One place that we like to go to on a visit to Tokyo is the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. We like the old world charm by which the store carries on its business and appreciate details such as the stately building in which it is housed in, the attentive service of the staff and the delightful assistance rendered by the elevator ladies. Clad in traditional uniform, these ladies man the elevators almost robot-like but with a level of friendliness and consistency throughout the day that can only be admired. Many other stores have abandoned this practice, but this is a store that carries on the tradition. You can be sure that no lift door will close on you nor will you miss your floor because your hands are occupied with shopping bags. The one thing that Takashimaya may have fallen behind their competitors is their dining choices at this store. Compared to other department stores, the restaurant floor here has very limited choices. We almost gave up eating there until we remembered that there is Cafe de Joel Robuchon on level 2 of the building.
Cafe de Joel Robuchon occupies a long and narrow space in a corner of level 2 of the Takashimaya department store at Nihonbashi. A more casual version of the regular Joel Robuchon fine dining restaurant, Cafe de Joel Robuchon serves attractive desserts and pastry throughout the day. At lunch time, it offers three fixed price set course meals. The menu which we were handed was in French and Japanese. We guessed that they are three, two and one course plus dessert options. Curious to try the creations designed by the famous chef, we opted for the three course set meal at 3,024 yen per pax.
The starters were as we had expected – pan-seared scallops and pumpkin soup. The taste met the high expectations that we had for this restaurant. The soup had a certain complexity that is hard to describe but which you can detect in good French cooking. The scallops were really fresh and the quality of the produce is paramount in a dish like this where there is no sauce or other trimming to hide any flaws.
The main course however did not turn out as we expected. The first one came as a surprise. It looked like a giant samosa was served for lunch. We had selected the third item on the list which had been described to us as a crab dish. Then it dawned on us that she had meant “crepe” not crab! We certainly felt foolish (but of course did not display any of this outwardly). This was the first time we had experienced “lost in translation” in Japan. Anyway, we examined the crepe and found that it contained ham and a nice runny egg yolk inside. Taste-wise it was ok but we did not think it was really gourmet French cooking. The other main course was a fish cooked in a creamy sauce. This, in contrast, was very good and worthy of the Joel Robuchon name.
The meal ended with desserts and coffee. The chocolate ice cream with nuts was the best part of the desserts. The custard-like portion of the dish was so-so. The creme brulee was quite ordinary but the presentation in a heart-shaped form with a dollop of ice-cream is very attractive and will certainly be appealing to the ladies who lunch here.
Our lunch at Cafe de Joel Robuchon was enjoyable and amusing when we realised our folly in ordering a crepe at this restaurant. The prices are not cheap but the quality of food is high. We would certainly like to lunch here again. The next time we will have google-translate on standby!
Cafe de Joel Robuchon
Level 2 Takashimaya Department Store
2-4-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-Ku
Tokyo 103-8265, Japan
Tel: +81 (0)3-3211-4111