Shinobu Namae at L’Effervescence

The following extract comes from Blade Runners - a feature I wrote for Conde Nast Traveller in December 2013 on the chefs on the cutting edge of Tokyo`s food scene.  

The menu at L`Effervescence changes all the time.  The picture opposite shows a similar chilled tomato soup to the one mentioned below, but it contains firefly squid which are just coming into season now.  Their main season is April and May.

Once in a while you come across a chef whose food is so light and fresh it takes your breath away.  Imagine starting a meal with a small glass of blood-orange sherbet, touched with fino sherry, under which lies a hint of sweet raw scallop and salty sea urchin.  Your mouth is zinging with excitement.  This is cooking of Namae at his one-Michelin-starred restaurant. 

His food is a unique blend of French and Japanese aesthetics. Every dish is perfectly balanced, so it dissolves in your mouth to create a delicious experience as you bite or sip.  A mouthful of chilled tomato soup is redolent with little sprigs of shiso, wild fennel, basil, tiny blobs of Hokkaido fromage blanc and the tenderest chunks of yuzu-flavoured abalone. 

The 11-course set menu changes according to the season.  It’s constructed around superb and often rare ingredients that Namae has sourced from small local growers.  This is part of a terroir ethos that he inherited from Michel Bras who he worked for in Hokkaido.

My meal was filled with fresh citrus notes such as the bittersweet Kiyomi mandarin marmalade with roast pigeon, pea purée and broad bean.

There were also nods to Namae’s time at The Fat Duck in Bray in the ‘Right & Left – Taiwanese tea’ –which tasted of peach and was served warm in one half of the glass and cold in the other.  

By the end of the meal, I was left with the feeling that I had tasted the cooking of someone who is going to change our perception of European food. If his restaurant were in London, it’d have three stars.

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