Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2008
Tokyo’s hotel restaurants are uniformly excellent, but only a few stand out as destinations in their own right. The Tapas Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Oriental is renowned for its avant-garde menu inspired by groundbreaking Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. Over in Shinjuku, the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar & Grill has enjoyed celebrity status ever since its star turn in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.
To this list we can now add Peter, the flagship restaurant of The Peninsula Tokyo. In a little over a year since opening, this sky-high eatery has established itself as a serious player on the Tokyo dining scene.
The red-carpet treatment starts in the lobby, where dedicated elevators whisk diners up to one of Tokyo’s most stunning rooms. A sloping walkway runs from the lifts past a bar area that has floor-to-ceiling windows and glittering chrome “trees”. Enveloped on three sides by glass, the spacious main dining area features semi-circular banquettes, date-friendly bench seats, and a wall-length video screen. The entire space, tinted in rich purple hues, is prowled by hip young waitstaff.
Peter’s kitchen is headed up by Patrice Martineau, formerly chef de cuisine at Daniel Boulud’s iconic Manhattan restaurant, Daniel. In his new digs, the French-born Martineau has crafted an innovative menu that pays homage to classic European cooking while playfully stretching the boundaries of fine dining.
During a recent Friday dinner, that sensibility emerged in the form of an amuse bouche which seemed more like a science project than an appetizer. The “Chef’s Organic Garden” was served in a glass terrarium with vegetables sprouting out of a “soil” made up of salt and toasted breadcrumbs. A similarly offbeat spirit imbued a mid-summer lunch of chicken a la provençale, which came with strips of gelatin “tagliatelle.”
That dish and a handful of others are flagged on Peter’s menu as “light and healthy,” but Martineau isn’t shy when it comes to heavier fare. Poached Brittany lobster with caviar, cream and housemade gnocchi is just as indulgent as it sounds, both intensely fishy and passionately rich. One of Martineau’s signature entrées, brisket of Sendai beef in red wine, is a dusky hunk of meat in a velvety sauce atop smoked purple potatoes. The chef’s deft touch with fish, meanwhile, can be found in dishes like shima aji sashimi with cucumber gazpacho, daikon crudités and a scoop of edamame flan.
The atmosphere at Peter is classy yet unstuffy, with BGM that ranges from acid jazz to French-language pop. For a hotel restaurant that offers upscale cuisine in stylish surrounds, prices are eminently reasonable: a three-course lunch goes for ¥4,800, and the five-course dinner tops out at just ¥12,000.
Like any French chef worth his salt, Martineau says he’ll soon be redesigning his menu to accommodate autumn mushrooms and game. We can’t wait; neither should you.