Florilege in Aoyama
Has anyone been to Florilege, a French restaurant in Aoyama? It opened in September 2009 and the chef is the former sous chef at Quintessence. For what it's worth, the restaurant gets a very high score on Tabelog and there is a two month wait to get a table on weekends (I called). According to their website, they only offer a set course for dinner, but it's a fairly reasonable 10,500 yen.
Florilege [2012.03.23 | Lunch]
As Ripcurl mentioned, Florilege is tricky to locate, but only if you don't have GPS. It is easy to locate it if you have a smartphone with GPS capabilities. If not, make sure you go onto Google Maps and pinpoint the exact location (location on Google Maps is accurate). It's a white coloured building, at the end of a small flight of steps going up from the side road off Gaien-Nishi-Dori. No obvious sign (the name of the restaurant is etched onto a mirror, which makes it next to impossible to see unless one stands very close to it).
Warm and friendly, pretty relaxed. They have waitstaff who can speak English, if language is a concern. Menu shown to us was in Japanese / French.
Partner and I had the lunch set at Florilege (did not see an ala-carte menu). We had:
1. Green olive "omelette puff", black olive tapanade - Loved this; very balanced flavours, lovely texture, very "Japanese" in interpretation
2. Salt-baked white asparagus with cuttlefish and leek, sea-urchin sauce, white asparagus cream - Very tender asparagus, not limp like some other white asparagus preparations I've tried. Loved the combination of the uni/leek/cuttlefish.
3. Contrast of foie gras and hazelnut meringue cones, raisin walnut bread - Wonderful flavours in combination; I'd have preferred my foie just slightly undercooked, but it's not a big issue.
4. Wagyu heart, sliced wagyu, radish and greens, pig's blood sauce - Yummers. I'm a sucker for spare parts + pig's blood. Tender muscle. The slice of wagyu didn't quite make sense on the plate (in the sense that it didn't really add anything to the dish), but it's there, and it's still delicious. Loved the radish preparation.
5. Roasted duck "challans", greens, duck jus - Well roasted, not tough/stringy piece of fowl. The plate seemed a bit empty for a set lunch main course - where's the carb? (I remember comparing it to a similar dish at Caprice in Hong Kong - that one had a little cocotte of potato "parmentier" on the side. It just seemed more "complete").
6. Wagyu bone marrow with egg custard - This was part 2 of the Wagyu heart dish. Not bad.
7. Duck barley "risotto" - This was part 2 of the roasted duck dish. So this was where the carb was. Haha. I loved this. Very 'ducky' flavours infused in the stock. The foam worked beautifully to lighten the dish.
8. Coconut blancmange with mandarin sorbet, mandarin slices, pomelo sacs - Cleansing dessert. The mandarin sorbet was a stunner - excellent, creamy texture, intense mandarin flavours.
9. Chocolate "burnt omelette" - This dish I didn't quite get. The flavours were there, but it seemed a bit too simple. Plus it looked like doodoo (imagine a brown "burnt omelette" rather than a "burnt omelette" with some white/yolk). Hehe. I think it would have worked if it were served as a second "surprise" dessert rather than as the main dessert course.
As Ripcurl noted, the plating was a bit wanting. To be fair, it wasn't for lack of trying. But I think that this style of plating does require the chef to be very precise in the placement of individual items on the plate, otherwise it is quite easy for the whole plate to degenerate into a bit of a mess. (x.f. plating at l'Effervescence, which I will provide a write-up/photos soon).
4800 yen for the set lunch. Very worth it.
〒107-0062 東京都 港区 南青山 4-9-9 Aoyama TMI 1F
+81 3 6440 0878
Had lunch there on a recent visit - plating is perhaps not their strongest point but everything else is very good. Food is finely prepared, service is warm and sincere, and lunch is very good value at 4500yen iirc. (I booked 1 month in advance for a weekday.) I can share more details on food if anyone is interested, but would just add for now that the place is a bit hard to find so do bring the restaurant's phone number in case you need to call & ask. It's unobtrusively tucked away in an apartment building & signage is not visible unless you're standing right next to the door.
akated: The location on google maps I think shows you the general area where it's located (4-9-9 Minami-Aoyama seems to cover quite a number of buildings!) & then we sort of wandered around for a while to stumble upon it. In fact, even now I have absolutely no recollection where it actually is, except for a vague idea that the building is up a flight of stairs near a small (clothing?) shop. I think...
FourSeasons: Unfortunately I haven't been able to eat at Quintessence so I can't really compare the two. But I'll add some detail on Florilege so that you can get a better feel - I may have the order (& no. of courses!) somewhat mixed up but if I recall correctly, what 2 of us had included:
- green olive amuse bouche (a little cube of what tasted like olive oil flavored brioche)
- foie gras with hazelnut meringue and raisin walnut bread (a signature item)
- ezo venison with red pepper sauce
- wagyu marrow flan (marrow with wagyu tartare) / cepe croquette
- tochiotome strawberry with petit nuage milk ice cream / chocolate omelette
There wasn't a particularly pronounced Japanese influence to the food, except perhaps in the lighter touch. You don't feel heavy even after eating quite a fair bit of foie, marrow and red meat.
I'd say it's also not the kind of meal where you expect to discover a startling new flavor combination, pushing the boundaries. It's more the kind of meal where you leave feeling warm and happy with the world because everything was just well done (at a reasonable price too), the quality of the produce is good, & everyone in front of house is so nice. Plus the chef has his small whimsical moments with the square olive and the 'burnt' omelette that made us smile. :) I think the term "bonne petite table" is a very good description of Florilege.
Hopefully this is more informative - I would also add that this is our impression from lunch but dinner might of course be different.
I've tried both recently. To say that plating isn't a strong point of florilege's is kind. Especially those brown mounds with the foie...
Quintessence is in an entirely different galaxy, right up there with the greatest Parisian chefs. Florilege is ok but every dish could have been improved (maybe except for the palombe) in obvious ways. It probably didn't help the experience that a guy at the table next to us drank two whole bottles of wine (his female companion barely tasted it) and was singing very loudly by the end of the evening :)