Multi-skilled Tokyo dessert master mixes precision with flair
Behind every top restaurant stands a great patissier: no matter how brilliant the chef and his dishes, it is the final courses that seal the deal and linger on the palate. At the ever excellent Esquisse, in the heart of Tokyo’s swish Ginza district, it falls to Kazutoshi Narita to produce the gorgeous desserts that round off each memorable meal of modern French cuisine.
From the very start in 2012, Narita has been a key member of the team at Esquisse alongside head chef Lionel Beccat. He already boasted an envious pastry pedigree, having honed his craft in Paris under pioneering Japanese chef Tateru Yoshino at Stella Maris, and also with macaron master Pierre Hermé.
Following a stint in Florence, at Enoteca Pinchiorri, Narita returned to Japan in 2001, where he again worked with both Hermé and Yoshino. But it was his association with Joël Robuchon — first at the three-Michelin-star Chateau Restaurant in Tokyo and later at branches of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in New York and Taiwan — that propelled him to prominence.
The 49-year-old native of Aomori, in the far north of Japan, doesn’t rest on his laurels. Since March 2016, he has also been at the helm of his own dedicated dessert counter, Esquisse Cinq, where customers choose from a much wider range of elaborate dishes than are available at the main restaurant.
Some of his sweets are based on classic recipes, and he always has a soufflé on the menu. Others are his own original creations, often with a seasonal accent. Over the 2016 festive season, he offered a take on traditional Christmas pudding, with all the right dried-fruit flavours but none of the heft of the British original.
Meanwhile, Narita has also launched a line of chocolates, initially for the annual Salon du Chocolat and now for sale at Esquisse Cinq. Among the stand-out flavours: lavender with bergamot and orange liqueur; kaki (persimmon) with yuzu; and even a slightly boozy version with sake.
From September of last year, he has the added responsibility of overseeing the sweets at Argile, Esquisse’s new second restaurant, where his deconstructed tarte tatin has already become a signature. Now he follows in the footsteps of his former mentor, The World’s Best Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé, to receive the ultimate accolade in his field.
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