Hiroyasu Kawate worked at the Michelin-starred Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, then was sous chef at Tokyo's three Michelin-starred Quintessence alongside chef Shuzo Kishida. In 2009, Kawate opened his own restaurant, Florilege, combining traditional French techniques with Japanese artistry. Florilege moved to its current premises in the Shibuya district in 2015. The intimate 22-seater was recently given the One To Watch Award at Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2016. See theworlds50best.com/asia/en/; aoyama-florilege.jp/en/.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN TOKYO?
Den, in Jimbocho. It serves Japanese style food that is not bound to any tradition, and serves dishes with new, out-of-the-box approaches. Their extremely well-executed dishes and high level of creativity inspire me a lot. The staff are very considerate and the conversation over the counter between staff and customers is always enjoyable. It's a very energetic place. I always feel Den whole-heartedly welcomes you each time, and their cheerful atmosphere showcases the Japanese spirit of service, yet at the same time this sense of true hospitality (Omotenashi) can be appreciated far beyond Japan. See jimbochoden.com.
YOUR BIGGEST LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?
The eel at Nihonryori RyuGin. The quality of the ingredients they use, the method of cooking, and even the presentation of each dish are all non-standard and of a very high level. The fresh-caught eel that they serve at RyuGin are probably twice the size of those served at regular restaurants. I have never experienced such a revelation with eel. It achieved completely new levels in terms of both the depth of the flavours and the crisp texture of the skin, and RyuGin has expressed the highest potential for how eel can be served. It was an outstanding experience for me. See nihonryori-ryugin.com.
WHAT IS TOKYO'S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?
Restaurant Anis. You can experience the best heating technique (Hiire) at this restaurant. The heating process of piglet is so worthy to mention. First they layout the skin of bamboo shoot on a plancha and place meat on top of it. Additional bamboo shoot skin is placed again on top the meat for roasting. Roasting takes three-four hours complete using only the plancha. Wrapping of the meat with bamboo shoot skin gives a good steaming effect, allowing delicate taste to come out. This heating technique can only be experienced at Anis. See restaurant-anis.jp/.
PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?
I try to spend as much of my free time as possible with friends and family, even if we just stay in for some quiet time.
FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN TOKYO?
Spend more quality time with my family, just relaxing. It's such a luxury these days.
PLACE TO GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?
A group of fellow chefs and I often like to gather at my best friend's restaurant. We trained together in France, and at their restaurant I can dine on superb French food late into the night. A lot of people in the food industry hang out here, and every time I visit I feel like it recharges both my stomach and heart at the same time. It's a very important place for me. (Chef Kawate has declined to name this restaurant, however Tokyo is home to many great French restaurants, including L'Effervescence, where another rising star, Shinobu Namae is at the helm. See leffervescence.jp.)
BEST TIME TO VISIT, AND WHY, FOODWISE IN TOKYO?
Autumn is the best time to visit Tokyo as the seasonal ingredients are at their richest at this time.
WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN TOKYO?
Nothing in particular. What one might find strange another might really enjoy, so we shouldn't be discouraged from trying new things.