Tableaux is a familiar name to many long-term residents in Tokyo. Nestled into a beautiful grotto that makes up the basement of Sunroser Building in Daikanyama, the decades-old restaurant has, through the years, become a staple in the constantly evolving realm of Tokyo’s restaurants. Metropolis was invited to Tableaux to experience the latest menu created by its new American chef, Rachel Dow. It was impossible to resist the invitation, curiosity piqued to no end by the “New American” cuisine that would be served.
The warmly-lit space helped guests settle into their seats, the music playing not too loudly, but ensuring that no moment would pass in silence. The walls, painted in various warm hues, reflected the energy that buzzed around the room.
As we waited for our appetizers to arrive we indulged in the restaurant’s signature cocktails. The plum cloud is a sweet and tangy umeshu sour, capped with a thick foam that provides relief while acting as a foil to the strong flavors beneath. A milder option is the champagne fruits cocktail, which carries whispers of various fruity flavors and manages to commit to none, its airy element suggestively compelling diners to take another sip, and another as the palate tries to make a conviction.
You’ll find that some of the dishes here may not strike you as “American” in any sense. The first appetizer served was a rich and creamy chicken liver mousse, served with strawberry jam and biscuits that were textured more like scones. The combination of buttery bread, strawberry jam and light (but not fluffy) liver was at once comforting and titillating. This was followed by equally adventurous dishes — prosciutto-wrapped white asparagus, grilled mushroom with gorgonzola and homemade sausage. The yasashi (mild) sausage is aromatic and so consistent in its texture it is practically creamy. It is very well complemented by the mustard and potato salad with which it is served.
The main courses will strike you as more American. What is sure to be a fail-safe choice is the beef patty melt, which is simple and precise in its objective — to comfort. The brisket, perhaps a better-known American dish, is perfectly smokey and just a little bit spicy. In place of the beans the beef is usually paired with, a rich dal is served. Combined, the two create a smorgasbord of flavors that intermingle and collide wonderfully. Again, each dish served brought a small twist with it — the duck breast, sweet potato puree and zesty cranberry and umeboshi sauce; the delicious Australian lamb, refreshing sage ricotta and Parisienne gnocchi.
What is most evident about this menu is that it is singular — rather than calling it “New American,” it might be called “Globalised American,” with its curator and chef, Dow, being the only person in the world who could create this exact menu. It is entirely original and sure to pleasantly surprise you at every step and corner. End your evening at the next door Tableaux Lounge, which plays beautiful live jazz and offers cigars for you to enjoy in the more cocooned seating and darker light. The bar is the perfect setting from which to reflect on the impressive Tableaux experience.