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Les Chanterelles

Set well away from the razzle and bright lights of the inner city in residential Moto-Yoyogi, Les Chanterelles has a relaxed neighborhood feel. The scale is intimate (just 16 seats), but the look and the lighting are plenty stylish enough for a serious night out, whether for a date or a celebratory dinner. Most important of all, though, owner-chef Yusuke Nakada’s food is fabulous.

That will come as no surprise to anyone who ever tasted his cooking during his seven-year tenure at L’Artemis in Harajuku, especially in the early days (as extolled in this column in 2006). But now that he’s his own boss — working virtually solo in the kitchen — Nakada is finally free to spread his wings much wider and show us what he’s capable of.

He’s now able to draw far more extensively on his experience at some of the top kitchens in France. For two years before returning to Japan, he worked alongside Regis Marcon, whose restaurant deep in the wilds of Auvergne (now called Restaurant Regis et Jacques Marcon) boasts three Michelin stars and whose cuisine revolves around foods foraged from the surrounding mountains. Marcon’s primary focus is fungi, to the point that he has come to be known as the roi du champignons (mushroom king).

Nakada is quick to stress that unlike his mentor, he is not a ‘shroom specialist — though you’d never believe him from the menu at Les Chanterelles this autumn. He’s using more than half a dozen types, most of them imported from Europe: cepes, pied-bleus (blewits), ink-black trompettes de la mortand fresh, orange-gold chanterelles from France; girolles from Poland; and Canadian matsutake — not to mention generous garnishes of black truffle, to add their woodsy perfume.