I cannot tell a lie. This photo has nothing to do with restaurant L’embellir. Well… apart from being in my line of sight whilst I waited nearby for friend Mayumi with whom I was having lunch. I just liked it and thought I’d share – that’s the kinda gal I am. Just as striking was Mayumi-san when she arrived dressed in Kimono as she often does for a ladies’ lunch.
I love French food and am always on the lookout for new places when I’m in Japan as the Japanese tend to do French cuisine so very well. Francophiles the lot of ’em. Slight exaggeration but you get my drift – and Kyoto is sister city to Paris so you know.. when in Kyoto… One does need a wee break from Japanese food when you spend a lot of time in Japan. L’embellir is a sister restaurant to the original in Tokyo.
It was a pleasant experience, if a little formal service-wize for me, in an attractive, light-filled room just next to the south exit of Yasaka Shrine – it really helps to know this last fact as it took me some time to find the place using Google maps.
So, for your info, if you are facing the Shrine gate – it is on your right hand side (East) in a lovely traditional building which has been beautifully refurbished.
The food is contemporary ‘French’ and although it all looked very impressive it didn’t really blow me away. It was around the $50 or $60 mark for lunch and to pay that kind of dosh in Kyoto – well the meal needs to be pretty spesh. I know it isn’t expensive in Australia but in Kyoto – believe me – there are $30 and $4o lunches to be had which will knock your socks off.
To my mind it just didn’t quite cut it. But it may very much appeal to others which is why I’m posting it anyway. It is certainly not a bad experience – there are simply alternatives I might choose before this.
On the up side it is in a fantastic position for stopping off between the sights of Higashiyama, the food is good, the service very attentive ( I know some people really enjoy being thoroughly looked after from the minute they walk through the door – I just like to feel a bit more relaxed when I eat so for me it was almost too attentive…) and the room is quite ethereal in atmosphere.
The egg above was mixed with turtle stock and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on but had a maple syrup sweetness – and in my opinion a little too much so.
The next dish was rather impressive when brought to the table – white and red turnips cooked in a salt bed (mixed with green herbs I believe). It was quickly whisked away so they could bring them back as peeled ‘neeps which they served with Jambon and, curiously – some pan fried shirako (fish sperm) – which I normally love, I just don’t think it did anything for the dish.
The smoked butter with homemade bread was great.
There was a choice between fish and pork for main and I clearly chose the pork ‘chop’ – grilled to perfection – with boudin noir and pork shoulder in dukkah, and a mille feuille of crab and cabbage… do you see how it might not have been gelling for me? Each item on the plate was executed well but the dish in its entirety just didn’t mesh. It was like I went to the buffet and put lots of nice things on my plate because I couldn’t be bothered going back again but then wished I’d eaten them separately. A bit confused.
I did however very much enjoy the dessert course – pear compote, mascarpone cream, cassis and milk sorbet – light and refreshing. Hit the mark.
And the tea service presentation was completely charming in a quirky way
Anyhoo – if you get there yourself I’d love to know what you think. Enjoy!