Last time at AMAN Tokyo, the gal was only aware of the sensation of rising in an elevator – yes, an Aman with a lift!) – up to the 33rd floor lobby of the Otemachi Tower. There you emerge into the football field-sized wood, light and back-lit semi-translucent washi paper ‘balloon’ that is the lobby. And there, many people stay put, just revelling in Kerry Hill‘s soothing and Asian-minimalism design. This visit, however, was down at ground level. This very week AMAN Tokyo is revealing its new-look, tweaked-menu Café, a French brasserie with oodles of Japanese appeal. Before they applied reservations, lines to get a table could be a hundred long and, last summer, servers offered complimentary water bottles to those waiting in boiling temperatures to get in.
Now, with reservations, that uncertainty seems to have been overcome. You can sit up at a counter, watching the young and highly skilled team produce, from scratch, salmon and avocado crèpes, as above. You can sit at normal-height tables, looking out at gardens both sides of the glass-walled restaurant. And, when the weather allows, you can actually sit outside, so rare in central Tokyo – cashmere throws and Bordeaux burners are at the ready. The ideal snack here in the Café could be a crèpe with a glass of Duval Leroy Champagne. It seems that label’s ambassador in Japan, Anthony Deville, is doing a hot job in putting it on the cognoscenti map: this is one of the few 100% family-owned Champagne houses, now headed by Carol Duval-Leroy. It sounds as if this is a Champagne I should add to my radar.
Japanese really want to know where everything they eat, and drink, comes from, says AMAN Tokyo‘s food guru, Gérard Eady, a Sydneysider who has lived in Japan for 22 years. The few imported items throughout the hotel are Italian specialties, say burrata and Parmesan, plus coffee, lobster and salmon – from Norway, mostly – and of course wine. Look at this bijou presentation of afternoon tea, here in the Café – and see the video, below. The scones are made here, the jams are specially produced at Tani Farm in Wakayama, and the clotted cream is from Hokkaido, which also supplies the best butter. Cows in Hokkaido must have specially luscious grass, methinks.
Here is a tip for those planning a visit to lovely Tokyo over New Year. All outside restaurants are closed from December 31st through to, and including, January 3rd – which means you might need reservations in any hotel eating place. AMAN Tokyo has, by the way, had the good luck to entice two new foodies within the last year, not only Gérard Eady but also his colleague and GM Marc Handl (now there is a Tokyo brand if ever there was one, his father Richard Handl ran Tokyo Hilton in Shinjuku for many years). Between them, the pair are fine-tuning both restaurants. This Café is, despite the very-English afternoon tea, modern-French casual, while upstairs, on the 33rd floor of this luxury hotel, The Restaurant is evolving into pure, unadulterated Italian – though of course if you want a hamburger or udon noodles you can be sure they will not say No.