The elegant French restaurant Maison du Musée offers a unique experience in the heart of Aoyama through the concept of “dining in an art museum.” Set in a former Western-style residence dating back to 1934, Maison du Musée also houses one of Japan’s best art deco collections featuring the work of influential Russian-French designer Erté. The Executive Chef is Daijiro Ezoe, who came on board last March. Bringing almost 30 years of experience to his role, Ezoe shares his culinary journey and his vision for Maison du Musée.

How did you first become interested in cooking?

Growing up, I enjoyed food-themed manga and anime. My favorite was The Chef, a manga written by Mai Tsurugina and drawn by Tadashi Kato, about a talented chef who meets and helps various people through his work.

What is your culinary background?

I was always drawn to European cuisine, and I’ve visited France and Spain multiple times over the years as the food culture there is amazing. I trained in Osaka and started out at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. 

Among the various places where I’ve been over the years, I feel particularly fortunate to have worked for Chef Joël Robuchon, including as the sous-chef at his Atelier Robuchon in Tokyo. I would say that Chef Robuchon has been the greatest inspiration during my career. I also took some time out to travel and work in Europe, with a focus on Spain. My most recent position was back at the Four Seasons, where I helped to launch a Spanish restaurant, and then lead their Western Cuisine division overseeing banquets, catering and weddings.

What lead to the move to Maison du Musée?

I was seeking a change of scene. I wanted to get back to my roots in French cuisine and the daily challenge and satisfaction of cooking in a restaurant. Maison du Musée was the perfect opportunity and I joined in March.

Please tell us about your style.

I don’t have a signature dish as such, but I would say my style honors the classic French cuisine but with a Japanese twist through the ingredients. I try to create a sense of unity among the ingredients in a dish, and I prioritize using the freshest seasonal produce sourced from around Japan. 

I also like using somewhat unusual meats such as lamb, pigeon or quail. Along with the taste, presentation is, of course, very important, and I enjoy that aspect, too. I often decorate my dishes with flowers, for example. I can say that I put my heart into every dish that I prepare and send out of my kitchen.

What is it like working in a restaurant that doubles as an art museum?

This is a famous restaurant, well known to those in Japan’s culinary world, and I visited as a customer in the past. It took a few months to feel like this was my kitchen. 

Maison du Musée has a long history with talented chefs, and there is a certain reasonability that comes with the role. While understanding that, however, it was also important for me to carve out my own niche here and show our guests what I am about. I want them to be able to enjoy the dishes in a harmonious balance with the artwork and the surroundings. 

Are you a fan of art?

Yes, I like both Japanese and Western art. I enjoy ukiyo-e, and my favorite Western artist is Renoir. I didn’t know much about Art Deco and the work of Erté before I came to Maison du Musée, so I’ve been learning.

Photo by Anna Petek

There are also a bar and a patisserie at Maison du Musée. Can you tell us about those?

We have a basement wine bar called Jardin de Erté. I design the menu, which has French and Italian influences, while another chef is in charge of making the dishes. It’s in a very interesting spot in the complex, in what was originally the site of an indoor swimming pool when this was a family home. 

Then we also have Affinité, our patisserie. It offers the same pastries that are on the restaurant menu at Maison du Musée. They’re a mix of the seasonal desserts from my menus and customer favorites like the gâteau chocolat, which has been loved by our customers for over 20 years. 

What kind of food do you prefer when you’re not on the job?

I try to choose nourishing foods that are good for you. I also enjoy trying out the delicious regional specialties from around Japan.

Do you have a message for guests?

I hope that both guests based in Japan and those visiting from overseas will come to our restaurant for the unique atmosphere created through the food, architecture and art. Please enjoy not only our dishes but the entire dining experience, surrounded by the rich history and ambiance of Maison du Musée. We look forward to welcoming you.

For more information, visit the Maison du Musée website. Readers who visit Maison Du Musée between July and November 2023 and mention Tokyo Weekender to the staff are eligible to receive a free aperitif.