Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Il Ristorante Luca Fantin: 10 years to perfect, 10 courses to celebrate

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

There’s only one proper way to mark an anniversary, and that’s with a celebratory dinner. Especially if it’s a big round milestone year. And that is exactly what went down last week at the highly auspicious 10th birthday of Il Ristorante Luca Fantin.

Much has happened in the decade since Fantin first arrived to take the helm here in Bvlgari’s then newly opened Ginza Tower. During that time he has won and retained a Michelin star every year since 2011 — and rightfully should already have a second. He was named “Best Italian Chef in the World” by food journalists from his homeland. And Il Ristorante is now making its way up the glittering ladder of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

All that is definitely worth a special party, and Fantin made sure it was one to remember. Friends and family flew in from far and wide to join the many local guests for not one but two landmark dinners — there were too many people to fit in a single evening — at which Fantin reprised 10 of the dishes that have helped to make his name.

He opened with one of his earliest creations, a reinterpretation of classic minestrone, the dark, warming, umami-rich broth heated at the table and poured over miniature spheres from 20 different vegetables. Refined but rooted in the heartiness of rustic home cooking, it still tastes as remarkable as it did back when it was first introduced in 2012.

Decadent: Fantin's Hokkaido sea urchin spaghetti. | BVLGARI IL RISTORANTE LUCA FANTIN
Decadent: Fantin’s Hokkaido sea urchin spaghetti. | BVLGARI IL RISTORANTE LUCA FANTIN

From there, the meal moved through the gears of Fantin’s signature dishes: his uni spaghetti, a creamy, decadent swirl of pasta and prime Hokkaido sea urchin; chestnut risotto, with its outstanding counterpoint of rice textures, topped with heady aromatic shavings of freshly grated Alba truffle; and on, to the dense forest flavor of Hokkaido venison, paired with dark, sweet figs of late summer.

Ginza glitz: The interior of Il Ristorante Luca Fantin, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. | BVLGARI IL RISTORANTE LUCA FANTIN
Ginza glitz: The interior of Il Ristorante Luca Fantin, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. | BVLGARI IL RISTORANTE LUCA FANTIN

But this dinner was not merely an exercise in nostalgia. All the dishes remain in Fantin’s repertoire. In fact, this same banquet now forms the menu offered at Il Ristorante from now through mid-November. Like everything he serves, it is a seamless demonstration of the skill in which he incorporates local Japanese ingredients into a contemporary cuisine that remains entirely Italian in expression.

Fantin is at the top of his game. And that — along with the superb setting, the elegant dining room overlooking Ginza’s central boulevard, the premium wine list and the smooth-as-silk service — is what has made Il Ristorante so special and successful, despite its hefty price tag. It’s a place to dress up, splurge and celebrate, whether business deals, personal anniversaries and milestones, or simply the sheer pleasure of dining so well.

To make a full evening of it, limber up with aperitifs in the 10th-floor bar, now under head bartender Federico Balzarini, fresh from the prestigious Connaught Hotel, London. And then after dinner, if the top-floor terrace is open and the weather cooperates, head upstairs for post-prandials. Gazing over the Ginza rooftop nightscape, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Bvlgari Ginza Tower 9F, Ginza 2-7-12, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061; 03-6362-0555; bit.ly/bvlfantin; open 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (L.O.), 6-8:30 p.m. (L.O.); Oct.-Dec. closed Sun dinner only; Jan.-Sept. closed Sun & Mon; lunch from ¥10,000; dinner from ¥18,000; nearest station Ginza-Itchome; credit cards accepted; nonsmoking; English & Italian menu; English & Italian spoken

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