The aggressive ambition to push the boundaries in experimental gastronomy is the reason the culinary world is still brimming with excitement. Yet while a restaurant is a lot about entailing inspiration and spearheading bold conceptual approaches, casual food lovers and serious epicureans know the real allure lies in homespun meals — the kind where recipes are kept locked in the family’s kitchen and people return for close-knitted celebrations. Decked on the seventh floor of the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo, Maison Marunouchi is an elegant French bistro with a surprisingly homely feel. It’s an establishment that is bold and experimental in its approach, yet not at all pretentious.
A stone’s throw from the red-brick facade of Tokyo Station, the French bistro is spacious and inviting without being excessively posh. The fresh interior allows the dishes to take center stage. A glass-paned salon floods the room with natural light and commands the view of both the sleek silhouettes of Marunouchi’s high-rises and peering bullet train tracks. Taking a closer look at the details — from the light fixtures by designer Hervé Van Der Straeten to the vintage cushions and French paneling — you realize the description “modest” becomes less applicable. Luxurious and meticulous without being showy would be a more fitting description. Famed architect André Fu took a nuanced approach, intertwining French beauty with Japanese refinement.
As for the food, Marunouchi’s ode to laidback French fares is spawned at the helm of Daniel Calvert. When the Michelin-starred executive chef arrived in Japan, he brought with him what could only be described as the ultimate rib-sticking, nap-inducing fried chicken recipe. It’s the very same one his former colleague, who owns a hot chicken shack in South California, would use to cook on the weekends with him. Now, Maison Marunouchi is doing for city dwellers what his friend did for him: making the crispiest and quite simply best fried chicken in town.
The wholesome crispy goodness weighs just as heavy on the soul as the stomach. Only Calvert and his team know precisely the lengthy preparation needed before it lands on our table. The chicken thighs and drumsticks are soaked in a pickle brine for 12 hours before being double-dredged and fried. As the pièce de résistance, you can expect a well-executed twist to his brilliant rendition as the meat is dipped in duck fat straight from the fryer. It’s certainly a reroute from his friend’s original recipe, but not a dubious step. The result is an extremely crisp exterior that gives way to the perfectly seasoned and tender flesh that is laden with spices and just the right amount of grease.
Before the carb-loaded main course, there’s the hearty Cobb salad with fresh greens, tomatoes, avocado and hard-boiled eggs, topped with crunchy bacon and kale dressing. As the menu expands, creamy mashed potato, cornbread, house pickles and braised kale spread on the table. For Calvert, each dish is meticulously prepared but simply presented. “Everything on a plate is there for a reason,” he says. His execution of the classic Southern meal doesn’t rely on intricate plating or fancy sauce dollops — the star is the food itself.
Balance is everything, so you don’t want to end the meal with just the savory. Spearheaded by pastry chef Elwyn Boyles, Maison Marunouchi’s sweet station is taken just as seriously. A case in point would be the lemon meringue pie which is built upon good honest shortcrust. The mouth-puckering lemon filling perfectly balances the sweetness from the meringue. While you’re there, take some time to look at their drink selections at the bar. The Bloody Caesar Mocktail is the choice for peak gustatory delight.
Some days, you’re on the impulsive hunt for the greatest fried chicken in the city. Other times, you have a hankering for a lazy brunch at a casual-chic French bistro. Maison Marunouchi puts this conundrum in the backseat by ticking both boxes. It’s the kind of social hub that prompts anyone to wind down a tad longer. Be warned, though — the Fried Chicken (¥6,500) is only offered on weekends. An à la carte menu for lunch and dinner, alongside afternoon tea, is also available. Visit their official website for more information.
Those looking for something a bit different can try the fashionable fine dining restaurant Sézanne which is also set to open at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo. Like Maison Marunouchi, it is run by Calvert, but has a very different vibe in a more formal setting. The sleek venue offers seasonal dishes featuring local ingredients and classic recipes that are plated with immaculate precision.
Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi
1-11-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Alcoholic beverages are served from 11am–7pm with limitations. A maximum of 2 guests is allowed to drink under a 90-minute period. Alcohol service is available as normal for in-room dining.