To borrow a phrase from a famous chairman; if my memories serves me correctly, I couldn't wait until that day when we would take off for Japan. The plans were set in motion and the tickets purchased. It would be a wonderland of sights and sounds beyond our imagination. This was to be a trip like no other as we all agreed to eat across Japan in the time that we had. First and foremost was to set a budget on the trip. Sadly, when one thinks with the stomach then all common sense goes out the window. Hearing about other friends and their exploits only planted more seeds to the imagination of what marvels awaits our eyes and palates. Our epicurean journey would begin once we set foot into cramped quarter of our plane. As the engines roared to life I can only imagine that was my belly eagerly anticipating the apex of culinary delights across the ocean. My dreams of sushi of unimaginable freshness evaporated when confronted with that daunting question. "Would you like Beef, Chicken or Vegetarian?" The bane of many traveler's existence; The gruel that served in our avian prison; airplane food. At least the cabin attendant didn't offer fish! After surviving those ordeals and landing my mood lightens up. Even on that cold and rainy day I can still smell those aromas of the sumptuous fare even if it was only in my mind. Meals come and go like the sun and moon from city to city. In Shibuya I knew I was on the threshold of checking off one item on my bucket list. We worked up an appetite after a morning of sight seeing to arrive at a nondescript building. The building directory was not at all helpful even in English. Finding another directory I was much relieved to find what I was seeking on this whole foray. La Rochelle.
Reaching the 32nd floor we were greeted two hostesses as they took our coats. They directed us to a grand foyer while inquiring about our visit to the establishment. Explaining to the hostess that we came from Canada to see Chef Sakai, one of the hostesses searched for the manager. An affable gentleman approached us and apologetically clarified that Chef Sakai would not be present today. He continued to expressed his humility and appreciation for traveling very far to see him and apologized yet again. If there is one thing I've learned on this trip is that the Japanese has made customer service into an art form. Passing through these doors would be gourmet nirvana.
The dining area had one of the best views of the cityscape. Inside it was spacious enough but it still felt a bit cozy like an upscale dim sum restaurant. Greeting us at the table was an immaculate placement before us.
This peach nectar was the most amazing drink ever. It was freshly squeezed and came from a special region in Japan of which I can't recall.
Some of us were hungrier than other so half of us ordered the Degustation and the others ordered the Maestro on the menu. I am sure the menu has changed over the years so I won't even try to describe what they. However, these pictures will serve as a reminder of the skill and artistry that is synonymous with Chef Sakai's work.
This stayed in my mind since it was so unique. It was a special cheese made with cherry (sakura) blossom since it was cherry blossom season. The taste was very mild and gentle and there was a definite note of the cherry blossoms.
According to the menu, this is avant dessert.
In myth and legend I have heard of such a thing as this. Now I have seen one with my own eyes; a genuine dessert wagon. We wanted all of it from what I can see in everyone's eyes but no one wanted to speak up. I decided to be brave and ordered everything and the server happily plated everything beautifully I might add.
Finally, there was the after dinner coffee or tea and what I now know as macarons.
At the end of the meal we realized the Maestro was a full tasting menu that took up the majority of the afternoon.
It has been just over 2 years since I have been in Japan. My foodie adolescence could not even begin to comprehend the magnitude, majesty, and magic of what I had partaken back then. What I do retain from that moment is a sense of wonderment, surprise, and immense pleasure. Isn't that what happy memories are all about?
Update (12/20/2011): The Shibuya location has been closed as of September 30, 2011. She may be gone but not forgotten. Here are some pictures of the lounge, the dining room, and beautiful skyline for posterity.