*I’m having problems figuring out how to edit photos in wordpress so the layout of this post isn’t optimal…if someone knows of any online tutorials, please let me know!
**Wordpress is having server problems so it’s causing havoc with my editing…argh! Please excuse any text and layout errors.
During a recent chat session, A, my confirmed bachelor friend, lamented that from now on, my blog won’t be of much interest to him because of all the marriage or parenting related posts. So today, in honor of A Ojisan, I am going to talk about our trip (the first as a couple…but hopefully the first of many!) to Tokyo in 2006.
Last Thanksgiving, my former colleague and friend A (a different one) and his wife M were living in Japan on a job assignment so we took advantage of their hospitality and visited for 10 days. Charlie’s birthday fell on one of the days so I asked M to help find a restaurant for a celebration dinner and she suggested 月夕堂 (Gesseki Doh), which came highly recommended from one of her foodie coworkers.
Gesseki Doh is a French restaurant located in the Ebisu district of Tokyo specializing in 創作料理 (innovative/creative cuisine). What makes it stand out in a city full of good food is the chef’s attitude towards food. I am not sure how to describe him but basically he doesn’t restrict himself to any culinary traditions and experiments a great deal with seasonal ingredients. This may sound common among great (or even good) chefs but his dishes are distinct enough that he as a “following” among diners.
Not only is everything made in-house, Gesseki Doh is basically a one-man operation – the chef not only cooks without assistance in the kitchen, he also often serves the dishes himself. Although Gesseki Doh is an open secret among Tokyo foodies, its location in a small alley means that there are very few walk-ins. Most patrons make advanced reservations and customize the menu for their particular visit based on consultation with the chef. Typically, however, the 2 – 3 appetizer, 1 main, and dessert courses run between 3800 and 6400 yen. For our visit, we asked the chef to give us a 7500 yen/person (without wine) course and he offered to make two different menus for each couple so that we can taste a greater variety of dishes.
Being the compulsive info-maniac that I am, I had looked up numerous reviews and blog posts about the restaurant but the experience we had was truly unexpected. Maybe because it was on a weeknight (Monday) but we had the full attention and service of the chef for the entire evening, which made if seem like we were dining in a private club. So not only was the food original, tasty, and well-paced, we also got personal introductions for each dish. As he served each course, Chef Hirose gave us detailed explanations in terms of his inspiration for the dish and any interesting tidbits about the ingredients. Of course, some people might consider this over kill but being active home cooks, we really enjoyed learning about everything.
Unfortunately, not having native speaker level Japanese ability, I was only able to understand about 50 – 60% of Chef Hirose’s presentation. At the time, I remembered each course distinctly. But now, with time and the pregnancy fog, I am only able to recall some of what we had.
So I’ll go ahead and post the photos anyway. I will update the post later if I get more info from our friends A & M about that night.
Assortment of appetizers and house bread.
One of the more unusual dishes – a “palate cleanser” between the appetizers and the main course – jellies of different flavors. If I recall correctly, I think they are (not in order) potato, kabocha, tomato.
The main courses – braised deer on the left and some kind of fish on the right (?) Note that the meat in the spoon on the left was actually a meat tartare.
A cheese course to end the meal, before the dessert. The most unusual thing here was the Cheese Ice Cream in the tall glass.
(L) Chef Hirose putting the final touch on Charlie’s birthday “cake.” (Center) Charlie making a birthday wish before blowing out the candles. (R) A close-up of the cake.
As creative as the “cake” was, we really would have appreciated just having something more ordinary like what the other diners seemed to have enjoyed (e.g. panna cotta). Being too similar to the mini-pastries, this dish didn’t give us a good taste of Chef Hirose’s touch with desserts.
(L) The customary mini-pastries that come with most courses. (R) The cream and sugar set for our coffees.
(L) The wall of messages from patrons who have had special celebrations at the restaurant. (C) Where you can find Charlie’s note – next to the sleeping pig (R) One of the two bottles of lovely wine A & M treated us to (I can’t believe the four of us drank two bottles of wine that night!)
Charlie’s omiyage (take home gift) and us with the Chef and waitress (she didn’t doing much except seat us and bring the occasional water).
Thanks to A & M, we had a “surreal” and lovely celebration that night. I hope that some of you out there will have the opportunity to enjoy an evening at Gesseki Doh as well.
Some friends have asked if it’s possible to dine at places like Gesseki Doh without knowing any Japanese. Generally, I find that Japanese restaurants are pretty welcoming to foreigner but it helps to do your “homework” before going to a place like this. While at home, see if you can find any online information about the restaurant and once you are there, be flexible and open to trying different things. Even if the restaurant staff can’t communicate with you, another diner might be able to assist you with translation. Be patient and know that your meal will take longer, especially if the restaurant is busy. Even if things don’t work out at the first restaurant you try, be bold and give it another chance. The next one might give you the most wonderful culinary and cross-cultural memory you will have in Japan!
For anyone who can read Japanese or Chinese and want to look up more information about Gesseki Doh for your next trip to Tokyo, see below. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any information in English =(
<Information about Gesseki Doh in Japanese>
Photos of interior and some dishes
<Information about Gesseki Doh in Chinese>