Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dinner at Le Sputnik

This is an edit of the prior post.  Some content change about the dippin' dots and the mushroom crepe.  And some otherwise OCD stuff to make things accurate.  Re-read if it's important to you!

Also, I hate blogger.  It is far from intuitive.  But I'm stuck with it, I think.  I figured out, finally, font issues.  Ugh.

This meal was just fantastic. I'm putting this out there early (and out of order) for Cal, who'll be dining here on the 23rd. We ate here on Saturday, the 16th. I know I am behind by at least a week, since, as I write this, we're heading for home later today. I'll catch up on future posts, once back in the USA.

I'd heard about this place a bit from the folks on the Japan board of Chowhound. Under the radar, unlike Robuchon or L'Effervescence, this place is not on the must-go-to list of the well-to-do in Tokyo. Also, much more of a value for the ¥. But even Le Sputnik isn't cheap, unfortunately, as little extras like a ¥1200 bottle of plain French bottled water (Tokyo tap water tastes just fine to us) add up.

It's French-Japanese Fusion, with French concepts by Takahashi, a France trained chef, using the best Japanese sourced (obviously!) ingredients. So, the best of all worlds. Opened just over 2 years ago. Hard to find. Google maps has this place street-viewed with a photo from 2014, with construction right at the location, so you have to look on Tabelog to see what it looks like from the street.

Also, we went when it was raining. We borrowed a couple of the Four Seasons' umbrellas, which helped. Connie wore fashionable running shoes and I wore my Marmot rain jacket (but a long sleeved shirt and tie). What the hell, we're tourists!

This restaurant also was very fastidious about our reservation. We went through our always-reliable concierge, Akhil (who, by the way, answered the phone way back in 2010, when we first landed in Narita, because we wanted them to meet us at the Tokyo Eki). At least five times, the restaurant contacted Akhil, who in turn, contacted us about details.

First, it was about Connie's preference for no-red-meat. NOT an allergy and she would have eaten it if served. Then about this and that. On the day of the dinner, they contacted Akhil, who then emailed me while we were out and about at the Aoyama Farmers Market, because we initially indicated a preference for dining in the main dining room (we're people watchers) rather than a private dining room. There was, apparently, a big shindig going on in the main room, and they didn't want the commotion to wreck our time there. I told them that it didn't matter. We wouldn't mind even if one of Stupid-Kim's bombs hit while dining. We'd enjoy watching any commotion. As it turned out, it seemed to be a work gathering, and it was extremely sedate.

Again, a reminder that you can click on pics to see more detail.  This really was a great meal!

Dig in:

Their glassware is paper thin, and pleasant to hold. I got the wine pairing for ¥6500, though I added on later to make it close to a Man-yen. Not being a wine expert, I won't comment on whether this was a value, but it hit my fancy, for sure.

1. Amadai (lit. Sweet Snapper), stuffed with a strip of white celery and Japanese Pear. The Amadai is aged 10 days, to give it more Umami, per our Server/Sommelier.

This was paired with a Japanese Koushu wine. Koushu is a highly evolved Japanese grape. This wine is a late harvest with significant residual sugar like at the level of a fine German Spatlese by my palate, but still with 12.5 % alcohol

2. Young Bean Churro, served aside Edamame, which was cooked to a very tender consistency. It also tasted very buttery, with perfect salt balance. All perched atop a Volcanic rock (not edible). The rock was “harvested” by Takahashi-san on Mt Fuji

Paired with a Chardonnay

The Server/Sommelier is very knowledgable. I could tell that she speaks French, the way she pronounces French words or at least she has learned decent French.

Her English wasn’t as good as the other Japanese server but it was still quite good. These two Japanese women were the only ones who ever came to our table, and the service was impeccable.

3. Hokkaido Corn with Almond Foam, topped with Uni

Paired with the same Chardonnay as above. The corn was very sweet. I’m not sure what the firmer, round, about 2.5 cm white thing was on the bottom.

4. Two baby fish deep fried on top of a deep fried Gobo Bird Nest, served with a Gobo vinaigrette dipping sauce. Atop the nest, one is smiling at me (I think that if fish had eyelids, it would be winking at me).

Paired with the first Koushu Wine. Our server tried to be very careful about how to pair the wines, but often the eater/drinker didn’t do a very good job following her directions, likely due to ignorance about wine. Nonetheless, it didn't detract from the enjoyment. The nest was pretty greasy, given that it was deep fried, so we only ate a little of it. Our server even said that it was filling, so be careful!

Their baguette was superb. I had read that he gets his bread from Maison Keyser, a patisserie which Takahashi trained at for a time. They have locations worldwide, with three in Tokyo.

The crust was not the palate scratching type, but still crunchy, and the inside stood up to the butter. The butter was brought out early in the meal, but the bread wasn't brought out until the Gobo course, so it had a chance to get soft. I actually prefer ice cold butter, so that chunks are eaten with the bread. Connie likes her bread toppings very evenly spread.

Their flatware was also really really pleasant to hold. I want some for our home. Ours at home is old and tired and really, well, old and tired.

5. Nashi (Eggplant) topped by a smoked fish, served with a slice of Ichijiku (Japanese common Fig). The fish was topped by baby greens, all served under a clear glass dome filled with smoke (real smoke, not some molecular concoction).

Paired with a French white wine; again, it went well with the dish, but it didn’t quite meet my fancy. This dish reminded me of Church back in Salinas, because the smoke smelled just like the Senko that filled the church. The Japanese server smiled and knew exactly what I meant when I indicated this.

6. Foie Gras, served two ways

The first was as a cold terrine with Sweet Beet chips arranged as petals of a flower and served with Beet puree artwork, his signature dish featured on his website, with the plate dusted with beet powder. Labor intensive, so only one of these is served per table, as our server points out.

The second is warm, with tender greens and espresso sauce (too strong, and detracted from the foie gras flavor) dusted with gingerbread crumbs.

Paired with a sweet red wine from France which did go well with the Foie Gras

7. Roasted Lobster in the shell with residual Lobster butter on the inside of the shell, served with Coconut foam, and tiny sprigs of Fennel. Inside was the Lobster and a bit of an avocado. This was really good!

Paired with a dry Manseng from France (Manseng, which I have heard of — kiitakoto arimasu) but never had before. This also went well with the shellfish

Bits of crumbs left behind, seeming to spell a message.

8. Oh man, the dishes just keep coming, this one is a mushroom dish. Poached egg crepe, served aside a dollop of mushroom ice cream (very very smooth), dusted all over with mushroom powder. Connie corrects me and says that the crepe itself was made with mushroom powder but still an egg inside. I have the word “truffle” in my notes, but I don’t remember what that means, except, obviously, there was some truffle in this dish. There were flakes of truffle sprinkled on the crepes, according to Connie.

Paired with a dry white wine from France, which didn’t make me go “wow” (in other words, not memorable). I think that the cold ice cream didn’t really go well with the crepe, but Connie liked it…

9. Next was our “fish dish,” according to our server. She said that our appetizers are done now! Ha ha! This was “harvested” fish, which I don’t think means farmed, since a place like this doesn’t seem to fit that. We think it means wild caught fish, but since the Japanese language is different, well... I think the folks who know some Japanese understand what I mean about this confusion.

I don’t know what kind of fish, but it was of a uniform, not flaky, texture, very good.

Paired with Paternel Cassis Blanc de Blanc, quite dry, and it did taste fine!

The fish was on a small bed of Ika, sauteed to tender, with a blanket of cooked cabbage

Shared some wine with Karl while Connie wasn't watching and he was tipsy.

10. Main course. Quail meat, served on the bone, both thigh and breast, with a Black Olive, Quail stock and red wine sauce. Quail sourced from Saitama, cooked with trumpet mushrooms, red grapes, and a single cooked purple baby onion, the same size as the grapes, which I ate whole (sweet with still some crunch, with mild flavor that doesn’t linger for two days).

This was paired with 2015 Old Vine (Vieilles Vignes) Santenay

This dish was superb. I ate this with my hands, holding the bits of bone that stuck out. Manners be damned. We got this dish instead of the usual rare Venison, because Connie doesn’t eat red meat. She was offered Quail or Pork, and she chose Quail.

Upon being seated at arrival, our server paid careful attention to our dietary requirements (which they had already asked about, as noted above). Since they (both our concierge and Le Sputnik) were almost OCD about making sure things were correct, they wanted to be sure.

I assured them that there was no actual food allergy and that they would not have to call 119 (their equivalent of 911) because Connie would drop dead eating something.

They asked me if I would like the Venison and Connie get the Quail or if both of us should get the Quail. I said Osusume, or “up to the chef” -- whatever he thought would be best for the experience. We both got the quail, and I'm not disappointed, since I am not a huge fan of gamey meat (but I do love rare red meat, like they serve their venison).

11. Here is our dessert. Momo with red basil leaf and a red basil gelee, served with a green basil ice cream, dotted with dipping dots (frozen bits of sweet stuff with a more coarse texture than the US variety), actually made with red basil.

I told our server that these were called dipping dots in the US (I don’t remember what she said they’re called here in Japan), even though they aren't exactly the same thing.

12. Whoa. Another dessert. Chocolate and vanilla banana (like molten desserts) “cake," topped with gold (yes it is real gold) flecks, and with a hot rum-raisin hazelnut liquid poured over the top, melting the “cake," which then revealed a mango and passionfruit lava that oozed out. Talk about run on sentences... Actually, not even a full sentence! But it tells the story, and that's what language is all about, not rules!

I also have rum raisin and banana written in my tasting notes, but I admit that I don’t remember how that played into this dish! 

Thin chocolate wafer, with a ring of chocolate ice cream and a ring of banana ice cream, melted by hot hazelnut syrup, revealing the mango-passionfruit "lava."

Sorry for all the edits!  I'm leaving my errors out there...

13. Wow, a third dessert, a green tea powder dusted cream puff made with Wasanbon sugar from Shikoku (cane sugar), served with a roasted green tea (Hojicha) cream served on a puddle of Olive oil with salt garnish, to be eaten with the sweet cream

Served with our choice of drink; we both chose plain hot tea! It was also Hojicha.

And at the end, we walked into the rain to the train station. This meal took three and a half hours! 6 PM to 930 PM. It is located in a very narrow alley, and a dumb taxi guy drove into a narrow restaurant entryway, and couldn’t get out. Some guy (a bystander?) had to guide him as he went back and forth to get out. We were trapped.

So Con and I waited in the rain (with umbrellas) while the taximan tried to maneuver.

Finally he did, but not until after several minutes.

But all during this time, the chef, Takahashi-san, along with one of our servers, is out in the rain, waiting for us to leave, a half block away. Bowing to us, just like at Iwa, until we turn the corner...

All in all, we would definitely go back.  A no-brainer!  I'll make my reservations right now!


  1. Thanks for rushing this out for us! It's nice to see the pics and get the details. You wine description sells me on trying the pairing. That lobster with avocado looks great. Although it's in the head shell I'm assuming it's not the head meat correct? I'm not feeling no of that. I love the fish on fried gobo. I think that's in case theres a big eater wanting his fill. The beet flower looks nice. That bread looks wonderful. I think I'll ask for seconds. Three amazing desserts! The hazelnut one looks to die for. I might ask for coffee even if it keeps me up a little. I'd be afraid to ask for decaf. Now I'm really excited thanks!

  2. Btw I read your entire comments of your last day last year including narikura and thought you had changed your mind about going. I only figured it out after I read my comments. Senior moment.

  3. Was Connie as impressed as you were?

  4. Con felt this was close to, if not, the best meal she's ever had. I don't like to rank. It was superb. I will definitely go back on ANY trip to Tokyo. I don't know what kind of lobster meat this was, sorry. It was real meat, not the lobster butter. But there was lobster butter there, attached to the shell. Of course, I like crab butter and lobster butter. The beet chips (flower petals) were like Trader Joes beet chips (Connie bought those bags by the dozen, literally), but much better and sweeter. I didn't want to ask for seconds on bread as it would have filled us (I did get a second helping without asking, FYI). btw, I drink tons of coffee when in Japan. I go to the combini's and buy those plastic cups of ice for about ¥100 and then get their ice coffee, loaded with corn syrup and cream (artificial or not, who cares). Made by me right there. I also drink ice coffee in the AM (my preference is for canned Wondra).