Anyone who knows Greedy Girl is aware that she’s a Chanelaholic. It seemed entirely serendipitous when she found famed chef Alain Ducasse’s Tokyo outpost, Beige, at the top of the Chanel building in Ginza, especially given most restaurants seemed to be closed of a Sunday evening.

Ducasse, fresh from his lifetime achievement award bestowed at the 2013 World’s 50 Best Restaurants announcement ceremony, has spread his empire far and wide. While not having dined at either the Plaza Athenee in Paris, or London’s Dorchester Hotel, considered his two greatest establishments, Greedy Girl’s other ‘Ducasse experience’ was at Le Jules Verne in Paris – you can read that blog here.

But onwards and upwards, to an incredibly pleasant, spacious dining room with a nice enough view of surrounding Tokyo. The restaurant, under the guidance of head chef Kei Kojima (who came out early in the evening to introduce himself in a heavily-accented French – we were the only western diners on this particular evening) was in the throes of a special chocolate degustation promotion – as such, there was no choice available. Greedy Girl was unfazed. Chocolate – what’s not to love?

We settled in, accompanied by a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne, and contemplated the set menu written in French and Japanese – an English menu was offered sometime later which gluttonous husband gratefully accepted. And this was basically the way the evening unfolded. While most of the wait staff had some English language skills, the descriptions of the food were offered almost exclusively in French. It helped that Greedy Girl could pick out key French words to understand the hybrid descriptions.

We were required to be seated very early which again was not particularly surprising given we booked at the last minute but we were surprised that the restaurant remained largely empty. Anyhow, more on that later.
First up was iberico ham with grissini infused with cocoa (pictured at the top of this blog). This was a nice accompaniment with the champagne, although the ham was sliced a little too thickly and a little on the dry side.

The ‘beads’ of cocoa in the grissini gave a slightly bitter taste but it was far from overpowering. Not a bad start.
Next up was the first of the official courses – marinated Kuruma-Ebi shrimp with a cocoa vinaigrette. The main ingredients here are overwhelmingly Japanese, again prepared with French techniques. These shrimp were not an attractive texture in the mouth. They were too soft, almost gelatinous, and needed both the pepper and the crunch of the salad leaves served with it. The vinaigrette was just, well, vinegar. Occasionally there was a small pop of the cocoa.

Next up was ‘homard’ – described on the English menu as ‘blue lobster’. This was arguably the smallest medallion of lobster Greedy Girl has ever seen. It was presented with Aori Ika (a Japanese squid, not skate as our waitress claimed), cubed vegetables and what the menu described as a ‘delicate’ crustacean gelee. The proportions were all wrong here. So much of the gelee, infused with cocoa, so little of the squid/lobster. The celery in the vegetable medley was incredibly strong. It was also in need of seasoning.

Up next was the dish of the evening. The braised green asparagus with morels, a ‘green’ sabayon and chocolate pasta was absolutely amazing. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly executed and the chocolate pasta combined with the dish extremely well. In the mushroom pantheon obviously truffles reign supreme but morels, in Greedy Girl’s opinion, run a close second. Yum.

The next dish was smoked and grilled ‘Tai’ with garden peas, spring onion and a ‘lightly whipped’ cocoa cream. Greedy Girl liked the way this went together. Tai is the Japanese name for sea bream and it was a beautifully mild, firm fish. The peas were crunchy (a pleasant texture in the dish) and the onions were delish, especially the deep-fried piece on top. The cocoa cream was just too chocolatey for gluttonous husband. He said it worked with the onions but didn’t want to eat it with the fish. Greedy Girl thought it all worked fine together if not a ‘rave’.

Our last savoury dish for the night was sauteed fillet of beef with roasted artichokes, fennel, onion and an orange/chocolate marmalade. The beef fillet was soft and tender. The artichokes still had too many of their tough outer leaves which Greedy Girl had to pick out of her mouth. The next best thing on the plate was the roasted fennel which was buttery perfection. Gluttonous husband was having some issues. He couldn’t work out why the beef was tender in his mouth but near impossible to cut.

A hovering waiter came to his rescue – he was holding the slightly avant garde style knife upside down. Anyway, back to the dish – the orange/chocolate marmalade just didn’t go with anything, although gluttonous husband happily mopped that up with his bread later. Bread and marmalade is easy to get your head around. Trying it, Greedy Girl felt like the beef had been studded with Jaffa lollies. While some may think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, trust me – it is.

We checked our watches. Having been required to attend at 6pm, the clock had not yet ticked over to 7.30. We were about to set a land speed record for fastest fine-dining ever. About five other tables were occupied and everyone was being pushed through the menu quickly. A rather uninspiring cheese trolley was wheeled past us, with the admonition that it was not part of the menu. We demurred.

On we went to desserts. Oddly, the petits fours were presented first. Greedy Girl smiled at the display. A divine dark chocolate mousse, delicious chocolate macarons and milk and dark chocolate buttons. The milk version featured the Chanel logo while the dark buttons had the signature camellia. All fabulous and hoovered up.

Beige Alain Ducasse

Now this is what I call petits fours!

The next dish was described as chilled citrus/chocolate combination. This is where it helped to understand a bit of French. The waiter couldn’t find any English words apart from ‘chocolate’ to describe what was in this dish. An unintelligible flurry of words was offered until Greedy Girl picked up on ‘pamplemousse’ – grapefruit. It seemed to be cubes of a citrus jelly (quite nice) with chocolate sorbet (quite nice) and variations of grapefruit. The candied skin was awful (the pith was still attached and made it very bitter) and the fruit segments were also not to Greedy Girl’s taste but gluttonous husband said he enjoyed them.

The final dish of the night was a chocolate millefeuille. This was absolutely enormous. Way too big and heavy for the end of a meal. It tasted mainly of butter and pastry rather than chocolate – but we could have been desensitised to chocolate by that point.

Beige Alain Ducasse

Chocolate millefeuille

So, would we like some coffee or tea? A tray bearing pots of herbs was offered. It looked pretty and so we decided to have some herbal tea to finish. Greedy Girl opted for chamomile (the pretty white and yellow flowers). Gluttonous husband took the other, although we had no idea what the waiter was describing to us. Once tasted, we concluded it was lemongrass. It was very pleasant but the sting was yet to be felt – A$25. Each. Yep.

Beige Alain Ducasse

No bees buzzing around these flowers but we felt the sting

Off we went into the night. It was closer to 9pm by this stage and no new diners had arrived. We were given a little goodie bag of chocolates and out we went into the relative cool of Ginza’s main walking street.

All told, the experience was more expensive than Narisawa and not a patch on their interpretation of Japanese/French fusion. Does this make Greedy Girl want to experience more from Alain Ducasse? Not on your life.


Chanel Ginza Building 10F, 3-5-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Tagged under: , , , , ,