Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2010

Courtesy of Hortensia

If we ever strike it rich, we’re hiring Tetsuji Koga as our personal chef. He’s that good. A veteran of the well-regarded Breeze of Tokyo and the two-Michelin-starred Edition Koji Shimomura, Koga has struck out on his own at Hortensia, an elegant Azabu-Juban French restaurant that places a welcome focus on the customer.

Crowd-pleasing touches include an absence of service charges and a monthly kids day, when the tots are welcome for a fine-dining experience. After 9pm, the space morphs into a wine bar, with sommelier Kazuto Chiba offering an interesting selection of “bridge wines” (see wine guy). But we’re most grateful for the lunch, when ¥4,775 buys a choice of any four dishes from the menu of appetizers, entrées and desserts. Fancy a quartet of mains? Go for it. Have a hankering for an app and a trio of desserts? They’re all yours.

No matter what you choose, you’re bound to be pleased (and, at these prices, you’d better be). For autumn, Koga is serving an intense seafood bisque with watari crab flan and milk froth, and roasted Ezo venison with pumpkin puree and cassis. The mousse-like boudin noir (blood sausage), prepared two ways—a mainstay of both the dinner and lunch menus—is spiced up with swaths of apple puree and slivers of fruit. The seafood dishes shine, especially sea eel with a curry-scented beurre blanc, and champagne-steamed halibut with creamed mussels and cauliflower. Koga’s seasonally attuned cooking is nuanced but not effete, and the selection of oven-fresh rolls with whipped butter is nearly worth a trip in itself.

Hortensia’s narrow dining room, enlivened by flower arrangements, features lots of wood, stone and properly sober linens and flatware. The bilingual servers are affable, though maybe too much so—during a recent slow lunch service, they hovered annoyingly. Take along a couple of friends and tune them out.