– Travel Food & Wine
Florilège is the French word for an anthology, or a collection of poems, writing or songs.
About Chef: Hiroyasu Kawate
Born in Tokyo in 1978, Hiroyasu Kawate is an extremely personable chef who sees his role as owner extending far beyond his restaurant space into sharing the appeal of Japanese style and ingredients with the world. Kawate was born into the restaurant business. With a Chef father who ran a western-style restaurant, his sights were set on that career path from an extremely early age.
After graduating from the food science department of a Tokyo high school, Kawate commenced his Chef training at the QED Club in Ebisu and Ohara et Cie in Nishi-Azabu. After taking on the Sous Chef role at the popular Le Bourguignon, he took off for France in 2006, polishing his skills for a full year at the three-star Michelin Jardin des Sens in Montpellier. His return to Japan saw him standing in the kitchen of the highly-acclaimed, three-star Michelin Quintessence as Sous Chef, but before long he went independent with Florilège in 2009. His knowledge for aromas, flavors and beverage pairings has been cultivated over many years and accentuated through his sommelier certification and experience from his early twenties working at a shochu Japanese distilled spirit specialty bar.
Florilège serves as a stage for the Japanese culinary ambassador and leader of French cuisine in Tokyo, Chef Hiroyasu Kawate’s imaginative modern French cooking. The food served combines the exquisite styles and techniques of French cuisine with the freshest Japanese produce and ingredients. Dishes express Japan’s bountiful seasons as with many popular Tokyo restaurants, but each demonstrates wonderful originality and presentation that cannot be found elsewhere. Chef Hiroyasu plays with temperature and texture and isn’t afraid to combine produce sourced from France with Japanese ingredients. The restaurant is a collection of respect and passion by the producers and chefs, and also warm support by others. Through this use of sustainable ingredients as well as through reducing food waste, Chef Kawate also aims to support local farmers and producers who are producing superior quality products. This restaurant, “The second chapter of Florilège” was opened with a desire to make customers happy through the experience of expertly crafted meals. Every plate is a stunning display of culinary artistry wowing guests in both presentation and flavor.
The interior of Florilège is a small 22-seater restaurant with 16 seats at the counter in a bold and theatrical Chef’s Table style. The large, U-shaped counter creates a theatre-like unity between the kitchen and the diners that allows for wonderful communication between the Chef and his guests: the Chef talks directly with guests about the inspiration behind each dish and the producers who made it all possible, leaving the service staff to take care of all the guests’ needs. All the food is prepared in full view of the diners in the huge open kitchen, with 6 seats in a private dining room beyond the glassware cabinets.
The counters and walls are the colours of ash and charcoal, the carpets lava red. The plants in the open kitchen seem startlingly green, beacons of brightness in an otherwise dimly lit room.
The menu is omakase style French-Japanese fusion cuisine and varies with the seasonality of the ingredients and changes every two months. There are 11 thoughts into each dish. Florilège Chefs deliver meals to each customer, so that the customer knows the background of the ingredients, seasonal aspects of the meal, and Japanese food culture. The Chefs bring out the best in the ingredients from Mother Nature or various producers. Mastering all the techniques of both traditional and innovative French gastronomy, the finishing touches that set Florilège apart are the result of Chef Kawate’s fine-tuned sensibilities. While the ingredients play an essential role, each dish carries an important message and is driven by a concept. Guests are intended not simply to taste the cuisine but to experience it. Concern about sustainability, for example, led to the owner-Chef offering a dish prepared from the beef of cows that have given birth. The meals are made with a variety of sophisticated techniques and presented in beautiful Japanese plates and bowls. Must-try dishes include the hazelnut meringue and foie gras as well as manjū dumplings stuffed with pigeon and simmered in port wine.
The creativity extends well beyond cuisine into drinks. The wine list is mainly French, with a few pages reserved for Japanese wines. Diners can also go for an alternative pairing which features herbal cocktails, infusions of spirits and beer, and even smoked wine.
The restaurant won last year’s One to Watch Award and has now made its debut on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, proof of its ever-growing popularity.