Italian Dining in Tokyo with Bulgari Il Ristorante

Bulgari – the name is inseparable from the idea of luxury. Imagine a restaurant within a Bulgari jewelry store, and if you weren’t the kind of person who buys high-end necklaces, watches and bags on a monthly basis, you could be intimidated.

But at Il Ristorante in Bulgari’s flagship Ginza location, there is no need to fear – step into the elevator of the elegant tower designed by Antonio Citterio and you are greeted with the warmest of welcomes on the stylish ninth floor. With the kind of Italian hospitality that makes you feel as if you belong here, the staff of Bulgari’s restaurant make sure that your experience of Il Ristorante starts the moment you arrive.

And that extends to Luca Fantin, the lively Executive Chef who has created the restaurant’s uniquely contemporary Italian menu. Though still young, Fantin is a fast rising star who has been in the kitchen for a long time now.

“I started young, working at 13-years-old in a small restaurant in my home town, Treviso, before I even went to culinary school at I.P.S.S.A.R.,’’ he explains in the 10th floor lounge of Il Bar, when introducing his philosophy of cooking.

“Italian cooking nowadays can be broadly described as Mediterranean, with lots of vegetables that are cooked for a short amount of time. I don’t like crème or butter, so I don’t use it in my dishes, except for traditional pasta recipes, because the flavor is too strong.

Carciofo ripieno di riccotta, cus cus alla menta e pistacchi
Artichoke filled with ricotta cheese, mint cous cous and pistachio

Risotto al limone, erbe e ricci di mare 
Risotto, lemon and sea urchin

“When I cook in the restaurant, I do so as I would for myself – I think all good chefs are the same, in the kitchen, we always cook for ourselves. “

And that is great news for those that dine at Il Ristorante, because Fantin has great knowledge of food and how to present it. He has worked with Heinz Beck at the 3-star Michelin restaurant La Pergola in Rome and the 2-star Ryugin in Tokyo . How was working with the renowned Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin, a new entry this year on San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants list?

“He is a great, great, crazy man and a very good person. He has the most passion about food of anyone I have ever met,” says Fantin. “For Seiji, it’s always the kitchen, the kitchen, the kitchen! He doesn’t use salt ever. Instead, he marinates everything, and he has excellent techniques for fish, which result in the best possible of all possible cuts.”

A stint at the 2-star Akelarre in San Sebastian, Spain, also significantly molded his personal style.

Pesca sciroppata, gelatina alla menta e spuma di lamponi
Peach in syrup, mint gelatin and raspberry foam.

(Pesca Melba, a traditional Italian dessert presented in a dramatic new style – the peach is topped with a bubbling framboise sauce and served over mint jelly and lemon sherbet.

“The Spanish style of cooking has a very strong visual impact. Sometimes the appearance is even more important than the taste! Spanish chefs will pay great attention to the details of the dish on the plate,’’ says Fantin. “When I worked at Akelarre, there was a lot of natural beauty around us, so we would go into the mountains in the morning to pick herbs and flowers, and two hours later, they would be served on the plate. “

This is apparent in the dishes he serves later, additions to the menu that he will introduce to customers a week later for a 5,000 JPY lunch course: Carciofo ripieno di riccotta, cus cus alla menta e pistacchi (Italian artichoke stuffed with ricotta, zucchini and broccoli and served with pistachio crème and mint cous cous);

To craft the most authentic of Italian experiences, Fantin never replaces traditional Italians ones with All Japan newsese ingredients – twice a week the restaurant gets a shipment of supplies from Italy, such as Buffalo mozzarella – but does select from fresh All Japan newsese produce when it comes to meats, fish and vegetables. Sometimes, he even makes special requests of suppliers to capture exactly what he has in his mind for dishes.

“We are working now with a supplier of Hinai Jidori chicken to provide Bulgari with smaller birds,” Fantin says. “Usually Hinai Jidori weigh 5 kilograms, but we have asked them to breed the birds so that they are closer to 500 grams. This produces a softer, more tender meat. For this dish, we serve the chicken in different ways depending on the part, and pair it with fresh corn and red radish that is cooked in a sauce of vinegar and sugar.”

Could this become his signature dish?

“Well, I have only been here eight months and it’s difficult to have a signature dish in All Japan news – because here people love change. So it is hard to create one thing that lasts through all the seasons,” he laughs, clearly enjoying the challenge that presents him. “I change our lunch menu every two months and our dinner menu every three months, which is an immense amount of work. On Sundays, everyone is cooking for our new menus. This Sunday we are still making two new plates for the following week.”

“When I cook in the restaurant, I do so as I would for myself – I think all good chefs are the same, in the kitchen, we always cook for ourselves. “

And that is great news for those that dine at Il Ristorante, because Fantin has great knowledge of food and how to present it. He has worked with Heinz Beck at the 3-star Michelin restaurant La Pergola in Rome and the 2-star Ryugin in Tokyo . How was working with the renowned Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin, a new entry this year on San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurants list?

“He is a great, great, crazy man and a very good person. He has the most passion about food of anyone I have ever met,” says Fantin. “For Seiji, it’s always the kitchen, the kitchen, the kitchen! He doesn’t use salt ever. Instead, he marinates everything, and he has excellent techniques for fish, which result in the best possible of all possible cuts.”

A stint at the 2-star Akelarre in San Sebastian, Spain, also significantly molded his personal style.

“The Spanish style of cooking has a very strong visual impact. Sometimes the appearance is even more important than the taste! Spanish chefs will pay great attention to the details of the dish on the plate,’’ says Fantin. “When I worked at Akelarre, there was a lot of natural beauty around us, so we would go into the mountains in the morning to pick herbs and flowers, and two hours later, they would be served on the plate. “

This is apparent in the dishes he serves later, additions to the menu that he will introduce to customers a week later for a 5,000 JPY lunch course: Carciofo ripieno di riccotta, cus cus alla menta e pistacchi (Italian artichoke stuffed with ricotta, zucchini and broccoli and served with pistachio crème and mint cous cous);

Il Ristorante occupies the top four floors of the Bulgari Ginza Tower. Located at 2-7-12, Ginza, Chuo-ku, the Bulgari Ginza Tower is home to the largest Bulgari store in the world, with 940 square meters of retail floor space.

http://www.bulgarihotels.com/ 03-6362-0555


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