Atelier Nespresso Tokyo 2016: A Celebration of Coffee, Culture and Gastronomy

The entrance to the Nespresso Atelier Tokyo 2016... the beautiful Happo-en Gardens, a popular wedding and events venue

Atelier Nespresso is a special event that spotlights coffee and gastronomy periodically in culinary capitals around the world. Previously held in London, Stockholm, Antwerp, Lyon and Sao Paulo, this 2016, it traveled to Asia for the first time, to the Japanese capital city of Tokyo. Select chefs, sommeliers, bartenders, hotel managers, media and other VIP guests from around the region were gathered together for this two-day affair. Gallery Vask/ Vask executive chef  Chele Gonzalez and myself were honored to represent the Philippines for this special occasion.

In the Philippines, Nespresso is distributed by Philippine Foodservice Group’s Patrick Pesengco and Herwin See. While there is currently no boutique yet in the country (it’s currently in the works), the coffee is available in rooms and lounges of in five-star hotels in Manila like Discovery Primea, Peninsula Manila, the Shangri-La Group of  Hotels, Conrad Manila, City of Dreams Manila, and in Boracay at Discovery Shores, and in Palawan at Amanpulo. They are also present in restaurants like Antonio’s, Vask, Txanton, and Artisan Cellar Door.

And as coffee and food are so remarkably intertwined, Atelier Nespresso celebrates this by collaborating with world class chefs (in this case, it was Yoshihiro Narisawa and Tetsuya Wakuda) to prepare a unique gastronomy experience (a special 5-course dinner with dishes infused with Nespresso variants) in a unique setting (the stunning Happo-en Gardens). Truly, “a culinary voyage of discovery,” as described by Alexander Schoenegger, Nespresso’s President and Representative Director. “The event [symbolizes] the mutual quest for quality and culinary excellence to combine one objective we have– to satisfy the most refined palates together with our partners in fine dining and luxury hospitality.”

Here’s what it looked like:

ATELIER NESPRESSO AT HAPPO-EN

To have two of the world’s most acclaimed Japanese chefs, Yoshihiro Narisawa (Narisawa, Tokyo) and Tetsuya Wakuda (Waku Ghin, Singapore; Tetsuya, Sydney) prepared a five-course dinner for us at the picturesque Happo-en Gardens (a popular wedding venue in Tokyo) was a wonderful way to begin our Japan experience. They infused Nespresso flavors in their dishes (Lungo  Leggero with Langoustines by Tetsuya; and Ristretto with Kuroge Wagyu by Narisawa),  which were  paired with wines and sakes throughout the evening. Japanese pastry chef Norihiko Terai of Aigre Douce, also prepared a Yuzu Fig Compote dessert finale for us.

Nespresso-infused (Nespresso Grand Cru: Ristretto Origin India) cocktails like Orangepresso, Oubu and Nut Cracker were also crafted by award-winning Japanese bartenders Yuichi Hoshi, Noriyuki Iguchi (Gaslight) and Makoto Katsumata (Bar Four Seasons, Bar Seven Seasons).

Personally for me, it was also a reunion with my chef and media friends from around the region. After all, food (and coffee) bring the world together, right?!

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The dinner set-up for Atelier Nespresso 2016.. love the woodwork on the ceiling!
Noted Japanese bartender Yuichi Hoshi (center) created Nespresso-infused cocktails alongside supporting bartenders
Noted Japanese bartender Yuichi Hoshi (center) created Nespresso-infused cocktails alongside supporting bartenders. Noriyuki Iguchi of Gaslight (left) and Makoto Katsumata of Bar Four Seasons and Bar Seven Seasons (right)
So happy to be reunited with my favorite Narisawa family: Yuko Narisawa and chef Yoshihiro Narisawa <3 They were also my Cross Cultures collaborator in Manila earlier this year!
So happy to be reunited with my favorite Narisawa family: Yuko Narisawa and chef Yoshihiro Narisawa. They were also my Cross Cultures collaborator earlier this year in Manila!
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A show-open kitchen for the plating of Narisawa’s 5-kinds-of appetizers: Satoyama Scenery, Kitamaebune, Shabu-Shabu, Tsukune and Wasabi, served with his Bread of the Forest and Moss
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By Tetsuya Wakuda: New Zealand Roasted Langoustines, Endive Confit and Lungo Leggero (mixed in with sesame oil and vanilla bean as the sauce). This was paired with a Marlborough Voignier 2014 Churton from New Zealand
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By Yoshihiro Narisawa: Kuroge Wagyu “Charcoal-Grilled Sirloin, Shogoin Daikon and Ristretto Intenso” paired with Lujan de Cujo Bramare Marchiori Malbec 2012 Vina Cobos from Argentina. The well-marbled wagyu was glazed with soy sauce infused with Ristretto Intenso; and likewise the sukiyaki sauce was infused with it, too.
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By Norihiko Terai: Yuzu Fig Compote with Yuzu Cream and Almond Meringue paired with our choice of Nespresso coffee served in the Riedel crystal glass
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Gallery Vask’s Chele Gonzalez sandwiched by Yoshihiro Narisawa and Tetsuya Wakuda
It was also an opportunity for me to reunite with my friends from around the region! JAAN chef Kirk Westaway (Singapore), Hong Kong Tatler's Charmaine Mok (Hong Kong) and Jungsik chef Jungsik Yum (Korea/ New York City)
Atelier Nespresso was also an opportunity for me to reunite with my friends from around the region! JAAN chef Kirk Westaway (Singapore), Hong Kong Tatler’s Charmaine Mok (Hong Kong) and Jungsik chef Jungsik Yum (Korea/ New York City)

BONSAI TRIMMING

It was important for us to experience and understand traditional Japanese culture as well. So the next day, Nespresso planned a program for us that allowed us to experience such through various activities. The art of bonsai “trimming” or “pruning” is primarily for the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower) and for contemplation (for the viewer). Wires are meticulously weaved around the branches and stems of the plants in order to make them more “malleable” to achieve the most essential characteristics when creating the ideal bonsai: character, harmony and elegance.

The ideal bonsai is all about character, harmony & elegance. So we wrapped these wires around it (and there are rules to follow: no crisscrossing of wires, etc.) in order to make the branches more malleable to "form" your ideal shape.. Whew!
The ideal bonsai is all about character, harmony and elegance. So we wrapped these wires around it (and there are rules to follow: no crisscrossing of wires, etc.) in order to make the branches more malleable to “form” your ideal shape.. Whew!

LUNCH ONBOARD A YAKATABUNE CRUISE

Lunch on a traditional Japanese “roof-shaped houseboat” (since the Edo period) was an opportunity to see Tokyo—by water via the Sumida river—and sit and enjoy bento boxes of 41 “courses” all artfully decorated in a way only the Japanese can. There’s even a map detailing which is which, seriously– this country is just all about perfection! Today, it’s become popular to rent for parties, school trips and wedding receptions, as it includes an “all-you-can-drink” option of sodas, teas, sakes, beer and wine.

Only the Japanese can make 41 "courses" look this perfect.. And on a boat. It's presented originally in a box (top right) which you "unbox" to reveal these 3 layers. There's even a menu in the form of a map that describes which is which.. Impeccable!
Only the Japanese can make 41 “courses” look this perfect.. And on a boat. It’s presented originally in a box (top right) which you “unbox” to reveal these 3 layers. There’s even a menu in the form of a map that describes which is which.. Impeccable!
Patrick Pesengco and Herwin See distribute Nespresso in the Philippines through their Philippine Foodservice Group Corporation
Patrick Pesengco and Herwin See distribute Nespresso in the Philippines through their Philippine Foodservice Group Corporation

PLASTIC FOOD-MAKING EXPERIENCE

You know those plastic food on display storefront at Japanese restaurants? Well, it’s been an integral part of their food culture since the 1920s. Why might you ask? They were created as realistic samples to whet appetites of customers, especially tourists who can’t understand Japanese-only menus, and entice them to come in! (Aha, you learned something new, didn’t you!) On Kappabashi Street also known as “Kitchen Town” in Akasaka is Ganso-Shokuhin Sample-Ya where we tried our hands in making tempura, vegetables and lettuce out of hot plastic– another opportunity for us to learn about concentration and meticulousness.

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Don’t eat that! That pork katsu and spaghetti are made out of plastic– on display at the Ganso-Shokuhin Sample-Ya
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How to make a plastic tempura– it’s a complete art form! Founded in 1932, Ganso-Shokuhin Sample-Ya sells plastic food models downstairs and allows guests to tr y their hands in making it upstairs

COFFEE-TASTING FROM THE NEW RIEDEL CRYSTAL GLASS

At the Nespresso Omotesando boutique, Giuseppe Vaccarini who’s both a coffee master and sommelier explained to us how to  “taste” coffee. (Hint: you look for the balance between acidity and bitterness.) And as with wine, while we are interested to know where a wine/ grape is from, it’s the same with coffee, hence the rise of Nespresso’s pure origin coffees. We also did a tasting with the Riedel crystal glass created especially for Nespresso, and it for sure makes a big difference in taste! It’s so much more refined that it makes it difficult to drink from anything else. (I’m a big fan of Riedel for my wines, too.) Mr. Vaccarini also said drinking coffee from a glass (in general) is better than porcelain because it keeps the temperature longer, and likewise enhances and improves sensation.

The beautiful Nespresso boutique in Omotesando
The beautiful Nespresso boutique in Omotesando
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Once you go glass.. especially the Riedel Crystal glass (left), it’s difficult to go back (to anything else).

Our Tokyo Home: The Prince Gallery at Koichiro

It’s something that’s not always spoken about but putting us up in a five-star luxury hotel that’s also Japanese in ethos was very telling of the brand. All of us Atelier Nespresso guests agreed that the The Prince Gallery at Koichiro was one of the highlights of our trip. A brand that cares about their guests’ well-being– being able to sleep, rest and recover away from home– truly does have customer satisfaction at its core.

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Every single one of us who attended Atelier Nespresso loved our hotel- the Prince Gallery was the perfect choice for this event. Thank you, Nespresso!