Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

L'EMBELLIR - Perplexing Pleasure [Updated with Glenn's comment]

Deepest bowing and shrill embarrassment come with this missive, Gentle Reader. I have been engaged 'in trade', forced to cast my lot with those in the unmentionable corners of society as I adjust to "employment" as a fulltime lifestyle option. To be frank, I'm working. Oh, the shame!

However, much like Lord Lucan or Princess Margaret down on their luck, I can sometimes rely on the benevolence of friends to provide the briefest glimpse of what life used to be like before I was cast into penal servitude down in Yokohama. So it was that the Child Bride and I ventured to L'EMBELLIR (why must people shout?) at the kind invitation of the munificent Sir James and Lady Ina for a wine-makers dinner featuring Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Saint-Georges from Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair.

Young Master Liger-Belair is quite the new star of Nuits St-Georges, having burst onto the scene in 2002 and producing some spectacular wines that find their peak in the 2003, although I must admit to agreeing with Sir James that the 2005 is also quite toothsome with an interesting mineralization.

Chef Naoto Kishimoto opened this restaurant (which I believe is in the former Danish Embassy) in 2006, and was rewarded with a Michelin star in 2008 and 2009. There is no doubt he deserves this honour - the food is excellent, the service superb, the wine list thrilling, and the prices reasonable. This particular evening we had Galantine de gibiers Fondante d'Aubergine, Tarte Fine d'Anpo Kaki bien mur etc, Pied de porc farce de homard et Chevreuil saute au champignon, and Fraises et Fromage frais. Excellent, considering this was served a la russe to 40 diners at once.

Yet I retired from the table perplexed. I had dined here earlier with Charles and Nicole from super-trendy FivebyFifty in the week after the first Michelin star but had not posted. Why? Something is missing at L'Embellir, something almost spectral and ectoplasmic. Perhaps the ghosts of previous Danish ambassadors walk the halls, or even perhaps Danish princes.

For the life of me, Gentle Reader, I can not tell you what it is. But this restaurant somehow leaves you expecting more, but failing to deliver. Were this a more crass and tasteless blog, this would be the perfect place for some schoolboy sexual innuendo but your Humble Correspondent shall refrain. UPDATE: Glenn, who was also at the dinner, suggests that the room somehow lacks intimacy [See Comments] . I agree, and that could be it. Cuisine Classique served in a harsh post-modern Scandinavian room is pretty soulless.

I sincerely recommend you go to L'Embellir ... this is fine and elegant dining at its third-best, and I am sure you won't blame me if something is missing. But just in case, make sure you're dining on the company's sovereign and that you venture downstairs with ladies in the group. They'll love it. And maybe you can tell me what I'm missing.

L'EMBELLIR [Map]: 4-17-33 B1F Minami-Aoyama, Minato-Ku. t: 03-3423-0131
Rating: Food: 7; Wine: 7; Service: 7; Ambiance: 7; Price: 7 ($$). Total 35/50


Jon said...

Well well, tongues were beginning to wag with the possibility that you had skipped the country without mentioning it and were already at work on your new blog 'Eating Out in Townsville'.

I've been nudged repeatedly about going to _L'EMBELLIR_, but have always demurred on the grounds that the prices are somewhat less reasonable than you allude, while reserving is (or perhaps was?) extraordinarily difficult. Your review does little to convince me to make the effort; in fact I'm reminded of the feeling I had after Quintessence, although in that case I was expecting the 3 stars that Michelin had awarded. Thanks for further advice!

guren said...

Hi Terry. I was also at the L'Embellir dinner last Friday night. I have been reading your blog for the past few months and I recognized you at the restaurant. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to say hello - hopefully the next time. I was sitting at the round table in the back, furthest from Mr. Liger-Belair's table. I may have been conspicuous by being the only male at our table of six. I'm sure I was smiling a lot that night.

I sort of agree with you about the experience there. The food was uniformly excellent and the wines were fine, with the Richebourg being particularly notable. But it wasn't quite perfect. I think one of the problems was that the room, while fairly nice, lacked intimacy. The other issue for me was that the evening seemed to end a bit abruptly. Perhaps I am just one of those people who needs proper closure.


Dom said...

they call ennui the curse of the great...

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!