While there’s no jet lag travelling between Australia’s east coast and Tokyo (the time difference is only an hour), Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were a little the worse for wear after the overnight flight.

After very little sleep, there was only one thing to be done to ensure we didn’t waste our Saturday night in this extraordinary city by hitting the hay too early and that was to head out for a spectacular dinner.

And so we found ourselves on the 37th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel and Signature, the French-inspired fine dining restaurant helmed, appropriately enough, by a French chef who has spent much of his recent career in Asia, Nicolas Boujéma.

Worldwide, the Mandarin Oriental group puts a lot of effort into its restaurants and the feeling here is modern luxe. Some of the ‘rock star’ tables feature a cuddling couch for two overlooking the view. Greedy Girl was momentarily downcast to be shown to a table away from the windows but then her well-documented fear of heights kicked in. Our spot was quiet and comfy. All good.

Signature offers a number of degustation options plus a la carte. Naturally, we took the full eight course tasting menu Le Passy, and settled in for a lovely treat. Chef Boujéma has worked in several three Michelin star restaurants in France and started his stint in Asia in 2011 at Pierre Gagnaire’s Pierre in Hong Kong.

Greedy Girl remembers fondly her night at Pierre where a rather sozzled compatriot kept shouting he wanted to see the ‘semillon’. ‘Send over the semillon,’ he roared. What he was actually requesting was the sommelier. The Chinese waiters had no idea what he was on about so they did the only sensible thing – nothing. Anyhow, Greedy Girl digresses…

The food at Pierre was very avant garde – with the many and varied elements for each dish presented on separate crockery. Happily, the dishes here were, for the most part, all on the same plate (with a couple of exceptions, but more on that later). Having made the one selection available on the tasting menu (kobe beef for Greedy Girl and pigeon for gluttonous husband), we settled back with a lovely little welcome of treats and perused the wine list.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Our welcoming canapés

We were directed to eat these starting from the lovely crispy onion-infused bread triangle (top right of the photograph), followed by a goat cheese and chorizo ball, a seaweed biscuit and finally, celery dotted with anchovy paste. Absolutely delicious and a perfect start. We were both primed.

The wine list at Signature is very extensive and Greedy Girl was delighted to see a great many affordable champagnes. Deciding to try something different, the lovely sommelier recommended the NV Vranken Diamant Brut. This was a chardonnay and pinot noir blend with a fair amount of acidity. Our sommelier thought it would work well throughout the tasting menu. She also took great care with the way it was treated throughout, but more on that later.

There was one more little amuse bouche before the menu proper began, a little medley of fresh tomatoes with basil oil and cheese and a little hint of mint. That went down the hatch and we awaited our first course with growing anticipation.

First up was marinated Japanese amberjack dotted with caviar with a sea water jelly, watercress and kiwi puree. The fish is a species in its own right and native to the northern Pacific. On its own, it didn’t have an outrageously strong flavour, but the sea water jelly took it to another level. Gluttonous husband was particularly taken with the way the kiwi puree and jelly went together. It was a light and fresh way to start and went brilliantly with the first sips of the champagne.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Japanese amberjack

Next was the dish featured at the top of this post, green and white asparagus dotted with ‘Kaviari’s caviar’ (a pressed caviar with bottarga), rhubarb and a quail egg. This was as delicious as it looks. Greedy Girl remains steadfastly a fan of green asparagus but both varieties worked a treat in this dish. The little salty pop from the caviar was wonderful.

Of course, being Japan, the menu lends itself very strongly to fish. Our next course was an utter triumph – poached langoustine with a squid ‘veil’ or coating, fennel seed sauce and sautéed snow pea. This was just amazing. The seafood in the bowl looked perfectly white, but when you sliced the squid coating open, it revealed a perfectly pink langoustine within which was beautifully sweet. All the elements worked brilliantly with the fennel. So good. We made sure to use the crusty bread to mop up every last drop of the sauce.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Poached langoustine with squid ‘veil’

The fish theme continued with the next dish. This was poached flounder served with mushrooms, seaweed and a parsley sauce. The colours of this, contrasting with the grey bowl, were very appetising and the dish was again delightful. Perfectly cooked fish and a completely balanced plate of food.

Greedy Girl is developing a much more heightened appreciation of fish which couldn’t have come at a better time! This was served with a little plate of roasted local seafood – the waiter did tell us the names but Greedy Girl’s Japanese is pretty much non-existent. Gluttonous husband thought it would make the ultimate spaghetti marinara mix. He wasn’t wrong. It was incredible on its own and gave an additional dimension to the dish.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Poached flounder

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

A little side dish of roasted seafood

By this stage, our sommelier had brought us different glasses for our champagne. Having started with traditional flutes, we were given something approaching a smallish white wine glass. It seemed, initially to heighten the acidity of the champagne. Delish. Throughout the evening, she kept a close watch on our bottle, only putting it on ice for small amounts of time. Brilliant service.

Next we had the dish that intrigued Greedy Girl the most – a truffle waffle. This was prepared with black truffles; our waiter explained that the restaurant sourced them from wherever in the world black truffles were in season because this was the chef’s signature dish.

It was served with caramelised endives and an 18-month old mimolette cheese. The endives were liquidised to create a quite bitter sauce, while the mimolette was almost dehydrated to create a crumb. Both of those elements went well together but Greedy Girl wanted to eat the waffle separately to appreciate its full glories. Sigh. Delish. She immediately ordered a dozen ‘to go’. And no, sadly, that ploy didn’t work.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Black truffle waffle

It was time for some meat. Greedy Girl had charcoal grilled Kobe beef tenderloin with sorrel and seasonal Japanese potatoes, treated in various ways. The beef, cooked medium rare, was soft perfection and the ring of potato you can see on the plate was one of the most intense potato flavours Greedy Girl has ever experienced. There were also sweet potato puree and souffle potatoes. Greedy Girl was very happy with the dish and didn’t think it needed the little side presented, a beef tartare with matchsticks of turnip. It was certainly very tasty but not entirely necessary.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Kobe beef with seasonal Japanese potatoes

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Beef tartare

Gluttonous husband took the Bresse pigeon cooked in a salt crust with braised lettuce and green peas, morels and a tamarind sauce. With the first mouthful of the soft and succulent meat, he was in raptures and immediately cut a piece for Greedy Girl to try. It certainly was the mildest pigeon she has ever tasted and agreed it was a very fine dish; it was still a bit too gamey and rich for her to tackle a whole plate but thought it was a great combination. The one slight disappointment was that the morels didn’t have much flavour.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Salt roasted Bresse pigeon

Next up was the cheese plate. The selection here is seasonal, but we were treated to three cow’s milk and one sheep milk cheese. The revelation for Greedy Girl was how much she enjoyed a black pepper emulsion with the sheep’s milk variety as well as the sticky maple syrup provided with the washed rind cow’s milk. Very good.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Seasonal cheese plate

And we were done with the savoury elements. We still had a bit of champagne to finish, so we asked for the dessert to be delayed. The pacing of the dishes had been fairly fast but given we were both flagging from sleep deprivation we decided against asking for it to be slowed.

Once the dessert arrived it was a lovely sight. This is the chef’s ‘variation on banana’ with a chocolate ‘macae’ and tarragon. The dish had a banana ice-cream and banana shards on the top and the pairing with the chocolate – a mousse surrounded by crunchy crumbs, sandwiched between chocolate discs. The chocolate had an amazing glossy texture and it was a delicious bitter, dark variety. Sensational.

Fine dining Tokyo Signature

Variation on banana and chocolate

We opted to have some green tea to finish the night and it came with a simple dish of petits fours. Delightful – and included in the menu cost. Greedy Girl harks back to her previous trip to Tokyo where after dinner at Alain Ducasse’s ‘Beige’ she ordered a cup of camomile tea, only to find out later that it cost an extra $25. Yikes!

And so we went out into the night with very full and contented bellies. This was an excellent experience – top quality food in a beautiful environment and brilliant service. The cost? All up around A$750 for the two of us, including a service charge. For fine dining of this calibre it was great value for money.


The Foodie World star rating

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