When Fratelli Paradiso arrived in Tokyo last spring, it had a mission that was both straightforward and daunting: to introduce the kind of excellent, no-frills Italian dining that’s made this buzzy Sydney-based restaurant so successful in its homeland.
The formula is not complicated, says Giovanni Paradiso, the younger of the two brothers that give Fratelli its distinctive name. As he tells it, their aim is just to serve simple, modern Italian food that’s driven by the seasons, but with an extra twist. Their background is as waiters, so for them it all boils down to service, making their customers feel comfortable.
“When I go into a restaurant, I want to enjoy the food. I want the waiter to say ‘Try this’ or ‘Try that’ or ‘I’ve got this bottle of wine you might like.’ I hate huge wine lists. People relax when there aren’t too many choices. I just want to sit back and enjoy my food and my wine with my mates.”
This, of course, is not an approach that Tokyo is deeply familiar or even comfortable with — least of all on the top floor of the swish, anodyne Omotesando Hills luxury mall. The setting is a far cry from the grungy premises the Paradiso brothers took over when they launched their first operation in 2001 on the edge of Sydney’s seedy Kings Cross district. And the well coiffed Japanese clientele are nowhere near as eclectic as those they cater to in Australia.
Nonetheless, the new Tokyo Fratelli Paradiso ticks all the right boxes. The dining room fills with dappled light in daytime. At dinner the lights are turned down and the music turned up. As the room fills, the volume of conversation rises too. The buzz here is definitely growing.
There’s a lot to be said for the separate bar area too. Light, spacious and more suited for quieter evenings, it boasts one of Tokyo’s most extensive cellars of natural wine — a field that the Paradiso brothers helped to pioneer in Australia. Like the main dining room, it stays open all day, meaning you can drop in at any time, for a late lunch, early dinner or just a bite with a glass or two at the end of the evening.
The cooking is good without being overly complex or flashy. As at the main restaurant in Sydney, the chefs share the same passion for seasonal produce and the vegetables are sourced from organic farmers. Much of the pasta is made fresh in-house, rolled out on the marble-topped tables you see next to the kitchen. Among the stand-outs are the duck pappardelle and the tagliatelle, which is served with a rich ragu made with aged Angus beef.
The main dishes are strongly focused on beef and fowl, with few seafood or vegetarian options. But there is nothing to stop you picking several dishes from the antipasti list instead. Talk to the waiters and sommeliers and see what they have to say. It’s that sort of place.
Lunch from ¥1,500; dinner ¥4,800 and a la carte; English menu; English spoken