It was only after lunch was fully served and I was sipping on my digestif that I noticed the name on the painting hanging on the wall beside me: Yoshimoto. The watercolor next to it, a neat recreation of Le Mont Saint-Michel, bore the same signature.
Then, as if on cue, chef Tatsuhiro Yoshimoto appeared from the kitchen in his chef’s whites. The paintings were indeed by his hand, but being modest and personable, he deftly steered the conversation elsewhere.
Before striking out on his own more than 10 years ago, Yoshimoto put in his time at the ANA Crowne Plaza in Osaka, then at La Cloche, an upmarket French restaurant in the swanky neighborhood of Kitahama, before moving north across the Yodo River and setting up Bistro de Yoshimoto in Nakatsu, a hectic “anything goes” kind of neighborhood on the doorstep of Umeda.
For both lunch and dinner there is a prix fixe menu — ¥3,000 and ¥6,000, respectively — as well the option to choose a la carte. As the restaurant’s name suggests, and as the nonstop soundtrack of accordion music makes abundantly clear, the setting and the fare at Yoshimoto is undeniably French. The atmosphere, however, remains casual.
The five-course lunch was a mix of some great cooking, and some lackluster dishes. Of the highlights, the standout was the fish dish served midway through lunch: renkodai yellowback seabream caught in the waters of Nagasaki Prefecture.
In my notes I had this down as the “saucy dish,” as the fillet of beautiful, buttery white fish came served with four different sauces. Though it sounds like overkill, each worked beautifully on its own and in combination. I particularly enjoyed the zesty streak of the lemon curd when combined with the more earthy green pea puree that was hidden beneath several elegantly arranged slices of zucchini.
Another dressing worth mentioning was the tiny puddle of papaya sauce that accompanied the salmon mousse. The papaya was an instant sweet fix and melded nicely with the salmon. Jumping down the menu to dessert, which was served on an electric blue plate, Yoshimoto folded yuzu citrus into a single scoop of glorious ice cream. If there is one Japanese ingredient French cuisine should use more of, it’s yuzu.
But Yoshimoto fell flat on the main. I chose Angus beef, to be served as medallions. However, the half-dozen cuts of beef had an inconsistency to them, some were too chewy, while others were tender. Though only an accompaniment, the bread was also a disappointment, so underwhelming that it would have been better if absent from the meal.
Lunch at Yoshimoto was a tale of two meals, at times successful — delightfully so — but occasionally below par for a restaurant of some repute.
Lunch from ¥3,000, dinner from ¥6,000; smoking allowed on terrace