A sleighload of ways to savor the taste of Christmas

by Nicholas Coldicott

Only 1 percent of Japan is Christian. Luckily the rest of the country is happy to pilfer the fun parts of a jolly old festival season. So whether you’re celebrating the prophet or the presents, and whether Christmas means eggnog, panettone or foie gras, Japan’s chefs have cooked up some delectable holiday menus.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

European restaurant Girandole proves it’s more than just the second-fiddle eatery at the Park Hyatt Tokyo with a dazzling six-course Christmas menu incorporating a main dish of Japanese Beef Wellington with foie gras butter, morel cream and truffle sauce, as well as a king crab and winter vegetable terrine, and a bouillabaisse with deep-fried rock fish. Just down the corridor at the Peak Bar, a more casual four-course Christmas special includes milk-fed veal in a sage sauce, and a chestnut pudding.

Park Hyatt Tokyo 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo; Dec. 21-25. Girandole: ¥17,000; (03) 5323-3459. Peak Bar: ¥9,500; (03) 5323-3461

Le Pont de Ciel

Snail casserole might not be classic Christmas grub, but Osaka’s fancy French restaurant Pont de Ciel is offering it along with half a dozen other fine-dining dishes for a sumptuous Bonne Noel menu.

In the basement, sister outlet Sagan also has a festive menu, with dishes such as “marriage of fresh fish and onsen egg” and “yuzu mochi in squid ink.” Mais, oui!

6-9 Kita Hamahigashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka. Le Pont de Ciel: Dec. 14-25; ¥23,100; (06) 6947-0888. Sagan: Dec. 22-25; ¥12,600; (06) 6947-0789

Elio Locanda

Trust the Italians to teach us about feasting. Christmas at Elio’s will be a 10-course affair featuring Aragosta del Golfo (roasted wild lobster), wagyu in a light basil sauce, homemade agnalotti pasta stuffed with duck and truffles, and a panettone Italian Christmas cake. Owner Elio Orsawa hails from a town on the toe of Italy, and his southern fare draws Tokyo’s Italian set, so expect a boisterous meal.

2-5-2 Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; Dec. 20-25; ¥6,825; (03) 3239-6771

The Meguro Tavern

Tokyo’s homesick Brits should head for the Meguro Tavern, where the Christmas Day feast is as authentic as it gets. From turkey and Brussels sprouts in tarragon gravy to homemade mince pies, a cheese, fruit and nut board and a glass of port, this is the Christmas dinner your family could never be bothered to make. It’s also one of the few meals in town offering the choice between eggnog and champagne.

2F, 1-3-28, Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo; Dec. 25, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; ¥5,000; (03) 3779-0280

Peter (Peninsula Tokyo)

The 24th-floor Peter offers views into the Imperial gardens to accompany a five- or seven-course feast of foie gras-stuffed squab, traditional English Christmas pudding with brandied Creme Anglais, and “King of Cheeses” Brie de Meaux stuffed with goat’s cheese and black truffles.

Peninsula Tokyo 24F, 1-8-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; Dec. 21-25; ¥20,000 or ¥26,000; (03) 6270-2763

KFC

There’s a jolly fellow with a snow-white beard who brings you treats each Yuletide. His name is Colonel Sanders, and he’s persuaded Japan that nothing says Christmas like a bucket of chicken bits. The KFC Christmas is now so popular that you’ll need to order your food several days in advance. Festive options this year include the Party Barrel (¥3,980), with 13 pieces of poultry (one for each disciple), chocolate cake and “Christmas salad,” or the Premium Roast (¥5,250) — a whole roast chicken, stuffed with Parmesan and mushroom, and sold with cake and party plates.

Branches nationwide; (0120) 197-074