Été エテ | Japan Luxury Travel Agency
More private table than restaurant, restaurant Été takes intimacy and introduction-only dining to the extreme, with just one table seating four guests and one service per night, which makes it be one of Tokyo’s most difficult-to-book restaurants.
Japanese chef Natsuko Shoji, who spent her formative cooking years at Asia 50 Best regular Florilège, serves her intricately crafted French cuisine herself. But getting the reservation is no easy feat. An introduction to the chef is the first step, followed by buying one of her famous fashion-inspired cakes, which itself is costly and hard to find. Expect such delights as sea urchin topped biscuits and smoked butter brioche, and that is just for starters. The effort – and bragging rights – is well worth it.
On December 10, chef Shoji relocated the pocket-sized, single-table Shibuya eatery and pastry shop, été, to a new home one subway stop away, and along with the shift to more spacious digs, she’s made the eatery and cake component totally open to the public.
Style: French Restaurant
Address: 1 Chome-2-6 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Tokyo 151-00631
Opening hours: Lunch: 12PM-1PM (LO), Dinner: 6PM-7:00PM (LO)
The private course is a leisurely stroll through ten dishes that showcase Shoji’s skills and demonstrate how fortunate you are to be the only ones enjoying her delicious just-made cuisine. Arriving perfectly arranged on exquisite tableware by modern artist Mao Wadayama, the presentation in dish after dish is your entertainment, richly enhancing the delicious cuisine.
While most restaurants change their menus monthly, Shoji does that just four times a year. Staying with the same dishes over a longer period, she says, allows her to get to know them better and perfect them. The amuse is an important reference to Shoji’s beginnings as an exclusive cake maker, using an exquisite salted tart that has emerged from its chilled state just steps away from your table. Hokkaido sea urchin tops the salted tart with plenty of finely shaved mimolette cheese, all accented by delicious aromatic flavor from a homemade mix of seven spices including cumin and garam masala.
Chef Shoji entrusts the procurement of ingredients to suppliers at Tsukiji, many of whom she has known since her high school days. Much of the fruit comes direct from orchards around Japan: peaches and muscat grapes from Okayama and Satonishiki cherries from Hokkaido. Shoji seeks out direct suppliers from around Japan for new fruits she is especially interested in. Her wine collection shows a distinct preference for California wines, which grew even stronger after the devastating forest fires in the harvest season of 2017. Shoji is more than happy to design a personalized wine pairing course for her guests.
The Fleurs d’ été or “summer flowers” – stunning in presentation and the perfect demonstration of her incredible techniques – reflects the chef herself, whose beautiful smile fills guests with joy and vitality.
The signature cake is a decadent creation of mango arranged into nine stunning roses. Combining juicy, highly aromatic Japanese mangoes with succulent overseas varieties that maintain their shape, and topped with raspberries or rotund cherries, the result is almost too beautiful to eat. But when you do, the joy of the flavor that bursts forth is sublime. The quality of the fruit is outstanding, and the fine veil of jelly prevents drying out whilst also contributing to each cake’s jewel-like appearance. Unseen but just as important is a tart base that has been slow-baked for 35 to 40 minutes ensuring delicious crisp texture alongside a smooth aftertaste from the generous helpings of pure butter. The not-too-sweet custard cream has elegant flavor while still making its presence known. Some cakes also include a layer of sponge, but whatever the combination, the harmony of flavors and textures is sensational.
Chef Natsuko Shoiji was born in Tokyo in 1989. Shoji’s first brush with cooking came during junior high school in home economics class. The practical component required her to make cream-filled choux pastry and she was so blown away by how the pastry rose and puffed up that she decided to make it again at home. Her friends implored her to become a pastry chef after tasting her amazing creation. It was the first time she thought about cooking as a career and decided to enter Komaba Gakuen high school which has a cooking department. The curriculum exposed her to Japanese, Western and Chinese cuisine, as well as pastry-making.
While still a high school student, Shoji joined fine French dining Le Jeu de l’Assiette in Tokyo’s affluent suburb of Daikanyama to train as a pastry chef. She worked there until invited to help with the opening of now world-famous Florilege, owned by Yasuhiro Kawate, a fellow alumnus of Komaba Gakuen high school. She was patissier and then sous chef before deciding to work at a hotel to learn guest relations and top-class hospitality. Shoji later worked as a caterer, sweets maker and private party chef before going independent in 2014 as owner/chef of été. Her cakes were an instant success and one year later she opened her restaurant.