So it was with high expectations that the Child Bride and I ventured into Shiodome with friends from the Tyler Foundation to the eponymous Gordon Ramsay at the Conrad Tokyo [Map] for the British Chamber of Commerce event featuring none other than "Chef!" himself.
Truth be told, I had been surprised that GR did not rate a star in the first edition of the Michelin guide for Tokyo, and I was determined to find out why. Part of the reason could be the venue - the Conrad feels a little out of place among the Dentsu towers and on the Sunday we were visiting the surrounds were empty and folorn. The hotel itself is a delight, and the restaurant divine.
Surrounded as we were by the glitterati of expat Tokyo, it was hard to stop craning one's neck to see who had arrived after the Miss Universe Tokyo team or Bobby Valentine. The Asparagus Soup Amuse arrived to put all thoughts of company firmly to one side while we began our adventure into the mind of a Michelin 3-star chef. People often expect too much of an Amuse, forgetting that it is meant to be whimsical and flirtatious while setting the tone for what's to come. Chef certainly achieved this goal - by virtue of this simple yet finely crafted dish, we were assured that the other courses coming our way would be a delicate balance of flavour and imagination.
The next course was a triumph - ballotine of foie gras with confit chicken - that gave fibre and form to the Ramsay legend, and shouldered aside any fears that Chef may not have been able to force his will on GR in Tokyo. It was teamed by Sommelier with a Pinot Gris: in my view, not worthy of the food nor the attention it was being given.
Some of us, Gentle Reader, are forced to trials and tribulations in the service of our fellow humans. That was entirely my attitude - thinking only of you, I rushed headlong into next course of pan-fried scallop with a millefeuille of potato, parmesan veloute and truffle smarties. This dish also features in Gordon's recent book 3-Star Chef, and it was delightful. Perhaps the truffles available in Tokyo in April lack something, but I felt ours were a little tired and distracted one from the otherwise superb St Jacques. This was served with a Chardonnay from Chile that surprised, and for the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) drinkers among us helped remind one of what a New World chardonnay can achieve. Believe me, Mr Ramsay can cook and he deserves all ten (so far) of his stars.
The star of the evening was roasted fillet of beef with a truffle and vegetable infusion. A perfect pairing, and a celebration of the best of British food traditions while staying above the commonplace and mundane. Served with a Cote de Rhone which was a little sharp, this dish alone is reason for all of us to mark a place in the diary for GR whenever we have something to celebrate or guests to impress and entertain.
For mine, the Tarte Tatin seemed a paradox - the apples exploded with flavour and a delicate sense of discovery, but the caramelised pastry fell apart a little too easily. Of course, the problem could have just as easily been the diner rather than the dinner! This is one of Gordon Ramsay's signature dishes and the ice cream that accompanied it was heavenly. As befits a 3-star Chef, the attention to detail is impressive.
So should Gordon Ramsay get a star in 2008? No doubt in my mind, but I think a lot will depend on Chef being able to stamp his personality on the GR team. If Gordon can spend a little more time in Tokyo working the front of house crew a little harder - and urging the kitchen team on to his own passion for perfection - there is no doubt that Gordon Ramsay Tokyo will be recognized as another jewel in the starry galaxy that is Tokyo dining. I, for one, am glad that Chef Ramsay has decided to dazzle Tokyo, and I urge you to try GR for that special evening with friends and lovers!