A Talk with Chef Kawate: Florilège Embarks on New Journey

Tokyo’s Michelin two-starred restaurant Florilège has been temporarily closed since this 20 July and will be moving to a new location. For many people, this would be a reluctant farewell to the delicious memories they have had here.

At one of the most beautiful counter-style seating restaurants, Chef Hiroyasu Kawate has earned two Michelin stars for his culinary prowess and Florilège was ranked number three on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. Florilège has created many unforgettable flavours for its diners and is a proud flagship in bringing French cuisine to Asia. I was lucky enough to dine here one last time before the restaurant moved. That day we booked out the entire restaurant for lunch and Chef Kawate created a special menu and wine pairing for us.

Wine pairing

Vegetables were still at the heart of the dishes at Florilège that day. Zucchini is topped with some baked almond slices, paired with aubergine purée and curry sauce made with zucchini purée. The zucchini is juicy and tender, and the almond slices add an extra crunch as well as some nutty flavour to the dish. The eggplant purée and curry sauce are smooth and silky, enhancing the sweetness of the zucchini. The rhubarb ice cream wrapped in fried squash blossoms and topped with strawberry powder was a surprise, but not at all out of place.

July is the season for Ayu (sweetfish). Here the fish bones are separated from the flesh and deep fried separately. It is presented inside a corn taco with perilla leaves. The ayu is tender and juicy, alongside refreshing perilla leaves and chewy corn taco. Every bite is full of multiple textures and flavours, finished off with a zippy drizzling of lemon juice. The fennel dish uses a seafood broth and is drizzled with some fennel green tea oil on top. The combination of fennel and umami abalone composes an elegant enjoyment.

Zucchini with eggplant purée and curry sauce / Fried zucchini flower with rhubarb ice-cream/ Sweetfish Taco

The beautiful chicory and black truffle is a warming dish. Chicory is marinated in white miso, steamed, peeled in slices, and sandwiched with black truffle slices. The sauce is made with tofu skin, which makes a warm and soothing dish.White turnip (daikon) is steamed to retain its original sweetness, then deep-fried for a crispy texture before being finally sprinkled with kombu powder, kombu oil, and garnished with watercress. The creamy clam béchamel with caviar ties the entire dish together, bringing the umami from the ocean and sweetness of the vegetables to another level. I never thought turnip could be made so rich and satisfying.

As a signature dish of the restaurant, duck is bathed constantly with its own fat to get a golden-brown exterior. Plated with beetroot sauce and asparagus, the sweetness from the vegetables elevates the umami of the duck with its fatty skin fusing perfectly with the sauce. The result is soft and juicy with a lingering aftertaste.

Duck with beetroot

First dessert is Miyazaki mango slices drizzled with velvety mango sauce. At the bottom there is coconut ice cream and on top is powdered milk using liquid nitrogen as the cryogen. The finale is a regular item on the menu featuring Amazonian cacao beans. Inside the omelette is silky, bittersweet dark chocolate lava, coupled with whipped cream, crushed cacao and a dash of espresso to balance out the bitterness of the chocolate.

Mango with coconut ice-cream/Amazon cacao omelette

I sat next to Chef Kawate at the counter and we talked a lot about his decision and future plans. “Deep down, I have always been thinking about creating a restaurant with a long dining table,” there was nostalgia in his voice, “Initially, I wanted to open a restaurant with that kind of ambiance. However, due to various reasons, I couldn’t make it happen, so the current restaurant design is the second choice.”

However, even as a second choice, Chef Hiroyasu Kawate has not given up his dedication to his dream. “Even while working in the current restaurant, I have been constantly pondering about this idea: a restaurant with a French-style, long wooden dining table,” his expression was somehow blue, as if he were remembering the old days, “The timing is just right, and it perfectly aligns with my vision. Everything seems to be in perfect harmony, which has led me to decide to relocate.”

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate

Sounding a bit sentimental, he says the decision to relocate isn’t that he is bored with the current operation, but he has new goals in mind. “I have new ideas and goals and I want to step onto a new platform.” He choked up a little over the sadness of having to leave the place where he had spent many years cultivating. “But if I want to pursue new goals and make new attempts, sticking to the status quo becomes difficult. I don’t open this restaurant to win awards, but to make our guests happy. I hope our guests can experience a new concept through our cuisine. All this needs to be achieved by constantly making changes. Although there is a lot to be missed, I still want to work towards my new goals.”

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate and the Author

Chef Hiroyasu Kawate’s decision is not a simple farewell, but a determined pursuit of his vision. The next iteration of Florilège will replace the counter with one communal table. Let’s look forward to a brand new journey for Florilège.
*The new Florilege restaurant is EXPECTED to open at the end of September.

Author: Jocelyn 华姐

Photo: Katherine Gu

Share your love
Jocelyn Chen
Jocelyn Chen
Articles: 329

Subscribe Newsletter

Stay tuned with us.

Please fill up your information.