We’ve long admired the Old Imperial Bar for its art deco touches and scotch-and-cigar ambience. Several visits to the Imperial’s recently renovated French restaurant, Les Saisons, revealed another side of the venerable Tokyo hotel. A sumptuous smoking room lies off to one side of the elegant foyer, where impeccably dressed greeters usher guests into a dining room that’s done up in stately browns and creams, with plush high-backed chairs and banquettes.
In fact, every aspect of the Les Saisons experience screams “fine dining”: dramatically presented dishes; opulent flatware and linens; personalized attention from the sommelier. Not to mention exorbitant prices. Lunch sets start at ¥5,500, and the evening degustation menu tops out at a cool ¥25,000. A small army of solicitous staff are eager to ensure that no need goes unmet—sometimes too eager. While we appreciated thoughtful touches like a fresh napkin draped over our chair on returning from the restroom, we didn’t appreciate it when casual eye contact instigated a visit from one of the hovering servers. Especially when our eyes were so often wandering around the gorgeous room.
It was, in fact, Les Saisons’ exceptional hospitality that blew our cover as anonymous reviewers. We made reservations under a friend’s name and didn’t otherwise notify the staff of our arrival. Yet shortly after being seated, chef de cuisine Thierry Voisin, late of the multi-Michelin-starred Les Crayeres in Rheims, France (and a recent Metropolis interviewee), bounded over to our table in welcome. At Les Saisons, no visitor goes unnoticed.
Voisin recommended one of the higher-end lunch sets (¥10,000), and we put ourselves in his very capable hands. A deep-fried shrimp brochette with thyme was so tender that we had to ask if it weren’t actually some kind of white-meat fish (à la carte, ¥6,000). An accompanying pumpkin bisque came served in a gourd, topped with heavy cream, orange powder and cinnamon—a medley of earthy autumn flavors. Slices of roast duck were thick and chewy, along with a foie gras-topped crouton that was like some exquisite finger food and a spinach-wrapped duck meatball that was moist and savory (¥7,800). A large sea scallop came beautifully presented in a shallow bowl ringed with broccoli mousse, topped with caviar, and nestled in a shellfish soup (¥8,500). Dessert was a to-die-for warm chocolate cake with nougat ice cream and ginger crème brulee (¥2,500). On a previous visit, we sampled one of Voisin’s specialties: a generous cut of aromatic kitchen-smoked salmon and creamed potato with caviar (¥7,200). This is confident French fare that’s expressive of the chef’s individual style.