The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


April 2014
L.A. Awe
Classic, creative American-French fusion for the stars
By Simon Farrell


Sleepy backstreet Shibuya is the first foreign spot for the Patina franchise, complementing recent food and beverage startups of all sizes gentrifying a dead zone between the manicured slopes of Yoyogi Park and gritty Dogenzaka.

Based on my pleasant Saturday evening visit in February, when 70 percent of seats were empty, it shouldn’t be long before reservations will be de rigueur for this transplanted Los Angeles landmark of 24 years that opened here in December.

My morning email had got us the best table in the house.

And what a house: from the animal-print seats, signature-cocktail bar, Iittala glasses and other designer finery, to the expert servers, artful chefs, and carefully compiled wine list, the formula is unashamedly based on detail and quality—with prices to match.

Relieved of our coats by welcoming staff, we propped up the classic American brown padded leather, stainless steel, and marble bar of exotic liqueurs and craft beers.

I chose a clear and hoppy pint of Indian Pale Ale with a large creamy head, from the shiny taps of August, a Shizuoka Prefecture microbrewery.

My teetotal guest, meanwhile, gleefully sipped a homemade fresh minced ginger ale with a tiny sprig of fresh mint; the long-lasting burst of flavor instantly warmed her on a bitterly cold night.

From the bar menu came a generous bowl of soft, purple non-pitted olives, and a modest but tasty tuna cannoli.

I tested one of the mixologists, trained by visiting LA-based staff, for creative consistency. Nervously shaken and gently poured onto a solid block of ice cut to neatly fit the glass, I couldn’t resist a refreshing “Shibuya Eastside” signature cocktail of Beefeater 24 Gin with a sliver of cucumber, mint, shiso tincture, and lime juice.

After admiring the towering, transparent wine vault and intimate chef’s table, for private parties of six, we sat near large French doors leading to Patina’s quiet and candle-lit rear terrace, surely destined for full occupancy in spring and fall.

Throughout the evening, the patient sommelier was never far away in the airy dining room, ready to pour Napa reds and New Zealand whites that well matched our food.

Inspired by a recent UCLA study ranking antioxidant-packed pomegranate and cranberry among the healthiest of fruits, my guest chose a simple and pleasing concoction of both juices.

It was couples only—lights dim, music low, staff discreet, and well worth the 10 percent service charge.
For the next hour or so a parade of subtle flavors, shapes, aromas, colors, and textures appeared from the open-view kitchen, explained to us by a chatty young former scuba teacher from Hawaii. When he couldn’t answer our food questions, he didn’t stumble or try to wing it, instead immediately scuttling away to ask the chef. I like that.

Also open for lunch, he offered, all ingredients are local and seasonal.

We quickly mopped up the creamy carrot soup with paprika-tinted French breads and butter. But the acquired taste of a miso-based toast was a fusion too far, my Japanese guest agreed.

As well as à la carte, Patina offers four- or five-course tasting menus: first up came creamy avocado sandwiched by tuna sashimi with soya onion, sun-dried tomatoes and topped by a refreshing yuzu granité.

Next was a tasty ravioli trio of smooth roasted butternut and kabocha squash with small crunchy hazelnuts in a not-too-sweet sauce of delicious honey and brown sugar.

The wonderfully flaky red snapper was not so slow poached that it kept us waiting. It was presented with a simple yet satisfying mix of fresh tomato, fennel, black olives, and potato.

The star of the show for my guest, though, was the “2013 Emmy”: contrasting textures of succulent filet of beef and crumbly short rib, served with subtle blue-cheese mashed potato and long, crisp asparagus. This dish is the extra we got for ordering five courses.

In-house pâtissiers craft all Patina desserts (including takeouts), such as our sublime, creamy, and light chocolate (home-made) banana parfait.

Looking too good to ignore, the Godiva chocolate liqueur was a first for me, sweeter than I like, even on ice, and probably not supposed to accompany the rich and luxurious sesame and gold chocolates and green tea macaroons to finish one of my most enjoyable fine-dining experiences in Tokyo.

The bicoastal Patina Restaurant Group has managed over 50 US establishments in the past half-century, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, drawing celebrities and politicians.

The portfolio of executive chef and founder Joachim Splichal and head chef Hitoshi Sugiura also includes restaurants at the Rockefeller and Lincoln centers, as well as at the Metropolitan Opera. The Patina Group caters for the Emmy Awards.

If Patina Tokyo were located in a better-known spot, huge success would be a given. Gourmands who make the effort to visit Patina Tokyo will not be disappointed.

Patina Tokyo
11-15 Kamiyama-cho
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
10–12 min walk from Shibuya Station; 03-5738-7031

Tuna Cannoli ¥900
Olives ¥800
Tasting menu ¥7,500 per person
Ginger ale ¥700
August IPA ¥1,200
Glass white wine ¥1,200
Glass red wine ¥1,400
Shibuya Eastside cocktail ¥1,000
Chamomile tea ¥600
Godiva liqueur ¥800
Plus 10 percent service charge

To receive one free drink per person with your meal, please tell Patina staff when you make a reservation that you are an ACCJ Journal reader.


Simon Farrell is publisher at Custom Media.