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Florilege in Tokyo

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate is serving French-inspired food at Florilège, an exciting French-inspired restaurant in Tokyo.

French Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringues at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
French Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringues

Important Update
Many restaurants have revised their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Some may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check this restaurant’s website for updated information before your visit.

It’s as if Tokyo has a thing for France. There are francophile shops, patisseries and boulangeries throughout the city.

Tokyo has also embraced high-end French restaurant culture – its restaurants sport more Michelin stars than those in Paris. This is no mere coincidence and no fault of the Michelin rating system. The Japanese use the finest local ingredients prepared with the kind of precision that has made them famous throughout the world.

They have learned from the greatest French chefs including Pascal Barbot, Michel Bras and Joel Robuchon. (Bras and Robuchon have restaurants in Japan.)

It would be a mistake to assume that the Japanese culture is entirely about impersonation. Japan’s world-class French cuisine is still uniquely Japanese – exhibiting flavors, colors and presentations that could only come from the land of the rising sun.

Unlike in France, top Tokyo restaurants incorporate local ingredients such as fish just caught in the Sea of Japan and fresh bamboo shoots. Following in the sushi tradition, dishes may be cooked rare to less than rare.

This is why we wanted to try a high-end French restaurant during our first trip to Tokyo. Our first choice was Florilège.

We made the reservation at Florilège Tokyo two months in advance since the restaurant only seats 20 people. We were curious enough to try this small, relatively new restaurant that we made the expensive phone call from Philadelphia to make the coveted reservation.

Dressed for Dinner at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Dressed for Dinner at Florilège

Nestled in the Aoyama neighborhood, Florilège is just a short walk from the Gaien-mae train station. The chef, Hiroyasu Kawate, previously cooked at three-star Michelin restaurant Quintessence, but now he has his own restaurant where his creativity and precision can truly shine.

We arrived promptly for our 9:00 reservation to find Kawate and manager Toshiyuki Kondo waiting for us at the door. They warmly greeted us and seated us in the intimate restaurant. We each ordered a glass of Meursault and toasted the start to our dinner.

Wine and Water at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Wine and Water

Tasting Meal at Florilège in Tokyo

We started the meal with two perfectly seasoned snap peas served atop decorative snap peas.

Snap Pea Snack at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Snap Pea Snack

The amuse bouche had the texture of soufflé and the taste of an actual olive.

Olive Amuse Bouche at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Olive Amuse Bouche

Now that our appetites were whetted, the fusion began with a beautiful melange of abalone, bamboo shoots, petit pois (baby peas) and comté cheese served with an abalone liver ragout. In this dish, Japan met France and brought the ingredients to another level of flavor.

Bamboo shoots and French alpine cheese. Who knew?!

Abalone, Bamboo Shoots, Petit Pois and Comté Cheese in an Abalone Liver Ragu at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Abalone, Bamboo Shoots, Petit Pois and Comté Cheese in an Abalone Liver Ragu

We love foie gras, and Florilège’s version rocked all of our senses. Each plate had a small slice of French foie gras, three hazelnut meringues and one apple-vinegar flavored hazelnut.

French Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringues at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
French Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringues Up Close

As suggested by Kondo, we included foie gras and meringue in each bite. The flavors mingled to make two great things even better. In a gastronomic analogy, the foie gras served the part of the rich fatty bullet train with the light yet nutty meringue serving as its destination. The dish was unctuous, crunchy and wonderful.

Eating the Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringuees Together for Maximum Flavor Explosion at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Eating the Foie Gras and Hazelnut Meringues Together for Maximum Flavor Explosion

As we ate the Spanish mackerel with kumquat and shungiku (seasonal vegetables), we learned that Chef Kawate had thoughtfully included the shungiku to give us exposure to local Tokyo vegetables. The fish was specially sourced, not from the now-closed Tsukiji market, but from western waters in the Sea of Japan.

Spanish Mackerel with Kumquat and Shungiku at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Spanish Mackerel with Kumquat and Shungiku

The guinea hen was served with spinach in a red wine sauce with sesame. For this dish, the spinach was prepared two ways – pureed and pan-seared.

Guinea Hen with Spinach in a Red Wine Sauce with Sesame at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Guinea Hen with Spinach in a Red Wine Sauce with Sesame

Since the restaurant didn’t want to waste any precious parts of the guinea hen, we were the lucky recipients of a bonus course featuring ravioli with guinea hen gravy.

Ravioli with Guinee Hen Gravy at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Ravioli with Guinea Hen Gravy

Dessert at Florilège in Tokyo

The first dessert course was a passion fruit mousse served in the shell with a hard sugar glaze on top and sorbet on the side – another example of local ingredients prepared with French precision rivaling the best pâtisseries in Paris. We can attest that this dessert tasted as good as it looked.

Passion Fruit Mousse Dessert at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Passion Fruit Mousse Dessert

We couldn’t resist the second dessert course. With chocolate nibs inside and both foam and cream on the side, the dessert was both interesting and delicious. Thankfully, Kondo was joking when he apologized for serving us burnt omelets. There was nothing burnt tasting about this dessert.

Dark Chocolate Dessert at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Dark Chocolate Dessert as Served at Florilège

If two desserts weren’t enough, we ended the epic meal with glazed strawberries and coffee.

Glazed Strawberries at Florilege in Tokyo Japan
Glazed Strawberries

The goodbyes from our hosts were beyond gracious. When we got to the bottom of the long stairwell, the chef and manager were outside, bowing and waving us gently into the night. We walked about 100 feet from the restaurant and decided to look back before turning the corner, and sure enough, the chef and manager were STILL BOWING!

If we could, we would bow back now in appreciation for our terrific meal at Florilège Tokyo.

Update
Since our dinner, Florilège has been awarded TWO Michelin stars and has moved to a new location.

Florilege is located at 2-5-4 Jingumae | B1, Shibuya150-0001, Préfecture de Tokyo

Hungry for More?
Check out our article about Tokyo’s Ramen Street.

About the Authors
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Article Updates
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noel

Monday 7th of September 2015

Oh my how I savored every bite, like I was actually there, the images are stunning, what an experience - yes for me please!

Gloria

Tuesday 14th of July 2015

Wow! I'm super hungru now after looking all this delicious food! Would love to try this one day soon!!! ;)

Rand

Monday 11th of August 2014

Stunning presentation! Everything looks so delicate.

francaangloitalian

Saturday 22nd of March 2014

I have to admit that looks like a very prestigious and unique cuisine, something that you don't have every day for sure and that you don't find in any other restaurant. I'm vegetarian so I would have chosen different mains, but the "Passion Fruit Mousse Dessert" looks absolutely my kind of thing!

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Saturday 22nd of March 2014

The chef was both skilled and accommodating, so the vegetarian options would surely be lovely. And, yes, the desert was especially delicious!