Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on August 2009

Courtesy of Peking

Courtesy of Peking

If you’re looking for an excuse to splurge on fine dining this summer, Tokyo has just the event for you. During the entire month of August, three of the city’s leading restaurants—and leading chefs—are teaming up with dozens of their overseas counterparts to help combat poverty.

The Miele Guide Restaurant Month is an Asia-wide extravaganza that sees 57 restaurants offering special set menus or other culinary promotions. Fifteen percent of the proceeds will be donated to the United Nation’s World Food Program, with monies being earmarked for projects in East Timor, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. In total, the organizers hope to raise $200,000.

Founded just last autumn, The Miele Guide is an annual publication dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Asia’s best chefs—a kind of Michelin Guide of the Orient. The inaugural edition listed 357 restaurants from Kuala Lumpur to Kyoto, and all the featured eateries were invited to participate in this month’s event.

“We wanted to bring together likeminded individuals to contribute back to society for something we all feel passionate about,” Miele Guide spokeswoman Priscilla Tan tells Metropolis. “We are heartened by the fact that many have showed tremendous support.”

Participating restaurants run the gamut from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, which serves the avant-garde cuisine of bad-boy chef Alvin Leung, to Bedik Bengil, a down-home Indonesian joint in Jakarta. Chefs in Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai are all taking part, representing a spectrum of cooking that’s as varied as the cuisine of Asia.

Yoshino: Courtesy of the Park Hotel Tokyo

Yoshino: Courtesy of the Park Hotel Tokyo

Here in Tokyo, the three participating restaurants—housed in a pair of the city’s most renowned hotels—show a similar diversity. Michelin-starred kaiseki eatery Hanasanshou in Shiodome sources its vegetables from a Kyoto farming family that’s been in business for 400 years. Also in the Park Hotel Tokyo, celebrated chef Tateru Yoshino’s eponymous eatery brings the classic French cooking of his Michelin-starred Paris restaurant, Stella Maris, back home to Japan. In Hibiya, the Imperial Hotel’s Peking restaurant (above left), headed by chef Masashi Komine, specializes in cuisine from the “imperial court of the Ming Dynasty.”

Each of these chefs have embraced the charity event with gusto, lending their talents to the cause with seasonally inflected menus. “I thought this was an amazing idea,” says Takada of Hanasanshou, who created an eight-course dinner featuring the likes of bluefin tuna toro, early matsutake mushrooms and roasted trout (¥10,000). “The fact that there’s such an event and that I was asked to participate in it, helping people by doing what I do best—what could be better than that?”

At Peking, chef Komine offers up a mid-summer dish that’s available at both lunch and dinner: chilled Chinese-style soba noodles in an original broth of sesame and coconut (¥4,620). “Whether people choose to eat this dish because it’s for charity or just because they like it doesn’t make a difference,” he tells Metropolis. “I hope either way that this will give people a chance to think about charity.”

Aficionados of haute cuisine will be most excited about the participation of Yoshino (left), the son of Kagoshima farmers who traveled to France at age 18 and apprenticed with the likes of Joel Robuchon and Michel Troisgros. After being awarded a Michelin star for Stella Maris in 2006, Yoshino became a celebrity in his homeland, and his resplendent eatery in the Park Hotel Tokyo is now a mecca for local foodies. (The chef’s first Tokyo restaurant, in the Shiba Park Hotel, has also earned a Michelin star).

For the Miele Guide Restaurant Month, Yoshino has created a full-course dinner with dishes like crab and tomato farcie with green-pepper jelly; sautéed foie gras with “red fruits”; “Stella Maris”-style lightly smoked salmon; and main dishes of grilled Japanese beef with tarragon or lamb en croute with rock salt (¥12,600).

“We strive to take part in various charity events, like Medicins du Monde, every year,” Yoshino writes in an email. “I’m really happy to be able to take part in a good cause such as this through my cooking.”

Hanasanshou: 25F Park Hotel Tokyo, 1-7-1 Higashi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6252-1156. Open daily 11:30am-2pm and 5:30-9pm. Nearest stn: Shiodome. www.parkhoteltokyo.com

Peking: Imperial Hotel Tokyo, Tower Bldg B1, 1-1-1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3503-8251. Open daily 11:30am-9:30pm. www.teikoku-peking.jp

Restaurant Tateru Yoshino Shiodome: 25F Park Hotel Tokyo, 1-7-1 Higashi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-6252-1156. Open daily 6-9pm. Nearest stn: Shiodome. www.tateruyoshino.com

For more information about The Miele Guide Restaurant Month, see http://mieleguide.com.