Ete is arguable one of the hardest reservations in the World to get. A restaurant with just one table that sits between 1 and 6 people which guarantees exclusivity. This also means that its hard to find people that have been there and therefore hard to talk to people about what to actually expect. This has given it a bit of a mythical status
The restaurant is with its 1 table naturally simple and therefore doesn’t give away a lot. What does give away a lot is Natsuko both greeting you by the door, poring you water as well as choosing the champagne you are going to drink. That’s when I knew that this was going to be a very personal experience where you would get to know Natsuko end to end.
That part was underscored already at the first dish. A sea urchin tartlet with a touch of curry to honor her roots from Hokkaido. A dish with such a nice balance of flavor and texture. A very simple and understated dish compared to what was to come.
What I did know about Natsuko before was that she is very inspired by fashion and just how visual she is was apparent with this next dish. Esticially super pleasing to the eye so we know that besides being inspired by fashion she also good taste and knows how to combine colors. You also don’t have to look at the dish for more than two seconds to know that she cares deeply about the details as she knows that’s its the details that actually makes the dish. The dish is very delicious with subtle flavors so her ability to build flavor is also a given. Lastly and most importantly she goes throug all of this because she cares deeply about her guest. Otherwise she would never go through all of this just for 6 people. Big ego chefs are not uncommon but its clear that for Natsuko its all the opposite. Its about the guest and not her.
She has two signature dishes and we were about to try the first one. A perfectly round and I do mean perfect brioche bread was brought to the table. Cutting it open steam was let out unveiling a thick crust with the inside being consist in look and texture end to end. Served with smoked butter I can honestly say that the best piece of bread I have ever had. The attention to detail is once again astonishing. The timing of the bread being finished just minutes prior to being served is not a coincidence. All of these small steps when summed up amount to an impressive experience.
For any good chef control of the main ingredients is an important issue and for Natsuko it’s no different. Hence this was going to be her own caviar where she had control of the amount of salt and when it was going to be added. Most chef I know put the caviar on display on top of the dish making it the center of attention. This in order to show to the world that they use expensive ingredients. She did the opposite as she put it in the bottom as to say that the main ingredient of this dish is the cauliflower crème served with its raw egg yolk ravioli. A dish of super nice delicate flavors and how I do admire her courage to not make caviar the main ingredients and at the same time use a substantial amount of it.
Tile fish is an ingredient I have never tried before this trip but for the two times that I had it I loved it. True to her attention to details the plates were places for all 4 guests at the same time, but the fish it self was served individually. The warm fish was placed in the bowl which sizzled with the contact of the crispy scales. The broth was made of white asparagus and naturally the fish bones.An absolutely delicious dish which where texture played a very important part but it was not only about that.
Sadly enough we would now move to the last main dish. Two pitviers were presented on a silver tray with matching colored leaves before being plated. Once plated the beautiful inside was displayed. Lobster with lobster soufflé and a lobster bisque. Naturally the craftsmanship that went into making this dish was impressive and the deep delicious flavors were equally so.
As it was strawberry season we would have simple but delicious strawberry sorbet. The timing of the dish was once again perfect. It was made when we were eating the main dish and therefore being served at its very peak of deliciousness. The quenelle was placed upon a block of transparent plastic holding a perfectly preserved strawberry plant. Impressive.
It was however now time for the big finale. The signature mango cake. In came a massive tray filled with yellow roses and 4 perfect mango flowers in each their own little glassdome. Natsuko carefully took a select number of roses and placeded them around the table before placing the mango in front of us. A true breathtaking experience and we hadn’t even tasted the dish yet. The flavor was equally amazing as the presentation. The mango was sweet, slightly acidic and ever so pure and soft in texture. It was served with an extremely light and fluffy coconut crème and small dices of shortcake for crunch. Such an impressive ending that could only be this impressive with the right mix of ingredients, craftsmanship and attention to presentation.
Walking back from the restaurant I couldn’t help but think that wish she had a bigger restaurant so that more people would be able to have the same experience we had. However I quickly came to the conclusion that if the restaurant was bigger the experience would not at all be the same. All of this would not be possible in a big restaurant. The bread made to order at that exact time we would be ready, the strawberry sorbet being made as we were eating the main dish, the surprise when the mango dessert arrived. The mechanics of this simply gives too much for a complexity for any normal size restaurant.
Most importantly however is that the interaction with Natsuko is a big part of what made the experience. She wants to take care of you as a guest, she is proud of her work and wants control of the entire experience to guarantee that you get the experience as designed. Besides being an exceptional chef, she is an equally impressive host. An example of this was that I told her that one of my guest were big wine aficionados which she wanted to cater for finding a rare bottle of champagne from the 1980ties and and even older white burgundy. This would normally be saved for VIP celebrities at any other restaurant but at Ete everybody is a VIP.
I read a quote from another foodie “When eating at a restaurant you eat a small piece of the chefs heart. I therefore only eats at restaurants where the chef has a good heart”. Well Natsuko obviously has a good heart and a strong kind personality which her food represents. The restaurant is a perfect showcase for that and the vision she has for her restaurant.
With that all that there is left to say is that I cannot wait to return to get to know Natsuko even better. A true inspiration and a one of a kind experience that truly left me breathless.