fun, casual night here. Stylish, yet cozy, the main dining area is bright, spacious and elegantly furnished with persimmon colored leather seating. The artwork by award-winning contemporary British sculptor Charlie Whinney also adds an extra spark to the place: abstract constructions of curved wood float like clouds above diners’ heads, and unique objects can be found in each nook and cranny of the restaurant. For those who enjoy to watch chefs creating gastronomic delights there are some comfy-looking booths near the open kitchen.
I was given a private room which was very nice indeed. An intimate setting, it is most ideally suited for couples—unfortunately I would be dining alone. On the plus side I was there on a special occasion. This particular weekend Gerhard Passrugger and his team of chefs were preparing a selection of dishes that would be complemented by the floral artistry of Copenhagen native and Tokyo resident Nicolai Bergmann.
Known for his flower boxes and simple, yet vibrantly colorful, designs, Bergmann is one of the most recognizable foreign artists in Japan. He has been living in this country for more than 17 years and owns a number of shops in some of the trendiest districts of Tokyo. His flagship store in Minami Aoyama includes a modern café surrounded by his unique floral creations.
Austrian-born Passrugger, meanwhile, has a wealth of culinary experience. He started his career as a chef at the age of just 14. After working in numerous cities around the globe, including London, Sydney and Shanghai, he moved to Tokyo two years ago, where he has since made quite a name for himself thanks to his celebrated interpretation of refined European cuisine, prepared with seasonal Japanese ingredients.
Both men feel there is a synergy between flowers and cuisine, so shortly after meeting in a restaurant for the first time they started discussing the possibility of a collaboration. After putting their creative minds together they came up with a selection of dishes focusing on the various stages of autumn.
The season began, as it were, with scallops, cabbage ginger emulsion, caramelized sudachi and chives, served on top of Bergmann’s signature flower box. It features a mixture of white tones and pastel greens, and Passrugger likened this plate to a “young noble lady in England strolling through her garden while holding a bouquet.” It all sounded very impressive and certainly looked the part. As for the taste … well it was even better than I had expected with the sweet and buttery scallops melting in my mouth. An extra bonus was that guests were allowed to take the box of flowers home with them.
Progressing towards the peak of mid-autumn, the second dish had a much more dazzling look to it with Bergmann’s brilliant Bordeaux-red colored flowers enhancing Passrugger’s delicate culinary skills. It looked almost too good to eat – like the kind of thing that should be hung up as a decoration. I got stuck in anyway and wasn’t disappointed. A juicy, tender monkfish coated with smooth, ripe hazelnuts and a variety of beetroots, topped off with small shavings of musky Iberico ham and horseradish: it was simply divine. There were also some hidden beetroot crisps hidden amongst the flowers.
Moving into late autumn with a faint scent of saffron, the next meal out of the kitchen represented, according to Passrugger, “a strong feminine presence of great maturity.”
The roasted quail, black truffle, and pumpkin along with lightly toasted brioche and jus was all heavenly. But then came my personal highlight of the evening. What I originally thought were just a couple of decorations on the side of the plate turned out to be two sumptuous foie gras treats disguised as apple lollipops: a wonderful surprise in yet another dish that looked and tasted fantastic.
Everything up to that point had been exquisitely prepared and somewhat dainty, so for their next serving the two men wanted something a little more masculine. It was time to go deep into the woods with a pair of sticks in hand – metaphorically speaking of course. This next plate was called “out of the forest.” The small leaves represented the trees that I had to pick through with my chopsticks to get to the maitake mushrooms and venison cooked in autumn spices. There was also a spoon available for the chestnut whipped mashed potato. Displaying terrific attention to detail, Passrugger and Bergmann had once again surpassed themselves.
Following that plate and the bread in between I was already quite full, but I was pretty sure I could manage to find some room for dessert which was a composition of small persimmon sweets in six different textures. It certainly looked enticing enough. There was so much going on with this dish that I wasn’t sure what was edible and what was just for show. I think I ate the right things, though, as it was all very pleasing to the palate.
It was a great way to conclude what had been a very enjoyable evening. The service was first-rate, the view breathtaking and the food, accompanied with a few glasses of wine, just kept getting better. This one weekend only course cost ¥25,000, but on a normal evening you can get a dinner course for ¥15,000. It is certainly worth coming back for – I just hope next time I won’t be eating alone.
Festive Events at Andaz Tavern
Christmas Lunches and Gala Dinners
December 19 to 25, from 11:30 am to 3 pm
The wholesome and hearty European provincial cuisine that is Andaz Tavern’s hallmark features in lunch and dinner offerings that are ideal for a romantic outing for two. A casual lunch box (¥4,000* per person) offers a choice of roasted scallops, red-wine-cured duck breast, or beef cheek bourguignon along with other mouthwatering gourmet morsels including foie gras mousse. A four-course lunch (¥5,000* per person) starts off with cinnamon- and maple-roasted salmon and invites diners to choose lobster linguini, roasted chicken or beef tenderloin for the main entrée. Served from 11:30 am to 3 pm.
For dinner, toast the Christmas holiday with such premium fare as foie gras, otoro fatty tuna, sea urchin, monkfish and Miyazaki beef tenderloin. Four-, five-, and six-course dinners (¥18,000, ¥22,000 and ¥25,000* respectively) are served from 6 to 10 pm on December 19 to 21 and 23, and from 5:30 pm or 8:30 pm on December 22, 24 and 25.
New Year’s Eve Dinner
Thursday, December 31 17:30– / 20:30– (2 separate plans)
Choose the plan that fits your personal style: The early course is for guests who are looking for a gourmet feast for all the senses, but who may be doing their countdowns at another location. On the menu are four- and five-course meals that highlight the flavors of the seasons, prepared with the Tavern’s usual flair. For those who want to ring in the New Year in glittering fashion, later evening seatings feature the same course menus accompanied with a wine and Champagne free flow. Live music and party items furnished by Andaz make for a mood that will help you greet the New Year from 51 floors up.
Make your reservations quickly, as seatings for all meals are limited. To book a table or for more information about dining at Andaz Tokyo, visit restaurants.andaztokyo.jp/en
*Prices are exclusive of consumption tax and a 15% service charge.