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Restaurants & Bars

2019 Tokyo Food Crawl: Lunch - QUINTESSENCE 3* Modern French

Charles Yu | Mar 7, 201902:58 PM     2

Sigh!! This luncheon was supposed to be one of the most anticipated meal and highlight of my trip. But sadly, due to unexpected and disappointing developments that surfaced during the course of our meal, the overall experience was muted and turned out to be just so-so!

Once again, thanks to my local chowhound friend, we managed to secure a table at this world famous Michelin 3*. Initially, we were all hoping to make this a dinner venue, since the menu at night was more expansive and varied. Unfortunately, they were fully booked a year down the road! However, based on the final impression of our meal, may be this was a blessing in disguise?!

Before proceeding with my food write-up, it would be interesting for me to mention that one of our party is a close and personal friend of the famous restaurant critic – Andy Hayler ( he ate at all 135 Michelin 3* worldwide! ). Before our meal, Hayler’s commented to him was that, in his opinion, Quintessence’s food is underwhelming and worthy only of a solid 1* but definitely not 3* caliber! This remark put us all on our toes and we were more than eager to scrutinize our meal in detail in the hope of proving Hayler wrong!

Our meal started off with a member of the serving staff coming over to us, swinging his finger and warned us ‘ No Photos ’!! Are you kidding me? In fact, apart from some high-end sushi places, none of our group of 4 had experienced this type of house rule before! Strike one!
BTW, since I cannot take photos of the 3* food, I took a photo of their 3* washroom instead! Ha!

Next, we then noticed almost all the wait staff working in the front-of-house was not proficient in English at all. And this is a Michelin 3* French restaurant?! For every dish that arrived at our table, an agonizingly slow amount of time was taken by a struggling waiter to finish describing the dish. This painful, snail’s pace trend continued through-out our meal. By the time the pen-ultimate fish course arrived, whilst watching my gorgeous shiny and hot piece of seared Grouper started to turn cold right in front of my eyes, I almost lost it and was so tempted to just ask him to SHUT-UP! Strike two!

Now on to the food.

Overall, majority of the dishes were pretty tasty with some sauces a real stand out. However, plate presentation was overly simplistic and boring for a 3*. The meal was a roller coaster ride featuring first, a few exceptional dishes like the delicious miniature fish chowder containing crunchy bits of ‘something‘ that created a sensational textural feel. It was followed by their decade long, iconic house specialty of fresh goat’s cheese curd and olive oil. That was simple, refreshing and enjoyable. The hot sour dough bread was great, fluffy light with a fantastic crunchy crust! Unfortunately, a below par, unsophisticated pull-pork based open sandwich followed. This is 3* food? OMG! On its tail was something even more unforgivable, a major mistake and a definite no-no for a 3* - an OVERCOOKED piece of pristine fresh Japanese Grouper! Fortunately, the accompanying sauce was delicious. Lastly, avoiding a mini-disaster, our meal was rescued by a gorgeous venison dish, the protein perfectly cooked rare and the sauce super delectable.

To cap off the meal, two desserts were offered. First, the thumbs-down one! A cold dessert that was so simple in taste and presentation, it almost made me cry! Strawberry short cake comprising of three bite size morsels of sponge cake topped with fresh strawberry and whipped cream. My wife’s version was even more sophisticated and tastier than that! No joke!
Fortunately, the bad and mediocre one was followed by a thumbs-up one. The hot dessert offered comprised of a slice of super aromatic, crispy and tasty buttery crust pie, topped with caramelized apple and pomegranate seed. Again, way too simplistic looking for a 3* but at least the taste was exemplary!

So, in conclusion, Andy Hayler was spot-on!! Quintessence is overrated, the food resembling a 1* than 3*. But then, may be the more expensive dinner will present a different picture?

On a final more ‘positive’ note. Due to the nature of our tasting menu, we were looking for a slightly scarce, nice and versatile bottle of Riesling to pair with our meal. The 2010 Weinbach Grand Cru Schlossberg was our wine of choice. Unfortunately, the wine menu listed it as ‘ Sold-out ‘, However, to our server’s credit, he managed to locate from the cellar, one LAST bottle of this wine! So glad he did because, man! The wine was GOOOD!!

Though the food was underwhelming for a 3*, at least the wine was good and the company GREAT!
Oh!...and we did have a photo-op with a 3* chef at the end of our meal! What more can we ask for?! Ha! :D

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