Michelin-starred restaurant “Ode” in Hiroo is paving a new path of gastronomical experience in Japan. Meaning "a lyrical poem" in Latin, you can expect a culinary journey that is both playful and passionate from this Tokyo-based French restaurant. Proudly placed in Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants as well as Tokyo Michelin 2020; this gives you an insight into the originality and creativity of the immersive story Ode tells.
Owner and head chef Yusuke Namai’s dining concept pays homage to traditional French techniques, using carefully curated Japanese ingredients served in a classic omakase style. His team is made up of culinary artists who work harmoniously alongside one another to produce Ode’s ingenious menu. Notably, Namai himself serves up selected dishes, adding a personal touch to this intimate dining experience.
The interior is sleek, sophisticated, and welcoming. A monochromatic hue is used across the whole space, including the open kitchen, allowing the dishes and service to shine within it. The gray colorway even runs through some of Ode’s signature dishes, including the anchovy meringue with wagyu and avocado, keeping true to their storytelling concept.
So how is dining out during a pandemic any different from before? Besides the temperature checks, plastic partitions, and masks that we have all become so used to, many restaurants are putting in the work to make sure memorable moments are not lost. Venues have been encouraged to think creatively: redesigning seating plans, offering takeout, and staggering their service hours to reduce guests while maintaining the highest standard.
The essence of a cozy, intimate meal may have seemed to have fallen to the wayside but Ode still provides that memorable experience you hope for from a Michelin star restaurant. The spacious countertop seating keeps you right in the action, with two private rooms for something more secluded; and considering the alcohol ban on restaurants in Tokyo, they have evolved their menu with non-alcoholic drink options—a favorite of mine is the sparkling French rosé.
Here was the lineup for the omakase course at Ode during lunchtime.
As expected for the opening course at Ode, this dish had the most allure. It was brought to life through the hidden dome vessel surrounded by dry ice theatrics. A perfectly spheric orange ball lay atop of a plump purple cushion, served with a glass of warm Magao black pepper milk to compliment the flavors. The soft cacao butter shell was filled with sumptuous lobster bisque, eaten in one bite, and was a real burst of flavor.
I almost dropped mine as the shell was so delicate and melting to touch, so eat quick and savor the rich crustacean treat.
Light and crisp in texture, this petit amuse bouche was a welcomed dish after the rich opener. With familiar flavors of beetroot and apple laced with black olive, a hint of red wine, and a pinch of spice, such as cinnamon and cardamom, this bite was subtle but complex in flavor. The cylinder-shaped mouthful was dark in color and a beautiful contrast to the grey rock plate it lay on.
Ode’s signature dish and my favorite of the course. The presentation of this was mysterious: broken shards of grey meringue created a shell hiding the delights beneath. The meringue is made from the head and bones of anchovies giving a real punch of umami, combined with soft Miyazaki Ozaki beef tartare, creamy avocado, and salty sardines made this a real-showstopper. It was an elevated take on the classic surf and turf.
This dish was the underdog of the meal, surprisingly packed with the most flavor. I loved how this dish was prepared layer by layer in front of us, each component added meticulously to ensure precision and uniformity. The white carrot added sweetness and had the perfect amount of bite, the turmeric and coriander brought spiced herbaceous notes, finished with the fresh soft shrimp. A beautiful dish with fantastic flavor. Also served with freshly baked focaccia to soak up all of the delicious juices.
Simple yet elegant, this was by far the prettiest dish of the meal. Pops of vibrant green light up the plate from the mix of spring vegetables which include tenderstem broccoli and English peas. Paired with a generous sea bass fillet with crispy skin and flakey flesh and topped with an oyster spume making this dish an unbeatable classic.
The use of Nagano Chiyo phantom pork loin really shines through in this dish, with a deep flavor and the beautiful marbling of the meat adding a slight sweetness. The layered pistachio terrine adds great texture and the Niigata Kanzuri chili paste brings a subtle creeping heat, balanced out by the creamy cheese sauce. Minimal in presentation and packs a real depth of flavor.
Rich, decadent with a hint of spice - what more do you want from a dessert? The chocolate ganache covered a jellied orange jam, topped with fresh coconut shavings, and served with smooth ricotta cream. The best surprise of this dessert was the use of sansho pepper, which added a special aroma and a soft spiciness to round off this indulgent dish.
Just as we thought the course had come to an end, a glass box of fukinoto was presented to us. It wasn’t until I spotted the green butterbur miso macarons nestled into the plant that I knew it was edible, adding a playful sense of discovery and a fun way to end the meal. Served with a choice of house-brewed loose leaf tea - I opted for the red wine-infused tea and it was delicious.
Ode’s creativity shines through in the Tokyo food scene and it doesn’t go unmissed. The hospitality we received from Namai and his team was unmatchable and made this experience one to cherish and remember for a long time. Located in Hiroo, only a short train ride from Shibuya, Ode is a real gem of a restaurant. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion, visiting Tokyo for the first time, or looking for something a little different.