Many of Tokyo’s museums and art galleries have a restaurant or café somewhere on the premises, but Maison du Musée turns the concept completely around: The elegant French restaurant is an art museum in itself. Encompassing one of Japan’s finest art deco collections, it delivers a dining experience quite unlike anything else in Tokyo.
A short walk from Omotesando Station, Maison du Musée is housed in a former Western-style residence with almost 90 years of history. In addition to fine dining for lunch and dinner at the restaurant, there is also offers a cozy basement wine bar and a French patisserie. The main restaurant opens onto a garden, where the flowers are rotated on a monthly basis to ensure a beautiful view at any time of year. Both the restaurant and the wine bar can be rented out for private functions, and the garden makes an ideal venue ideal for outdoor weddings.
Tangible Art History
The building, which was completed in 1934, has an interesting history. It was originally commissioned by wealthy businessman Naogoro Chiba as a wedding gift for his son, Tsunegoro. Having studied in England, Naogoro was well-versed in Western architecture and the residence’s design and interiors were the epitome of stylish luxury for the era. Tsunegoro and his wife raised four children there, assisted by a staff of 10. In 1952 the house changed hands but continued to be used as a private residence until it was sold again in 1981, subsequently operating as a member’s-only restaurant for nearly two decades.
Yoshikazu Maruyama, the General Manager of Maison du Musée, says it is very unusual for buildings of this age in Tokyo to have been preserved in the original condition for so long. “The fact that it was used as a family home is what saved the building from being torn down. We’re fortunate, as nearly all the similar houses from that era have long gone, replaced by newer buildings like condominiums or shops,” he explains.
It was the current owner who came up with the concept of “dining in an art museum”. He undertook various renovations, including the addition of the main dining room in 2001. An admirer of the Russian-French artist and designer Erté, he was looking for somewhere to showcase his extensive collection — the largest in the world.
Born Romain de Tirtoff in Russia, Erté took his pseudonym from the French pronunciation of his initials, RT. He was influential in a wide variety of fields, including sculpture, fashion, jewelry, theater and interior design, and is sometimes called the “Father of art deco.” Emerging in France around the beginning of World War I, art deco combined visual arts, design and architecture, and its popularity grew and spread around the world during the 1920s and 1930s.
“The owner is very invested in both art and architecture and is committed to preserving the original design and character of the building. It has turned out to be the ideal place to display his Erté collection, allowing others to admire and appreciate this artwork,” says Maruyama. The building was registered as a Tangible Cultural Property in May 2018.
Elegant Fusion Cuisine
At the helm of the restaurant is Chef Daijiro Ezoe. The cuisine is based on classic French traditions with fresh seasonal ingredients, accented with Japan’s innovative seasonings, garnishes and presentation. The sophisticated food and the elegant atmosphere make Maison du Musée the perfect location for a memorable dining experience.
Ezoe also designs the menu for the basement wine bar, Jardin d’Erte, which has a casual, intimate vibe and features French and Italian dishes and an impressive wine list. This part of the complex was originally the site of an indoor swimming pool, used by the family and their guests. The actual space where the pool sat is now a wine cellar, which still features the original tiles. Guests in the wine bar can catch a glimpse from above.
Those with a sweet tooth will want to stop by Affinité, a patisserie that offers the same cakes and desserts that feature on the restaurant menus. These can be purchased to enjoy at home. The confections are a mixture of long sellers and seasonal offerings from Ezoe’s kitchen. One of the most popular is the gâteau chocolat, a melt-in-the-mouth treat made with bitter chocolate and a firm favorite with customers for over 20 years.
For an elegant meal with friends, colleagues, or that special someone, Maison du Musée is sure to both impress and delight. Children aged 10 and up are welcome and many families come for celebrations. And if you’re looking for a location for your wedding reception or after-party, the staff at Maison du Musée would love to help you plan your big day.
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.