After six months of COVID-19 restrictions banning the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants in many parts of the country, Japan has lifted the national state of emergency. On October 1, restaurants in the capital that chose to remain closed during the state of emergency reopened for the first time since April, and Tokyoites toasted the return of wine with dinner.
After going through a series of unsatisfying tea and mocktail pairing experiences this year, the news put me in a festive mood. Of course, such an occasion calls for Champagne. There is something about the effervescence of its bubbles – the way the golden liquid sparkles in the light – that is inherently uplifting.
In the world of drinks, the festive and convivial aura of Champagne is unparalleled. Its grandeur is exacerbated when the drink makes its debut on a classic champagne cart filled with several varieties cooling in an ice-cold bucket surrounded by crystal flutes. It’s a rare sight these days – even in Tokyo – but I’m excited to find it at Sezanne, who debuted inside the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo in Marunouchi earlier this summer.
âIt’s the best way to welcome someone,â says Executive Chef Daniel Calvert. âFrom my experience of dining at three-star restaurants in France, my first thought has always been, ‘I can’t wait for them to pull out the champagne cart.’ “
Hoping to capture this sense of anticipation, Calvert decided from the start to make champagne – presented with flair on a beautiful Christofle car – a central part of Sezanne’s hospitality. In fact, the name of the restaurant refers to a medieval town in the Champagne region of France.
âWe want every meal here to be a special occasion,â he explains. âSome people may be afraid to order champagne off a list, but being able to chat with the sommelier and choose from a few bottles right in front of you can make it more accessible. We would like to reach out to people, especially the younger ones, who have never thought of coming to the Four Seasons for a glass of champagne, and that they feel welcome.
When I enter Sezanne for lunch on October 1, the Champagne wagon is already doing the tour. Today’s program includes a magnum of Henriot Blanc de Blancs, Billecart-Salmon Brut RosÃ© and Krug Grande CuvÃ©e 168th Edition, as well as âLes PierriÃ¨resâ Blanc de Blancs from Ulysse Collin. Artisanal producer of âChampagne Producteurâ, Collin cultivates the grapes used for his Champagne in vines near the town of Sezanne, and trained under the legendary producer Jacques Selosse. In the future, Calvert also plans to add vintage sparklers.
With its beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity and minerality, Champagne goes well with almost all types of food, but has a particular affinity for Calvert cuisine. The fresh and floral Henriot completes the opening bites – radishes dipped in a butter sauce flavored with tarragon and a GougÃ¨re choux pastry filled with Comte matured for 48 months – while Ulysse Collin accompanies Meyer marinated in lemon ikura Hokkaido salmon roe with cucumbers and potato vichyssoise with horseradish.
The association demonstrates the synergistic effect of a perfect accord: the pronounced citrus and saline notes of Champagne plump up the flavors of lemon and salmon roe, while the smoky vichyssoise brings out a fruity character of the wine. At the end of the meal, a glass of Krug Grande CuvÃ©e, with a lively intensity and notes of pastry almonds mixed with lemon sorbet, harmonizes with the elegant variation of Calvert on a Mont Blanc with chestnuts.
Other dishes are judiciously accompanied by still wines by sommelier Nobuhide Otsuka. He serves Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Les Clous with matsutake mushrooms and scallops dumplings, and presents the 2015 Blueberry-scented Domaine du Gros’ Nore Bandol Rouge with a layered dish of Pacific saury, caramelized onions and parsley sauce – a surprising and stunning pairing that debunks the belief that red wine is clashes with oily fish.
When it was time to leave, I tasted all the champagnes on the cart, except one: the Billecart-Salmon Brut RosÃ©. It gives me another excuse to come back to SÃ©zanne, which is certainly a reason to celebrate.
This month, Sezanne will launch his Champagne salon, serving bubbles with canapes or desserts in the afternoon and evening. Maison Marunouchi, Sezanne’s more casual sister restaurant, will offer a 90-minute free-flow Duval-Leroy with canapes every day from 5 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. for 15 180 (taxes and service included).
In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, concert halls and other public spaces.
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