CILQ, French restaurant in Omotesando, Tokyo

Photo from CILQ, French restaurant in Omotesando, Tokyo

Review of CILQ

Text by Deryk Bliss

Is there a restaurant in Tokyo that better typifies “casual-elegant” than CILQ?

The latest venture from Kimihiko Araya Productions, CILQ sits tucked away down a quiet side-street in Tokyo’s trendy Omotesando neighbourhood and represents an attempt to uniquely re-interpret French cuisine through Japanese culinary sensibilities.

CILQ eschews the “see and be seen” atmosphere sometimes found at some of Tokyo’s trendier venues. As is the norm with Kimihiko Araya Productions, attention is paid to the smallest details. Colour schemes of dark brown and white dominate, music is played to encourage conversation not dominate it, flatware is stylish but also practical, plates shift in design with each offering from the kitchen-the better to highlight the delicious meal begin served. And of course, the expertly assembled wine list ready to perfectly compliment each dish.

All is overseen by friendly, professional, unobtrusive floor staff who calmly and quickly assist CILQ patrons but are also careful to allow diners to enjoy their meals without constant interruptions.

After mulling which lunch option to choose, restaurant manager Kotaro Araya was quick to assist me, recommending the Chef’s Special course. A short while later, the first of what proved to be seven very enjoyable courses arrived: perfectly seared yellowtail (buri) with pan fried bacon and spinach, perched above a small pool of beef jelly. Soon after, was tender pork with vegetable sauce puree , served with a lightly dressed salad and freshly baked rice flour roll.

Between dishes, Araya-san chatted about their philosophy, explaining “we source most of our ingredients here in Japan but, we’re not excessive about it. We look for the highest-quality ingredients that will suit our cuisine the best”.

As if on cue, pan-seared France-sourced foie-gras arrived accompanied on the plate by a sauce of Hokkaido sea-urchin and locally procured vegetables. “ We don’t tend to make dramatic changes to the menu” Araya-san continued. “We adjust our menu slightly to accommodate the season but we don’t change just for the sake of it”.

By this point, I was enjoying the creativity of what the CILQ kitchen was producing: seared sea-bass with dill, sliced daikon and soba-dashi sauce? Perfect. Crispy and light, it was wonderfully complimented by the flavour of the dashi sauce.

Then, a superb, and incredibly tender seared duck was served sitting atop beef compote with sautéed mushrooms, fresh leek and Italian parsley. Like the dishes that preceded it, completely delicious but also intriguing.

It occurred to me then that this is what had made this meal so memorable. Each course had a unique flavour, presentation and appeal but somehow still fit together into a larger whole, creating a genuine sense of excitement and anticiaption for what was coming next.

Rounding out a near perfect meal, for the first of two dessert courses we were treated to CILQ tiramisu. Light, cool and surrounded by a moat of freshly-made chilled coffee jelly, the chocolate and cream were not overpoweringly sweet or rich. This was soon followed by perfectly sized servings of strawberry mousse, ice cream macarons and homemade meringue drizzled with berry compote all perfectly matched by rich and smooth fresh brewed coffee.

CILQ is that rare find in Tokyo, familiar but distinct and located just off the beaten path enough to feel a world away from the bustling streets just outside its door.

CILQ is open everyday (03-6418-1199). Reservations are highly recommended (online reservations available). Smart-casual dress code applies. Please note that CILQ is a non-smoking venue. - Japan's Premier Shop Directory with maps and coupons

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