Despite a tumultuous two years of pandemic-induced dining restrictions, the food scene is thriving with the arrival of a new wave of ambitious, young chefs bringing fresh perspective and international flair to the Japanese capital. British-born Daniel Calvert kicked off the trend with Sezanne, situated in an art-filled space inside the Four Seasons Marunouchi. In its first year, the venue has already racked up a string of accolades—including a Michelin star and the number 17 slot on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants—for impeccable signatures like a layered heirloom tomato tart with burrata cream and Calvert’s French riff on Shanghainese drunken chicken.
At Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, head chef Antonio Iacoviello interprets Japanese ingredients through the lens of Italian cuisine (think eggplant Parmigiana-meets-spaghetti aglio e olio, in a smoky dashi of fermented eggplant). Iacoviello’s dazzling presentations match the interior outfitted with antique mirrors and tables set with Gucci cups and plates. A few blocks away at Ginza Yuzan, Japanese-American chef Keiichiro Kurobe (of L.A.’s Hinoki and The Bird fame) offers a taste of California-style multiculturalism with dishes such as claypot-cooked arroz con pollo and egg-filled arancini with umami sauce. Virgilio Martinez’s brand-new Maz Tokyo, led by Santiago Fernandez, explores Peru’s diverse terrain and food culture in inventive combinations like iwana river fish topped with watermelon granita and coconut-herb sauce, and desserts that use every part of the cacao fruit—from the fermented and roasted rind to a sweet-and-tart jelly made from the pulp inside the pod.
Other notable additions include 3110NZ by LDH Kitchen, an art gallery-cum-sushi joint collaboration between gallery Nanzuka Underground and renowned Sushi Saito, set in a futuristic space with glowing recessed lighting cut into the white walls. At Nine by La Cime, chefs Yusuke Takada (of Osaka’s two-Michelin-starred La Cime) and Toru Tokushima create provocative, seafood-centric tasting menus, and Ippei Hanten a hidden six-seat counter devoted to Cantonese fine dining. After 9:00 p.m., the restaurant transforms into the more casual Ye Hong Kong, serving epic family-style feasts in two private rooms.
Looking to indulge your sweet tooth? Head to Azuki to Kouri, a stylish shaved ice spot specializing in fresh-fruit kakigori, or pick up one of Jerome Quilbeuf’s signature burnt Basque cheesecakes at the chef’s eponymous shop in Ginza’s new Exit Melsa. This summer, Quilbeuf will also roll out a second branch of his popular Spanish gastrobar, Gracia, in a larger space with terrace seating in Ichigaya.
Former World Barista Champion Hide Izaki creates “the ultimate coffee break” with rare specialty brews, bespoke Japanese ceramics, and seasonal sweets prepared by restaurant Narisawa at Cokuun, which launches in early autumn. The experience marries coffee culture with elements of traditional tea ceremony and takes place inside a pod-like tea room, shaped like an iron pot, with seats for four guests.
The past two years have seen expansion in Kyoto’s luxury hotel space, starting with Kengo Kuma’s lattice-covered Ace Hotel and the elegant Hotel the Mitsui, a 161-room property built on the grounds of the Mitsui family’s centuries-old former residence opposite Nijo Castle. The recently opened Shinmonzen in the historic Gion district blends the amenities of a Western boutique hotel with the hospitality and aesthetics of a traditional Japanese ryokan. Designed by Tadao Ando with interiors by Remi Tessier, the luxe nine-suite hotel features spacious rooms appointed with hinoki wood bath tubs and boasts an astounding collection of contemporary art. A restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten will launch in late autumn; in the meantime, staying guests can enjoy delightful dinners that make excellent use of organic produce from the mountains north of Kyoto, served in suite, and Provençal-inflected afternoon tea in the lounge overlooking the Shirakawa River.