Nothing beats a great dessert at the end of a memorable meal — and never more so than when you’re out for a yearend splurge. Many high-end restaurants offer double the pleasure, laying on two sweet courses, or even three if you count the chocolates and other tidbits served with your coffee.
But the biggest indulgence of all has to be the dessert trolley. Wheeled to your tableside, its every surface crammed with temptation, this gives double-barreled pleasure. First you feast your eyes, as you make that difficult decision; then anticipation turns to satiation, as you finally get to taste your selection.
And then there are the restaurants where you don’t even have to hold back on your choices. Here are two of the best pick-as-much-dessert-as-you-like places that I’ve visited in Tokyo this year.
After 12 years, Faro (03-3372-3911; faro.shiseido.co.jp) has become a Tokyo institution, and with every good reason. Ensconced at the top of the ever-stylish Shiseido Building, you look out over the rooftops above the main Ginza thoroughfare, with sunlight flooding in at lunchtime and winking neon in the evening.
The furnishing is comfortably plush; the service is impeccably polished; and the modern Italian cuisine is reliably excellent. But for a large percentage of the clientele — and they are predominantly female, especially at lunchtime — the highlight of any meal (from ¥3,080) is the final course.
Carefully wheeled across the room, the trolley is an old-school classic, with panels of polished wood and dainty brass railings. But it’s not the design that catches your eye: it’s the array of puddings, tarts and colorful gateaux stacked on top.
At the lighter end of the scale you will find custard pudding topped with nice, sharp butterscotch sauce, fresh fruit with panna cotta — in early summer I was served perfectly ripe passion fruit — and great tiramisu. You’ll also find moist sponges, rich chocolate tortes and a beautifully boozy rum baba.
If you’ve eaten too much pasta (and that would be quite understandable), you can simply ask for gelati. But the regular customers know better: The reward for pacing yourself is that you get to pick as many of those desserts as can fit on a single plate.
Over in Minami-Aoyama, chef Yoshihiro Narisawa has been celebrating the 10th anniversary of his sleek eponymous restaurant (Narisawa: 03-5785-0799; www.narisawa-yoshihiro.com). These days it needs little introduction, with gastronomes and gourmets converging from around the world for his brilliant, innovative cuisine. (Meals from ¥12,600.)
They come to taste his most famous dishes, such as Woodland Essence, Okinawan sea-snake broth, charcoal-encrusted oysters or beef, moss butter and his signature soil soup. His desserts may not be trumpeted quite so loud, but they are every bit as creative and beautiful.
And then, when you think that’s it, the trolley emerges, laden with pastries and chocolates. There are dozens of them, from golden-brown cannelets to delicate confections of fruit and nuts. Particularly impressive is the display of macarons, ranging in color and flavor from near-white to dark-brown 80 percent chocolate.
Pick out half a dozen, 10 or even 12. No need to be shy: The only limit is going to be your wilting appetite. But at the end of a memorable, sometimes challenging three-hour feast, this will be your final taste of dining chez Narisawa.